Everyone grows up idolizing dozens of people and fictional characters. When I was younger I had a lengthy list of dozens and dozens of people I considered my “role models” or “heroes.” Of course, Barbie, Lizzie McGuire, and Britney Spears made the cut. But amongst them were my parents, my school teachers, my brother, my grandparents, my cousin, my aunts, etc. The list went on and on. As you grow up your list becomes more about influence than acquaintance.
You realize not everyone who’s older is wiser, and not everyone on TV is as perfect as they’re portrayed. My list became more condensed and more exclusive. Gone were the days of obtaining the title so easily. I began to focus on quality over quantity.
In some ways, I miss the innocence and the vulnerability of believing everybody was as true and wholesome as they seemed. The ability to believe in anyone and anything was so beautifully susceptible.
But as you grow up, you learn the hard way that not everybody has the best morals or heart. And you learn that everyone, including your heroes, make mistakes and prove to be human too.
Learning that as a kid can be difficult and scary. It’s the first real taste of reality.
I think college was the first real time I understood the true definition and obligation of a role model.
A role model to me is someone who has faced adversity, has worked for what they have, and has stayed humble while doing it. A role model isn’t someone who has everything and obtains the best things. The greatest treasures in the world mean nothing if they weren’t worked for.
I don’t want to look up to someone who hasn’t strived for what they have. I want to look up to someone who has a strong work ethic and strong will.
Similarly, I want to look up to someone who treats everyone equally and with kindness. It’s easy for people to treat their superiors and equals with kindness and love. But the way people treat their inferiors is the most important quality. Getting to the top means nothing if you stepped on everyone in order to get there.
So, what happens when you recognize the less than worthy traits of your role model?
You remind yourself that they’re human too. Role models aren’t untouchable and closed-off to mistakes and wrong doings. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone has a closet full of skeletons. Everyone’s done things they’ve regretted and performed actions they’re ashamed of. The quicker we realize this, the better.
This is part of what makes role models great. They’re not at some unachievable status – they’re human too.
Being let down by the person you look up to can be misleading and frightening. I mean, if they can’t do life right, who can? No one can. That’s exactly it – no one can do life perfectly and scotch free.
The way someone handles their mistake by the repercussions is most telling of their character. The way your role model reacts to a mistake is more important than the mistake itself.
I don’t want to look up to someone perfect. I want to look up to someone who makes mistakes and shows me how to handle them.