When I created Fandom Fitness within the ZooFit program, it was mainly a combination of my passion for all things geeky and nerdy and as enrichment, a way to make fitness more fun and engaging.
But it did lead to an interesting question I had to answer. What does pretending to be a superhero have to do with a program based on the principles of zookeeping?
Besides me thinking all zookeepers are superheroes, I found my true answer when I became an Optimize coach. In the coach program, Brian Johnson, founder of Optimize tells us the etymology of the word ‘hero”.
What it Means to Be a Hero
Hero means “Protector”. And that means, a hero has strength for two.
This fit in perfectly with my ideals of ZooFit, actually. Have fun working out, playing games, and even going on with your favorite fictional characters. We’re preparing you to be heroes. In my mind, I was looking for eco-warriors, champions for conservation.
While there are plenty of environmental challenges we can combat through ZooFit, I recognize that conservation isn’t the only injustices we see in this day and age.
And if I’m to be a hero for the planet, I am called to do what I can for every living thing, not just wild endangered animals. I believe in many heroic mantras—fighting for truth, peace and justice, and that with great power comes great responsibility.
While I care for this planet, and I believe that we won’t have so many things we desire unless we take care of it, there are some injustices which stand out and need immediate action.
Right now is one of those times.
I honestly am not sure what to do or what to say in this situation. How can I be a hero? How can I be an ally?
That’s what I want to talk to you about today. How do you be a hero in difficult and tumultuous times?
There’s one very important thing to remember when it comes to being a hero. I think it might be Rule #1. In order to take care of the planet, your community, or just your family, you have to take care of yourself. Heroes have strength for two.
Love Yourself, Love the World
Why is taking care of ourselves so important? It’s not a selfish act at all. It serves two huge purposes. 1- we can’t show up as heroes unless we train for it. Sure, Captain America was injected with a serum to produce the perfect soldier, but he didn’t just get injected and then do nothing else to prepare for fighting “the bad guys”. He still needed to train how to use the body the serum created. We, too, need to prepare for our fights. Eating right, getting plenty of rest, exercising and moving are essential parts of being a superhero.
But it’s really #2 that I want to focus on today. Because it’s relevant to what is going on in today’s world. When we take excellent care of ourselves, we become radiant exemplars for the world. And I don’t just mean in the “ooh, look at how fit and strong she/he is”. I mean, translating how we feel from the inside to shine out. We become beacons of hope, love, courage, and wisdom.
I thought about which fandom heroes or heroines personified this ideal the best, but my mind kept falling back to three other heroes—real life heroes. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Fred Rogers.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Gandhi is attributed to this quote, but what he actually said was this: If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.
And that is the essence of the quote “be the change”.
The world is crazy right now. Back in January, I thought the Australian bush fires were the worst thing that could happen to start the new decade. I decided to dedicate my actions for conservation fitness to Australia. That seems like eons ago. I was trying to feel optimistic and do something I felt utterly powerless against. Like, what can I do besides donate money to Australian wildfire relief to help? BE the change I want to see in the world. Inspire others with simple self-care habits so bush fires don’t become such a commonplace occurrence. Teach how meal prep reduces deforestation, how riding your bike or walking cuts down on our carbon footprint. Do little things for your own health to have a better impact on the planet. I felt inspired.
And then coronavirus shut the entire planet down. That was hard. What can I do?
Take care of myself so I don’t threaten my immune-compromised husband for one. But also, be a radiant exemplar, a hero, if you will, on how to see the positives, the opportunities, instead of the negative obstacles.
And now, I feel at a loss once more. Some of the people who are supposed to be heroes in the eyes of the public are acting in ways that are well, not heroic. This isn’t an instance of a “few bad apples”. This is a case of something is wrong with the orchard. I recognize my own privilege in the idea that I can feel comfortable being pulled over, but other people do not feel safe from the very people who are supposed to keep our communities safe.
So, what do I do? Be the change I want to see in this world. Be kind, be compassionate. And know that being these things with others starts with treating myself this way. Not in a selfish sense. I cannot be compassionate or kind to others unless I practice it. (As Ayn Rand put it “In order to say ‘I love you’, you must first know how to say the ‘I’.”). Being heroic takes practice. And who better to practice than on yourself?
But it is important, especially in the quest of the hero, that we go from theory to practice, to MASTERY. We must be that beacon of hope, love, kindness, and compassion. And that is not a short term, or one time act. It is something we must do with ourselves and with each other day in and day out.
Martin Luther King emerged as a leader of civil rights movement when he led the Montgomery bus boycott starting after the arrest of Rosa Parks in December of 1955. He encouraged his community to stay true to the boycott for 381 days. OVER A YEAR of refusing to ride the bus, at great cost and sacrifice to their livelihoods. It was not a one time act. It was not a once a month act. They stayed committed to their principles for over a year, just to overrule one simple law that segregated blacks and whites on the busses alone.
To be the superhero the world needs right now, we cannot just act heroically for a weekend, or even a month. Or even a year. Maybe we can inspire the change we want to see within a year, but we can’t stop after a year. To be a hero, we must become that- day in and day out. Every day. Forever.
We may not see these changes this year. We may not even see it next year. But we must continue to act in accordance with our virtues EVERY DAY. Not just until our dreams come to pass, but until the day we ourselves leave this earth. That is the hero’s path.
Be the Helper
And this path may seem daunting. It may seem like we are traveling alone, that no one else cares. But this isn’t the case. And in times like these, I look to a wise and wonderful man—Fred Rogers.
His philosophy during hard times is inspiring. First, there is his powerful quote, aimed towards children, to “look for the helpers” in times of tragedy. This is something his mother taught him as a child, and something he taught to thousands of children on Mister Rogers Neighborhood during times of trauma. It’s inspiring, at least to me, in the sense that I want to be one of those “helpers”. In times like these, I have a choice—to sit back and watch while the world around me burns, or to stand up and be the helper I want to see in others. Which will you choose?
It is also still important to “look for the helpers” in others. Many people want to help, want to make a change, but don’t know what to do, or how to act. If we look for the helpers, we can support them, and guide them. And if you ARE one of those people who don’t know what to do, or how to act in tragic times, then find the helpers who can guide you and support you.
Look for the helpers, become the helper. Not just today, but tomorrow, and the next day, and next year. Become the hero you want to see save this world. Shine as a radiant exemplar, a true beacon of hope.
Take Care of Yourself to Take Care of Others
My heart is with all of those who are suffering right now. I am myself looking for helpers to guide me in how I can be a better hero for others.
But for now, I will continue to connect to the earth, to nature, and to communities in healthy and positive ways. I will continue to train positive, and bring the best version of myself to the world.
I’m doing what I can—taking care of myself, and the planet so I can show up when called to action.
Take care of yourselves so you can be the hero our world needs. Stay safe and well. Today. Tomorrow, and forever.