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The Power of a Role Model

Posted by Didi Gorman on

Think of someone who truly inspires you; someone you would like to emulate in some way: a family member, a colleague, an acquaintance, a fictional character, a celebrity, or even someone you’ve never met in person but only heard about.

There must be something about that individual that you find impressive. What is it? A certain trait in their character? A skill? A habit? Perhaps an achievement?

I often feel inspired – and empowered – by successful women, for example, and I’m not talking about financial success or fame, but rather about a sense of well-being that radiates from these self-fulfilled ladies, who are happy with the path they have chosen and who retain a sense of humility at the same time.

I have a friend like that. I bet she’d be stunned, not to mention utterly embarrassed, if I told her she figured at the top of my role model list, the shy person that she is. Yet she is totally charismatic and she doesn’t even know it! Part of the reason I find her so inspiring is that I know what she’s been through to get to where she got. Her well-deserved recognition had been earned through no small amount of hard work and perseverance (and the occasional tear which I had witnessed too). My hat is truly off to her. I’m learning so much just by watching her. Whenever I need a reminder that ‘some things are worth persevering for, even against the odds,’ I think of her and it lifts me up.

Then, of course, there is the other side of the coin: that’s when WE set an example for somebody else and, just like my above-mentioned friend, we may not even realize it.

And there’s yet another unique case of a role model, when we embark on a new endeavor but there is no one to follow as an example. We may well then become our own inspiration; our own source of empowerment; powered from within with no external guidance to spearhead a new path. We have become our own role model. Much later, others embarking on a similar journey will be guided by our example.

All this is only half the story, though. We’ve only discussed positive role models so far. Let’s think about the reverse, the anti-role model: when we observe something irritating in someone’s behavior and we resolve not to act like them. Think of that person who barges into other people’s sentences, or the one who busies himself/herself doing other things while you’re talking to them (giving the impression they weren’t listening), or that show-off of a peer trying hard to squeeze a compliment out of you. Yeah, that one. You know who I’m talking about.

Unbeknownst to them, those anti-role models are teaching us a valuable lesson that will serve us well later on. By all accounts, there is something to be learned from every person we meet.

By Didi Gorman