Why I don’t believe in the Heroine’s Journey

find peace katie rose trust life trust yourself Dec 14, 2023

If like me, you read a lot of 'spiritual' and 'personal development' books you might have noticed many of them follow the form of a narrative centering around a 'hero' or 'heroine' journey.

'I was broken and now I'm fixed.'

'I've seen the light and this is how you can too.'

'I've overcome adversity/addiction/challenges and now I'm skipping off into the sunset surrounded by a glowing halo and sparkling moondust'.

You get the idea!

This is what I have to say about this form of narrative in my new book 'Trust Life, Trust Yourself, Find Peace';

Your life isn’t a movie; it becomes tiring if your days are punctuated only by moments of drama and plot intrigue. While writing this book, similar to many writers, I looked for the arc of the story, the narrative form of ‘beginning, middle, and end’. For many personal-development writers, this often follows the form of the ‘hero’s journey’ – the narrative starts somewhere crappy and ends with a resolution.

Elizabeth Gilbert starts her book 'Eat, Pray, Love' sobbing on her bathroom floor and ends the book falling in love and living ‘happily ever after’. Glennon Doyle starts her book 'Untamed' in the throes of a messy divorce and mental-health crisis and ends the book falling in love and living ‘happily ever after’. See the theme here?

Don’t get me wrong ... I love 'Eat, Pray, Love' and 'Untamed' – I love a heroine’s journey. There’s nothing that pisses me off more than when I’m watching a period drama or a rom-com or reading a cheesy novel (all of which I thoroughly enjoy) and they mess up the ending by having someone die or the lead couple not end up together. I want a heroine’s journey as much as the next person.

But the trouble with the heroine’s journey is it continues after the credits start rolling. After 'Eat, Pray, Love', Gilbert got divorced (again!) and fell in love with her best friend who died of cancer. Before Untamed, Doyle wrote a book that ends with her happily married to her husband (the one she’s divorcing at the beginning of the next book). Life is a continuum, not a box we can wrap up and decorate with a bow. In real life, the narrative and the events keep rolling. Life goes up and then it comes down. The events are less important than the attitudes we have about them.

I don’t want to show an ‘I was broken, then I fixed myself ’ version of my story to you. I want to show an ‘I’m working on this daily’ version. Some days are good and others not so much. At the core of this book are the spiritual teachings. Around that are some of my personal stories and examples. But this is not my heroine’s journey, because that’s a false construct perpetuated by Hollywood.

Also, it feels like there’s something innately privileged about the hero’s journey. Even though it’s about overcoming adversity, there are millions of people alive on the planet who don’t have.

The doors open to them for that to be an option. Economic scarcity, mental health issues, prejudice, and other factors mean it might not be an option for many to change much about their lot in life.

I don’t take my privilege for granted, and I don’t want to suggest the hero’s journey as a paradigm that’s available to everyone at all times. Instead, let’s look at glorifying our ability to stay close to God with each step. Every one of us can do that, in every moment. Even if the steps of life take us ‘backward’ and the goal is unclear. Even if we don’t reach the peak of the mountain. We’re all heroes just for being in the game and when we trust that God is with us, the journey is always perfect.

We are all in this together day by day doing our best. There is no 'happily ever after' in real life, there is only devotion to the path of kindness and growth.

 Buy your copy of the book HERE