American father grew up with heroes like Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and Michael Jordan, a basketball player and icon of the American dream. My Singaporean mother’s hero is the founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, who led a bloodless revolution to gain independence from British sovereign.
The dictionary’s definition of a hero is someone who performs courageous acts and has nobility of character, but what does a hero mean to me? I know that my heroes are strong individuals who reach beyond their own needs to help other people. They are unwavering in their commitment to do what is right, even if it is not the popular opinion. And where do I find my heroes? The natural place to start my search would be the Internet. However, although the Internet features many great role models, it also has the potential to shine a light on public figures who should not be idolized.
Last week, for example, from the chaos and panic of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas emerged a few extraordinary human beings. Witnesses talk of fellow concert goers who rushed to help others, shielding people with their own bodies from the gunfire, plugging bullet wounds with their fingers, and turning their personal vehicles into makeshift ambulances to transport the injured to nearby hospitals. The bravery shown by these people has been noted and praised by various media outlets.
Unfortunately, the appreciation for these selfless people and their courageous acts is almost always short-lived. Sadly, it is Instagram stars like gun-toting Dan Bilzerian who cast a longer shadow with his millions of online followers on social media. Bilzerian has been criticized after he posted a video of himself running from the Las Vegas concert and asking his first responders for a gun to help them “fight.” Although his popularity may have slightly decreased after he published these videos, the worry is that his followers will forgive and forget the next time he posts a picture of himself with his muscular arm wrapped around a female friend.
Bilzerian, and other Instagram celebrities like the Kardashians, skew our definition of heroes daily. The Kardashians set unrealistic body standards through their posts on social media, and even worse, lie about their laser and surgical operations. This is the reason why girls and women in our generation anxiously stay up late at night worrying why their bodies don’t look like the Kardashians. The media, savvy of the likes of Bilzerian and the Kardashians, befuddles our minds and leads us into believing that ideas such as outward beauty is female empowerment and owning guns and being surrounded by beautiful women defines masculinity. Against our better judgment, we follow the social media crowd and accept them as our heroes, our role models, and struggle to be like them. What we do not realize is that the kings and queens of social media we idolize actually fill us with self-doubt and low self-esteem. Real heroes inspire us and give us hope for a better world.
We need to shy away from the mainstream and search within ourselves for our heroes. With clear articles, we can ask ourselves “Who do we want to be?” and “What are we passionate about?”
My passion is to help alleviate suffering in others. With this in mind, my real heroes emerge: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who advocated abortion rights for women and fought gender discrimination. Michelle Obama, the former First Lady, who continues to advocate for women’s education with the “Let Girls Learn” initiative, and help American families fight childhood obesity with the “Let’s Move” initiative. Stephen Hawking, who defied physical adversity to perform research in cosmology and theoretical physics.
These are some of my heroes. I have come to realize that my definition of a hero is not someone who is the most popular, or someone who has the most followers on Instagram. My definition of a hero is someone who teaches me to reach furthaer, to look beyond myself, and to do my bit in making this world a better place by first making myself a better person.