I submitted this article a long long time ago so it was a nice little surprise when the edited & published version above was emailed to me.
My opinions on specifics have shifted slightly (but I’m 100% behind the main idea) and I probably would have used different examples and structuring looking back but I thought I will share it with you guys regardless because I am very proud that it exists.
I’m actually glad that I see so many imperfections with it, hopefully that means I’ve grown as a person and writer. On a side note, I’m so happy with how pretty it looks!
Please excuse any grammatical, structural or ideological mistakes in this piece. I’m only human.
What exactly does this phrase mean? Since when have we started believing that being human is inherently less than sufficient?
I am, for the most part, comfortable being an ordinary seventeen year old girl. I was not sent off into the unknown as a baby after my biological parents became aware of the impending destruction of our planet. I did not find a land of talking animals and mythical creatures in my cupboard when I was eight. I was not accepted to a school for witchcraft and wizardry when I was eleven, and I was not bitten by a radioactive spider when I was fifteen.
Everywhere we turn, we are told that the way we were born is not good enough. Companies magnify the imperfections of the human body in order to sell their products. Nobody will reach the standards of Superman or Wonder Woman, but the media has made us desire to recreate this cookie-cutter image in ourselves. Whiten your teeth, straighten your hair, live on a diet of steroids or nothing at all, then maybe, just maybe, you can pretend to be a cheap knock-off version of the unrealistic expectations you’re modelling yourself on.
It is rather sad that we have created, maintained and are enslaved by a society where the way you look determines your status and our status is the most important thing about us.
Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon exists beyond our appearance. We have normalised an all-or-nothing complex in everyday life where the pressure is put on us to meet unrealistic expectations in our area of interest: be a superhero or be a nobody.
The Avengers, a film that has “blasted through nearly every record in cinema history,” blatantly promotes this idea. When alien forces attack New York, the police are shown as completely incompetent. Obviously only those who are blessed with powers that a normal human could never obtain can save the day, right? Forget technology, forget that this is post 9/11 America, forget the training the officers must have received, the sensible option is to idolise these superheroes instead. Clearly anybody that isn’t a superhero is useless.
Some would argue that the point of watching superhero movies is fantasy-fulfillment, to envision yourself as the hero. Nobody wants to be civilian #78 who dies before their existence is even acknowledged. However, rather than believing that the only way to save the day is to put yourself in a pair of shoes that would not fit anyone outside of your own imagination, the solution is to accept who you are, limitations and all, and tackle the issue as best you can.
Hint: The first step is upgrading yourself from being civilian #78 to trained police officer #14.
The truth is that there are no superheroes in real life. There are the physically capable, the mentally gifted and the charismatic. We can’t be 100% talented in all areas but excelling in one field or another is ultimately achievable and human because of the effort we put in. We shouldn’t let other people’s successes define their existence or dampen our own determination. Instead, let’s measure ourselves against our abilities and potential rather than the ‘superhuman’ qualities we assign to others.
There is definitely something broken about us, our culture, when being human morphed to be synonymous with pathetic, helpless, unexceptional and undistinguished. So, next time you make a mistake, don’t say ‘I’m only human.’ When you feel like you are at your limit, don’t think ‘I’m only human.’ Being human is not a disadvantage, it is not a weakness. There is nothing that is ‘only’ about being human.
Embrace the ordinary, embrace the strengths and weaknesses you have and don’t compare yourself with super humans who exist exclusively on screen, paper and within your head. Tell them that you’re doing fine. You don’t need a red cape to save the day yourself.