The most widely accepted and well known people with alter egos are super heroes. An alter or super ego is one’s dual identity. This is a form of splitting one’s personality, IE two people inside one body.
Today, films are showing us more and more the inner struggle and painful journey of the hero. One need only watch the last installment of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Rises to see Batman darn near destroyed. Not once, but twice he rises from the ashes. And we get an intimate view of the toil and physical struggle Mr. Wayne experiences from his super ego.
As I battle with cranky knees & hips from years of ballet, teaching dance and now teaching fitness; I’m often faced with the troublesome fact that my body is deteriorating. Using pain as my primary indicator, (at 38) I have become painfully aware of my impending limitations.
Two years ago I “retired” from teaching ballet. I had taught for over a decade and before that I had danced religiously from the age of seven, including four hard years of dancing seven hours a day in college. Teaching ballet got replaced by teaching fitness. I recently gave up teaching one of my yoga classes due to joint pain and now I’m debating giving up another class. The possible class on the chopping block is a very challenging core class. I count it’s certification test as one of the harder things I’ve done physically and I’m very proud of having achieved it.
I have to say, I kind of feel like a rock star or super hero when I’m teaching fitness. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, because I’m there for the members (not the other way around). But it’s no small feat to physically do all the requirements of class as well as talk into a mic, cue, encourage, inspire and come out the other end somewhat eloquently. Each week I teach this class, my body silently whispers an objection. My mind overrides the message and I go and teach anyway.
The other day, commiserating with a fellow fitness instructor, I told her I didn’t want to give up the class because of my ego. I feel strong and confident on the stage as I lead members through the challenging work out. With sweat dripping from my face and a mic around the back of my head, I encourage the class through example to keep going, and together we push our bodies past what we perceive they can do. It’s an amazing feeling and a fantastic journey. And when I’m done, even though I’m extremely taxed, it’s a wonderful high. I’m sure any super hero can relate.
Since beginning ballet at the age of seven, I have always had a strong connection with moving my body physically. It’s a powerful imprint, far more so than I could have imagined.
Even though the members of my class don’t see a cape, mask or any of the other telltale costuming signs of a super hero, they do see a leader, a teacher and someone to lead them through the hellfire of a hard workout.
Like the people of Gotham don’t see Bruce’s comeback sit ups, push ups and pull ups – the class members don’t see my personal training lessons, cardio workouts or deep water pool sessions. No one is around to see Bruce get his hydraulic knee brace or to see Alfred patch up his wounds – just like no one sees me ice my knees or go to the orthopedic doctor for a cortisone shot.
So I guess I am comparing being a fitness instructor to being a super hero. It’s really not that far off, the battles of the mind and body are quite similar. I’m experiencing a great deal of inner struggle and turmoil over doing what’s best for my body or continuing to fuel a drive that has been with me for most of my life. Believe me it’s not glamorous, nor is it something to covet. It’s the road less traveled, a journey of inner struggle between your two selves. The point I’m trying to make is that most of us are on our own hero’s journey. It’s not the romanticized version, it’s real life. There are super heroes all around us fighting their own battles, we just need to open our eyes and hearts to see them.