It always starts with a lie –
Someone asks you: “What are you afraid of?”
“Nothing,” you reply, maybe nonchalantly, or maybe defensively.
You either truly believe it, or horribly wish you believed it, because you know that people are as fearless as they believe themselves to be. The truth, after all, is as relative as a mirror – it doesn’t matter what it truly reflects, for the eyes will see what it wants to see. To acknowledge the truth is to see the cracks running and tripping across your skin; to feel the sadness seeping through the gaps and shivering through your bones; and to hear the harsh voices of self-doubt and insecurity.
(Nope, no, that’s too painful, too real, so you close your eyes and lie.)
You wear the fearlessness like a mask that’s stuck to your skin and the bravery like a cape that covers you from all evil. You become your own brand of superhero, ready for battle all day, everyday. There are no damsels-in-distress or knights-in-shining-armor in your world, because you can banish your own inner-demons yourself, thanks. You’re strong enough to handle and save yourself at the same time, and no one can convince you otherwise.
But then there are those days. Days where getting out of bed requires thrice as more energy than pushing the covers away, where every interaction drains the life force from you pulse by pulse, where you start the day tired and end the day drop-dead exhausted. These days leave you feeling fragile, like one wrong move will send you crumbling; volatile, like one wrong look will set you combusting; and flammable, like one wrong word will light you aflame.
Let’s not forget the nights. It’s extra difficult for your thoughts to shut up as you lie in bed and wait for that wave of sleepiness to pull you under, and the loneliness weighs so heavily on you that you can hardly breathe. There are skeletons of discarded dreams in your closets and monsters of failure underneath your bed. You revisit them like broken tapes playing them again, and again, and again, like a living nightmare of a horror movie coming to life just to haunt you.
You have your good, happy, fearless days. You also have your bad, lonely, fragile ones. But for everyone else’s eyes there is only one version of you they know, and that version is what you hope and wish to always somehow be. Sometimes you’re a dead man walking, but no one notices. Of course they won’t, because your disguise and secret identity is plastered on a little bit too well. You are invisible without even trying to be, and that great power is a responsibility you want off your shoulders.
That’s when the lie shatters. It doesn’t crumble slowly; it shatters quickly without reprieve. The truth smacks you hard in your face, slams you fast in your gut, and clenches you tight in your soul: You are not fearless. What you are is irrevocably scared, horribly afraid, and utterly terrified that one day you will wake up and no one will care about you. You will try to retire from your brave superhero days but no one will get it, no one will believe it, and most of all, no one will care about it. Maybe you will never even find somebody who will care, and you will find that you are destined to live and die completely alone.
These fears linger underneath your skin, and they wrap themselves around you when those inevitable bad days come. Before you know it, your greatest fear has come to life: You are alone. Everyone is living their own life, and they are passing you by without a second look. Their world is moving in a break-neck speed and you are getting left behind, stuck in the moment, held down by your fears and anxieties. They are achieving things you are failing at; they are feeling happiness that you crave; and they are getting places you can only dream of. Life is moving forward, always forward, and you don’t know why but it’s only you that is stuck in this place and time. Yet again, you are alone.
But not really, no. Quite the opposite actually, because everyone else feels the exact same way.
You are not alone in your thoughts, questions, and most of all, fears. You don’t have to go far to find someone who shares the same anxieties and worries that you do. You can just look at whoever’s reading this article, feeling the same things you do, fearing the same things you do, with their hearts clenched at the emotions threatening to burst them open, to know that you are never, ever alone. There are hundreds of people who feel the same way you do, and that’s not meant to belittle or demean your problems at all; that’s meant to spur you to keep fighting, to spark some small bloom of hope, and to nudge you to open your eyes: Every person you encounter has their own share of fears and struggles, no matter how fearless they may seem to be.
So be someone else’s superhero instead of your own. Help fight their demons, and they will help you fight yours. The things that scare us become entirely less threatening when faced with a friend. Human beings were not meant to walk the Earth alone, much less traverse the journey of life isolated and scared. We are better off building each other up than we are tearing others down, and the best part is most people don’t even need you to save them from a burning building. Sometimes all they need is a pat on the back, or a warm hug, or an acknowledging smile. Caring doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, and more often than not it’s the small acts of random kindness that go a long way. Like you, some people just want to not be so invisible.
We don’t have to be granted superpowers to do something big. In fact, we are already given a pretty powerful weapon: the power of choice. When we choose to notice others and care about their well-being, it’s when we truly become superheroes in our on way. It’s not about being brave or fearless, but about caring. It’s less about you, and more about them – that is the true mark of a superhero.
It always ends with the truth –
Nobody has to ask you to care.
But you’ll do it anyway.
And you’ll feel super about it.