Much of media portrays heroes as strong warriors that vanquish the villain and free the subjugated. That image feels like a a flat characterchure of the true meaning.
I think a person can be noble but not necessarily a hero. They can save a person from injury or death but not necessarily put themselves in danger to do so. When a person serves others at a cost to themselves I find that heroic. What is wrong with a little self-sacrifice? Yes, there comes a point where it becomes unhealthy, but I think we have long left the me generation. I like to think I have.
There are children who put their careers on hold or completely abandon them to care for a sick parent and avoid placing them in a nursing home. They do it without boasting, without crying 'look at me'. They genuinely care and feel there is no other option.
There are a number of traits that come to mind when I think of heroes. Bravery, humility, inner strength, helpfulness, fearlessness. An everyday person who changes the world with one action or multiple actions. Ego doesn't come into play. They act without selfishness, without thought of themselves. They can be:
- Sick children
- Breast cancer survivors
- Wild or domesticated animals
- Mentally ill
I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.
So remember when writing your hero, he or she can be anyone. It's how you portray him that is paramount to having your reader fall in love with her/him.