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Name five famous sidekicks…starting now! Easy, huh? Now take a good look at the images of each. The term that was once popular was “second banana”—often the plucky comic relief, the foil, the one who listens, supports, and cheers. In action films, the sidekick can be the one who’s mercilessly killed. Being a sidekick can be a crummy gig.
Do you ever play sidekick? Some sidekicks are intelligent—like Doctor Watson, but Sherlock Holmes always outshines him. The second banana is never quite as…clever, brave, strong, etc. Many women take pride in being excellent sidekicks, claiming their men could never have achieved greatness without the backing of a good woman. Some women identify their mission in life as playing a secondary role to husbands or lovers.
Hmm. I see a problem here. Not that I’m against supporting the progress of loved ones or even strangers—I’m not. Helping other people is both stimulating and challenging. But those people—often, but not always women—who accept sidekick status in return for their support may be short-changed. Their shine is eclipsed.
I’m not talking about ego here. I’m talking about working behind walls. Sidekicks have to accept that they will never face an unlimited horizon. Each can be only as powerful as the leader—single file. Eventually, the sidekick comes to believe that he or she NEEDS someone to illuminate the path forward and to define whom they should be. It’s a dependent position. It may come from fear.
These days as more people feel entitled to exert control over others, they need more sidekicks—who don’t think too much. “He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” Bullies are born to relish an illusion of power. People who suck up to bullies embrace the illusion that they share the power. They don’t. They’re expendable, because there are always more followers ready to step in. Divorce, lay-offs, infidelity, firing—sidekicks are vulnerable.
What’s the worst outcome of being a sidekick? You’ll never explore the entirety of your potential. You’ll never know if you really could have…whatever. If you’re separated from your leader, you’ll need to find a new one. You’ll share dependency with family and friends because that’s what you know. You’ll quake before chances to leap into unknown waters. It’s not about success, but fulfillment.
If you’re the leader, it’s difficult to see your sidekick become a partner or a leader and step into the spotlight, because it’s always been yours. But if you care about that person, you switch roles and start supporting. Sometimes, you step away. I tell people the reason my husband and I have enjoyed 40 years together is we don’t REQUIRE each other. Each of us can function solo. We’re together because that’s our ongoing choice. True love means honestly wanting those you love to be unique persons with unique destinies. It means freedom and fulfillment for both of you.