Bad Advice for Aspiring Superheroes

Submit your questions to [email protected] or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!

Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!


Dear Bad Advice,

My brother gets all the glory and I’m done. I want to be a hero too. I have the skills, I just need to get out there and make a difference. But my brother always seems to beat me to the punch, and it doesn’t help that our dad favors him. People look at our family and think we live in Valhalla, but it’s not all perfect and I think I need to make a break with the whole rotten crew if I’m ever going to shine. Will my big chance ever come, or should I go ahead and create a little chaos to make my own opportunities?

– Loki Self Esteem

This is going to sound like bad advice, but stop trying to be a hero.

Instead of trying to compete with your brother, ask yourself: what would you really like to do with your life? What if he had never been there and you’d just found your own interests and passions — would you still want to be a superhero? Or do you only want to be a superhero because your brother’s one and he gets all the glory and dammit you deserve that? Or maybe you deserve even more than that.

Your brother isn’t stealing your thunder. You’re handing it to him. So when you’re planning your next apocalypse, remember that he’s not the one who’s made your life miserable and unsatisfied — it’s you.

Thor and Loki are a great example of how comic books can tackle big issues. Sibling rivalry might seem old hat; what’s more obvious as a plot driver? But few relationships could be more complex. There are plenty of people who become Lokis in their own lives, self-sabotaging (and even spreading their toxicity to the lives of the people around them) because they just never learned how to get past their jealousy or resentment of a sibling. It’s near impossible for a sibling to be “just another person” to you — siblings will almost always be a cause for comparison, either by other people or as yardstick for your own achievement in your mind.

If there were any other person, unrelated to you, whom you compared yourself to that painfully, that relentlessly, that unforgivingly, you’d probably realize at some point that your fixation was unhealthy and self-destructive. But over and over again people put themselves through the wringer, enduring self-loathing, self-doubt, corrosive resentment, and obsessive envy, all because they think siblings are different — you should compare yourself to your siblings, you should compete with them, you should prove yourself to them, you should achieve as much/the same things/more than/faster than/better than they did.

A good sibling relationship can be one of life’s bedrock relationships, carrying you through the highs and lows, and making both siblings better people from the inside. But it’s also possible for a sour sibling relationship to haunt a person for decades, souring his life and throwing his whole view of the world off-kilter.

You are always the hero of your own life story. You don’t have to relegate yourself to the role of the trouble-maker or villain. But you do that when you surrender your entire identity to envy and resentment, especially of someone so close to you. You don’t have to be the Loki of your own life.

One of the most empowering things you can do is set your own goals. Look at your own life and figure out what it is you want to do, not what you want to do better than your brother. And if it turns out you sincerely want to do the same thing, find a way to place yourself in a different market so you’re not in direct competition — and focus on the accomplishment of your own goals, not comparison with your brother’s achievements.  Eventually, when you figure out who you are, you might be surprised to realize your brother’s shadow shrinks. He’ll no longer be such a massive presence in your mind — he’ll no longer be a symbol of everything you want but don’t have. You might even come to realize that most of those feelings came from within yourself, not from any action he took to put you down. And even if he did put you down or try to make you feel small, you’ll be better prepared to deflect his criticism and care less because you’re no longer trying to be him — you’ll realize the best authority on you is yourself.

Submit your questions to [email protected] or leave a question in the comments section, and I’ll answer it in Bad Advice!