If I were a super hero, I think I’d end up being called Super-Sensitive-Over-Achiever Woman. I can’t do anything without analyzing or at least weighing options, and when I do make rash decisions, I always replay the decision again later just in case I missed some minute detail. I also have no capacity for flying under the radar. No matter how hard my introverted self tries to be discreet, I’m just too much of a perfectionist to let certain things slide. In those cases, I usually find out who is my friend and who just puts up with me because they want something.
But there’s a problem: the Super-Sensitive-Over-Achiever Woman isn’t a thing. Instead, she’s too sensitive, pushy, strange, geeky, a know-it-all, or nothing, because people don’t take the time to understand.
Think back with me for a moment about my list of heroes that I mentioned (quite a few weeks ago now, but check it out). None of the characters on that list was the super charismatic, out-going type.
I think it is necessary to recognize that heroes are strong but they aren’t always perfect, and they aren’t always 100% out-going. The only hero who isn’t flawed is Jesus Christ, so let me clarify here: I’m talking about the portrayal of human or human-like (looking at you, Clark Kent) characters.
I’ve recently been pretty fascinated by the show LOST. I know, I’m super late. Everyone else who liked it is so over it they now hate it! Hear me out anyway. [SPOILERS!]
What most appealed to me about the show was that no single character was the stalwart hero. Yes, not even Jack Shepherd!! But each character has a moment of redemption, whether or not they choose to walk into it. (Why did you have to serve the Man in Black, Sayid?? You, too, Claire?? Charlie, at least we knew it wasn’t Penny’s boat.)
A lot of the backlash I’ve read about the show is that people didn’t think it was surprising that Jack saves the Island from the Man in Black or that Hurley ends up being the Protector of the Island. (Side note: without Kate and her shotgun, Jack would’ve died and the Man in Black would have won.)
For me, I love how these things happen. From the beginning, the writers establish that Jack is the hero, that we should root for him. But Jack has many dark struggles to face before the end of the series – obsession, self-esteem issues, jealousy, addiction, substance abuse, faith or lack thereof, even what it means to be a leader. Hurley also struggles with his self-image and making his opinions known without fear of judgement, fearing the label of “crazy” that has been placed on him by other people.
These are deeply human struggles, because sensitivity makes a person feel deeply, and that is NOT A BAD THING!
No struggle meant more to me than Jack’s inability to see his own worth. I find his struggle more relatable, if maybe not always more compelling, than the transformation of Sawyer into a caring human being. I liked that, too; I just kind of wish they hadn’t felt the need to put Kate and Sawyer in a cage to get there. Just a thought.
At the end of the day, what made the whole series work for me was the moment when we saw that Jacob left the message for Jack:
You have what it takes.
How many times do I need to hear that a day? I should have it written on every blank page, so that even before I fill it, I know that I am not inadequate!
In the over-achiever’s world, you know you have abilities, and if you don’t, you’ll work harder than anyone else so you can get to the top. But the overly sensitive part of you is tearing you down left and right for not saying something when you’d had the chance to forgive a person or not doing everything you could to make yourself heard. Or even destroying you with guilt over how you couldn’t save the kid who willingly followed John Locke into the jungle. (Sorry, Boone!) Or how you left your sister on the Island. (You didn’t know about that one.)
That sort of sensitivity leads to obsession and often to depression – uncharted territory for those trying to tell “must-see” TV or bestselling stories. A hero with internal struggles has just as much going on as someone who’s fighting crime or running for President.
We each struggle under immense pressure before we learn to rise to the occasion. That is how life works. We aren’t born with foresight, so we can’t possibly know how all of our actions will affect our future.
Our culture is beginning to see that sensitivity is not a completely negative attribute (even in MEN!!) and that stories in which heroes have to overcome obstacles are necessary in a world as full of heartache as our own. LOST is just the first one I’ve come across. (BREAKING BAD seems a little too much into the anti-hero territory for me at this point. Maybe I’ll get into it. My empathetic self kinda thinks not.)
I still wish there were more such heroes that I could relate to! All the neurotic women are in comedy, and not all of them have the distinguished displeasure of over-thinking and being highly sensitive to her effect on others.
But I have hope now that someday, I will write a character like me, who struggles with her self-worth, and she will not have the same stigmas working against her.
And she will hear these words spoken over her life: You have what it takes.