If the movies taught me anything, it’s that superheroes wear spandex.
We’ve been led to believe that superheroes are special. They come from another planet. They are blessed with superhuman abilities. They are super smart, or rich, or got involved in some sort of dangerous science experiment that turned out ok. They typically wear cool outfits while traveling in cool vehicles and wielding cool accessories.
Also, their muscles have muscles.
This painting is an homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who, when they first emerged from the sewer in 1984, clearly challenge the notion of what heroes are supposed to look like.
The truth is, real heroes hardly ever look like they do in the movies.
Oftentimes, they look a lot like you.
The turtle in this painting has emerged from its comfortable ocean surroundings and is wearing a mask that symbolizes two important concepts.
The first is that it’s not all about us.
Superheroes often hide their identity, giving them a sense of anonymity. Real heroes don’t do it for the glory and they don’t demand credit. They serve a cause greater than themselves, and their chief motivation is doing the right thing and helping others. The mask can serve as a physical reminder that it’s not about us.
Secondly, the mask gives us permission to act “as if.”
Part of the reason children and adults alike enjoy wearing Halloween costumes is that it gives us permission to be someone different. The mask can be an opportunity to wander outside our comfort zone and try on a new way of acting, to be someone better than perhaps we believe we are. I like the advice from Joe Rogan, who suggested that if you’re unsure about what action to take in a particular situation, ask what the hero in the movie would do. In the beginning, it might feel a lot like acting, but that way of acting might just stick, and before you know it, you’ll end up doing something that once seemed superheroic.
Ultimately, being a hero is not about how you look, what you wear, or where you come from.
This painting challenges the notion of what superheroes look like, and reminds us that in order to become one, we might need to leave our comfort zone in order to take action.
It might be serving a cause greater than ourselves, standing up for what’s right, regardless of how unpopular it makes us.
It might be standing up to the bully at work (or the one in our head).
It’s often as simple as staying under the radar and just helping someone who needs helping, whether it’s a child, an elderly neighbor, or a random guy struggling to load something into his car.
We are all called to be heroes.
This calling may require sacrifice, a bit of discomfort, and a new way of acting, but it doesn’t require spandex.