Every time I hear someone utter the words “working with him was transformational…” and I know that the person hasn’t been paid for their work or even paid to work with the “transformational guru”, I want to vomit.

I didn’t know why I had this reaction to people singing the praises of celebrities, “gurus”, academics, and other well-known individuals. I feel that everything they praise them for, be it they’re wonderful, talented, great human beings, mystical, spiritual, etc… they’re discounting what they themselves brought to the experience. You can’t say someone is creative or can write a good story if you aren’t creative and have a knack for spinning a yarn yourself.

Here’s the thing.

Hero worship wastes our time. Yeah, sure there are some “talented” people out there but they weren’t born that way. They’d been doing the work, practicing, putting in the time to become a master of their craft. Idolising them steals the time we have to practice to achieve mastery of ourselves and our craft.

Needless to say, buying merchandise or name brands also don’t automatically transform us to the being we idolise.

This hero worship, it comes in all disguises.

I didn’t recognise that I was falling into the hero worship trap myself by expecting a particular person who talks a big game about the changes he’d like to see in the education system set up a learning environments of sub-optimal quality.

Well, duh! They’re only human like you and me.

The difference?

They’re going out there to the market to experiment and then tweak and optimise, and they’re making money from it. Brilliant, eh? Look, it’s no less brilliant than what I’m capable of doing, or you, or you or you out there reading this who’s always wanted to start or continue your own blog and you’re thinking “damn, she’s prolific. I wish I could be like that”.

How did I wake myself up to my own hero worship pattern?

Truth comes in strange disguises. I was awakened by a lady who was telling me about a transformational leader, “one of the best minds of our time” kind of fella. My gag reflex was on overdrive as she was spewing out these stale clichés and let me be clear, this is a brilliant woman I’m talking about. She’s a writer herself, though she hasn’t blogged in years. I’m not sure what’s stopping her from letting the writing flow out, but in any case, she seems to have stopped doing the work for herself and now gets her sense of identity from this person she’s attached herself to.

Not healthy.

Also, I wasn’t healthy. Because you see, and I love to go back to Rumi because he put it so well:

The faults you see in others, dear reader, are mostly your own nature reflected in them.

How to Recognise Hero Worship (Projection) and Stop Yourself

I didn’t have my awakening until I relayed my story of disappointment to Scott Jeffrey, who’s been involved in self-actualisation work for two decades. Just to put that into perspective, I’ve been doing internal work regularly now for six months and had started dabbling in Tony Robbins and the self-help and self-improvement stuff on and off for seven years.

The reason I got into all of that is because in Australia, despite having enjoyed privilege and opportunities galore in Turkey as an American, no one valued me or my views and I’ve been either fired or had to resign from terrible marketing agencies ripping off their people and clients.

I had to learn to tap into my core values and give myself value. So here I am.

My journeys led to Scott, someone who knows a thing or two about how I was operating and what pattern I was falling into.

When I told him I was puzzled as to why I was so let down by someone whom I looked up to as a brilliant mind and how he’d allowed sycophants around him singing his praises instead of focusing on improving his workshops to fit in better with the worldview that I thought he had, Scott asked me one thing.

“Why are you projecting?”

Whoa! I was projecting. Geezus Christ! That never crossed my mind.

Next thing I did was look up hero worship and start recognising the symptoms in myself. Placing the person on a pedestal as if they can do no wrong, have super abilities to think of everything ahead of time, have a grand master-plan for everything, enormous empathy to embrace everyone who wants to do an honest day’s work, etc…

So all these qualities I projected onto him are… and are you ready for this?

My qualities that haven’t explored yet. It’s what’s lurking in the dark side of me. Mind blown.

And the symptoms of hero worship?

When I didn’t see evidence of the qualities of empathy and putting people on a path aligned with who they truly are, I started feeling out of sync with the universe of this online learning experience.

Scott describes similar experiences of getting to know his heroes personally. Here’s how he describes his experiences:

“In each case, I slowly learned more about the person behind their social mask. Each time, I was shocked, then confused, then rageful…The disillusionment was difficult. I felt betrayed, tricked”.

The mirrors in the fun house of my mind collapsed. It was like revealing The Wizard of Oz behind the smoke and the mirrors. I was left with the learning that I had the power within me all along and could take my wisdom back home to the real world and see my friends, family and community in a whole new light and be more useful to them through my presence.

Over to you…

Who do you idolise and what do you idolise about this person?

Now start seeing these qualities in yourself and I recommend using some of the techniques here to start doing the internal work to face your fears and start putting your own work out in public.