Iron Man, Lessons from a real hero

Iron Man. Possibly one of the most legendary superheroes of our time. In a survey conducted by Rotten Tomatoes, he and Captain America were tied for first place as the people’s favourite Avenger. Though the pair are polar opposite personalities and butt heads often, they share one common trait that I believe has made them the pick of the lot – they are the most relatable, “human” characters who struggle with their emotional and mental states as do we all.

Tony Stark may not have the most likeable personality. He is blatantly narcissistic and pointedly sarcastic. But, perhaps what endears him most to fans is that he is imperfect. Despite donning an armoured suit in combat, he experiences very real struggles on the inside. A character whose emotions often get the better of him, who struggled with anxiety, loss and post-traumatic mental disorder, is a character who is very human.

Image credits:  Iron Man 3/Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, DMG Entertainment

One memorable “Tony Stark” moment came in the third instalment of Iron Man movies, when having lost his armour and left on his own, Stark finds himself experiencing anxiety attacks. With the world on his shoulders, our hero finds himself slumped against his car on a snowy roadside, seemingly unable to go on. This is a moment that many of us may find familiar with – when life becomes a bit too much and it is difficult to go on. But, for Iron Man, his story doesn’t end there. He rallies and gets himself back on his feet. Here are some lessons that we can take from him:

1. No one is perfect

Unlike other superheroes, Iron Man never seems to outgrow his turbulent streak. He doesn’t move on well from loss or disappointment, lacks self-confidence and esteem, and lavishes his wealth frivolously. But, despite of all his flaws, he continues to do good in the world and places the greater good above his own. He teaches us that no one is perfect but we are not defined by our flaws but the life we lead in spite of them.

2. Put the armour down

We all struggle with our thoughts and emotions to a certain extent and the solution is never to bottle up and put up a strong front. The coolest, most impregnable armour in the world did little to help Tony Stark in the war inside his head. In order to deal with his anxiety, he had to lose all his armour and be honest with himself. Strength is not in appearance but rather in being able to identify our own weaknesses and accept that we’re going to have to work on them, just as Iron Man did.

Image credits:  Iron Man 3/Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, DMG Entertainment

Having been isolated from all the people he could trust, lost without his armour, Stark confided in a little kid he met after crash landing in a town he was unfamiliar with. Ironically, our hero is helped by the helpless rather than the other way around. Put the armour down! It’s important to have someone to share our struggles with, even if it is someone who might not be able to help us directly.

3. Keep going!

From an Afghan cave, to a snowy roadside, to being stranded in space, Iron Man has had some pretty rock bottom moments in his life. But, it is not how we start, or indeed how the journey goes, but how we finish that counts in the end. Tony Stark might have been blessed with wealth and intellect but it was his ability to overcome setbacks that really got him to the end. In the same way, it isn’t about what we start with or what happens to us along the way, what counts is that we make it to the end.

Do you have a story to tell? Nothing is ever too ‘silly’ or insignificant. Share with us, we are here to listen and to cheer you on.


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