In the three-plus years I’ve been writing this blog, I frequently get messages from people telling me I’m a hero for opening up about my mental health experiences. It always makes me wince.
A new wave of hero labeling hit after a Forbes article came out about my turning OCD into a career strength. One tweet read:
New hero: @BillBrenner70, #OCD survivor, stigma killer, & tech journo who says mental illness can help execs succeed: onforb.es/14olwPK
I appreciate that people find value in what I’m doing, and I love getting feedback from readers. But when someone calls me a hero, I get uncomfortable because I have a different idea of what a hero is. I tend to see heroes the old-fashioned way: someone who risks their life to help others. The image of first responders and bystanders rushing into the smoke to care for the wounded after the Boston Marathon bombings comes to mind.
I’m just someone who talks about the challenges we all have. It falls under the category of “Everybody does it. I just talk about it.”
Useful, yes. Heroic? I don’t think so. I’m just a man who makes mistakes and tries hard to get life right.
Erin suggested I don’t like being called a hero because I feel pressure to live up to the title and that I fear the possibility of failing to measure up. I think there’s truth to that.
Whatever the case may be, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I just want people to have realistic expectations of me.
But then that wish isn’t very realistic, is it? We’re going to see people through our own biases, distastes, hopes and dreams. That’s the human way.
I’ll keep trying to remember that.