I’ve always thought of a hero as someone who acts in extraordinary ways, which, of course, is made popular by the media. I considered them to be super-human and somehow absolutely perfect. If I hail someone like Oprah, or Zig Ziglar as my hero, then somehow I would have to admit that I’m capable of doing the magical things they have done.

Ironically, admitting I’m capable of being more brave would mean others are going to see I’m not really as great as I’ve fooled them into believing. You see, if I let “them” see my fear, my self doubt, my absolutely absurd thoughts, they may not see me as their hero. And if I’m not seen as a hero, then what good am I?

All these misconceptions desolved when, while moderating a panel of successful CEOs, I asked Kenneth Gills, an exceptional man and thriving realtor/investor, “If you could offer any advice to our audience, what would it be?” His answer revolutionized my understanding of what it means to have heroes, and consequently, changed my life.

“It’s important to keep growing, to surround yourself with people who push you outside your comfort zone,” said Ken. “Everywhere I go I look for the gifts in the people I meet. I go to conferences where the most successful investors speak and I learn about them. I find their bios on Forbes website, print them off, read them carefully and keep them with me. When people see my file filled with the bios of my heroes, they ask, ‘What are those?’ I say, ‘Those are my buds, you know, my close friends.’”

Of course, the audience erupted in laughter and, at the same time, I could smell the inspiration in the air. I was both terrified by and curious about this notion. I’d never thought about heroes like this before. Suddenly, I felt a sense of freedom as it hit me – I too could have a hero. I don’t have to know everything and always be the hero. It’s OK to look up to someone (anyone) and allow them to grace my life with their gifts.

I’ve always said, “I want to be on Oprah’s show one day. She inspires me.” But I would never have called her my hero, allowing anyone to see me as less than the absolute best. If I’m the best, if I know everything and have something magical about me, then why do I need heroes? Simply put, if I have heroes, doesn’t that make me less significant?

Seriously, does Oprah have heroes? Of course she does. I just haven’t asked her who they are.

While I look up to and am inspired by Zig Ziglar, I struggle with the notion that he is somehow more successful than I. Of course, I rationalize this struggle by saying, “He has had so much more time on this earth than me. Most certainly I will impact the world even more powerfully than he has by the time I’m his age.”

Why do I compare myself to such extraordinary people? Better yet, why isn’t it OK to call them my heroes?

If I open myself to studying the lives of the people I consider brave, how will my life change? Will I feel a sense freedom? Will I be able to let go just a little and allow myself to be held by those I consider to be so brave? Will I, perhaps, be able to grow even more into the person I really am? You know, the one who exists under all those fears.

A few days after this inspiring evening and the ensuing soul search, I got an e-mail from one of my mentors, Pam. She has never sent me the same e-mail more than once, but for some curious reason, she really wanted me to watch a video of an inspirational speaker.

Like many, I often feel too busy to stop and appreciate a video of someone else speaking. Sure I can learn from other speakers. But deep down, I’m also a bit self-conscious, afraid I might think they are so much better than me that I might as well give up now. Since giving up is in not in me, I usually avoid watching – and setting off the confidence issues in the first place.

As I watched this truly amazing woman speak about the spirit of genius and address her fears, the world began to lift off my shoulders. Through her words, her stories, her courage, she gave me a real connection to an energy that is much greater than me alone. After 20 minutes of being completely inspired, I realized this speaker, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote one of my most favorite books – Eat. Pray. Love.

The magic of Elizabeth lies in her authenticity: her courage to be who she is with, what seems like, no reservations of what others might think. Because I’ve read her book, I know this appreciation and acceptance of who she is hasn’t always been there. She’s garnered many battle wounds as she’s struggled to find her voice, her story, her canvas from which to paint her life’s journey.

Elizabeth Gilbert is brave – not because of what she has done, but because of who she has become. Yes, she’s now famous and her story has inspired millions. But does she know she’s the first person I was brave enough to call my hero? She will soon. I’ll see to it that she does.

In learning about her journey, I found my place in this world. While I never knew I was confused about such a thing, I suddenly realized I am an artist. My struggles to breathe life into the world through my words, my actions and my thoughts have always been there. I’ve always known my life has purpose; I’ve just never known how to express it, not even to myself.

I found peace in knowing there are countless people out there just like me – and in knowing my job in this life is to show up, do my very best and give the rest to the Universe. While I’m certain my fears aren’t gone forever, I find peace in knowing I can come back to Elizabeth’s story, remember how brave she is and, in that, find my peace once more.

While Ken does not yet fully know what a gift he has given me, he will soon learn that he, too, is one of my heroes. He taught me it’s OK to have heroes and, even more importantly, how doing so removes my feelings of isolation and creates a real sense of belonging.

So who will become my heroes? How will I choose such people? It’s quite simple, really. Those who choose to face their fears, share their vulnerability, take a stand for what they believe, show compassion for themselves and others and create hope in our world – you are my heroes.

I will open my eyes to the many heroes who surround me – those who are so kind and so brave in their own ways. I will watch and I will learn. I will select those in my field of study who share my passions, who are authentically and unapologetically themselves – and I will learn about them. I will reach out, ask them to share their journeys with me and promise to share mine with the world.

This realization, this unveiling, this moment in my life has created a transformation within me. I feel such peace in knowing that all will unfold exactly as it should, and I can rest assured I will continue to show up.

Misti Burmeister