What is a Hero?

How to find an everyday hero in a world of Turmoil

Ben Conlin
5 min readMar 28, 2022
Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash


1 a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability

2 an illustrious warrior

3 a person admired for achievements and noble qualities

4 one who shows great courage

— Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

Some wear capes and spandex, springing out into the skies to save the day. They have powers and abilities that have been given to them for the purpose of doing good.

They act in selflessness, risking everything to save and protect those they were sent to serve.

At least that’s what we are taught.

Where did Heroes come from?

According to Britannica, the original heroes,

“mark[ed] a revolution in thought that occurred when poets and their audiences turned their attention away from immortal gods to mortal men, who suffer pain and death, but in defiance of this live gallantly and fully, and create, through their own efforts, a moment’s glory that survives in the memory of their descendants.”

Achilles, the hero of the Trojan War, bestowed with the gift of indestructibility, save for his heal.

Beowulf, full of courage and selflessness, friendship and bravery

The gods were often frightening beings of extreme power. They were apathetic of the human condition, showing no remorse for the destruction of towns. They were above and around the people, opressing and depressing them.

The heroes were created in direct defiance of the rhetoric at the time. They were mere mortals that dared to defy the gods. They were inspirations to the people, guiding them in life. They helped the people see that they weren’t subject to their gods. They could control their own lives and live.

Every hero has his moment, that time when the choice must be made to act instead of sit the bench.

They inspire us to be better and to do better.

Where are they now?

The world is in turmoil. As of the writing of this article, a simple glance at the news confirms this.

On a global scale there are new headlines every day. An invasion of Ukraine, that threatens to become a world war. A world-wide refugee crisis as those displaced citizens, numbering in the millions, flee. Global supply chain issues. The continuation of a pandemic. Corruption in governments around the world, people who are set apart to serve their countries, acting in their own self-interest instead.

On a local scale there is similar fear. Increases in homicide, shooting, murder, suicide. Mental illnesses, physical illnesses. Infidelity. Loss. Loneliness. Decreases in wealth, stability, employment rate and job satisfaction, familial bonds, friendships and relationships.

Where do we turn, when all this is happening?

How do we find the heroes to inspire us?

On an individual level, self-image has taken a dramatic hit. Social media sources convince us that we need to fit an image, we need people to like us. The lives we should be living are evident in our friends photos, in celebrity posts, in the updates from the friend of a friend. The expansion of our friend circles and increased filtration of life creates the expectation that every day should be sunny, every smile perfect.

These people inspire us, but not in the way that heroes do. They inspire us to appear better off, to appear happier, healthier, and wealthier.

We are told that the bags that we carry under our eyes are wrong, that scars should be hidden.

Even the heroes portrayed in movies are 6'2" guys with chiseled jawlines who spent months or years working out to prepare for the role. The Ringer found that 85.4 percent of the movies featured at least one actor in a prominent teen role who was 21 or older on the movie’s release date, and 29.1 percent featured no actor in a prominent teen role who was younger than 21 on the release date.

Teens watch teen movies, and are disappointed in themselves when they aren’t built like someone in their mid-20s, with the facial hair or curves of someone ten years older than them.

In a world that we industrialize and revolutionize, specialize and optimize, maximize and monetize, there is little time for anything to be wasted. Our time is a gift for us to use, and if we fail to use it perfectly, we are left behind or trampled.

So where are the heroes?

Just this morning a random stranger made me laugh out loud by sharing a simple comment. He brightened my day and lifted me up. He couldn’t have known that I slept poorly and had an early meeting, a low-hanging thunder cloud that was already over my head at 6:45 in the morning. But with one simple comment, he cleared it.

In that moment, he was a hero to me. He inspired me to change my mindset, improve my day.

We don’t need to be bogged down by the inability to find some perfect hero. No one in this world is perfect, despite appearances. In order to recognize the heroes around us, we need to look around us. Find gratitude for the little things that brighten us up. Instead of focusing on the weight of expectation, disappointment, or fear, we need to look up to the heroes around us.

You never know when you’ll be that hero for someone else.

I don’t know how much value I have in this universe, but I do know that I’ve made a few people happier than they would have been without me, and as long as I know that, I’m as rich as I ever need to be.
— Robin Williams


If you enjoyed this post, let me know down below! I’d love to hear about a time when you found an unexpected hero in your own life, how they affected or changed you. Some simple things can be so life changing that they need to be shared. This is the first article in my Building a Hero series, don’t forget to check out the rest!