I just read a great post by Broadside. My response is lengthy and well quite a bit more personal of a post than I anticipated posting when I started this blog. But I feel this is such an important subject, that I will share.
Do we need role models? By Caitlin Kelly
My response to the title – YES! More specifically we need positive role models.
She starts off by referencing a poem by Robert Frost – The road less traveled. This is by far my favorite poem of all time from the moment I heard it! If you have not read it, even if you are not a fan of poetry, it is worth the read.
At the end she poses the questions. Do you have role models to help you figure out your life? If so, who?
My immediate thought was no, I don’t currently have any role models, and I rarely have.
Then a minute more thinking about it I realized that is not true. Far from it. I often have to catch myself like this when my first response is negative and take a deeper look. And anything worth looking deeper into is worth sharing.
The fact is, with few exceptions (young children for example) we choose our role models, they don’t choose us. They can be anyone. Someone you know personally, who they are as person entirely, maybe just one aspect of their character (Ha, because we all know none of us are perfect) or even through something they have written. Their influence as a role model can be good, bad or in between. In any way, they can have a profound impact on our lives and can affect how we view ourselves. This is why understanding how role models play a role in our lives and selecting your role models carefully is paramount.
As a young child, my role models were my parents. Whether I wanted them to be or not. This is where my initial negative response comes from. Not because I have not had role models in my life but because my parents were not the role models I wanted them to be. But my parents, like all others, are human. And I have no control over the people they choose to be. But as we get older we are able to identify this, then choose who we want to be and likewise who our role models will be. Oddly enough when this “Aha” moment first came into my life I was a young girl, barely a teenager. When my mother, of all people, shared a poem she had just read, The road less traveled by Robert Frost.
A little back story. At about age five, I discovered that my ideals were different than my parents. Of course, at that age I did not know what an “Ideal” was. But I for the first time I truly understood the difference between right and wrong as it applied to me in deciding when I would do what is right or wrong, not just because my parents said so. In fact, from that point on I disagreed with decisions they made often. Unfortunately , I grew up in a sheltered household that was very “my way or the highway”. Being so young, this caused a dilemma for me. At first my willpower was strong and I just kept my opinions to myself. Responded how I was expected to respond. But with few outside influences, over time came to believe that there was something wrong with me because I did not think or view things the same way they did. This negative “life lesson” I had learned from what I would consider bad role models in my life took me many years to unlearn.
When I first heard this poem, and saw it in a book. That spark went off in my head. There is more than one road. I can choose the road I want to walk. Maybe disagreeing with my parents perspective was not “wrong” after all and it is just a part of who I am. I can walk the road less traveled. Was there really nothing wrong with me? It seemed too good to be true, but it had to be true, enough people in the world must have different viewpoints in order for something like this to be printed and sold to the masses. At that moment I chose to let Robert Frost, through that poem be a role model to me. And a good one at that!
Considering of course that I was still a child and needed to respect my parents while I lived in their home. Besides nothing they required of me was illegal, they just a had a different view on life than I did. And so, I did as instructed and was the daughter they wanted me to be.
But I also was now free. Free to learn how to be myself again. To find again who I was when I was five. To start the long process of self-reflection to find my true self and personality that I had worked so hard to bury deep inside all those years. An individual, free to accept that I can be whoever I want to be and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. True, I could not show it outright for a time. Until I was an adult and on my own. But that was okay, knowing this was going to be a long hard process anyways because my thoughts had changed but all the old feeling were still there. A little (many years really) quiet time in my mind to sort things out was not a bad thing. I was now moving in the right direction and could choose my own role models. Even if they had to come from books.
We do not have control over how we are raised. But if it had not been for the experiences I had growing up, I would not be as strong of a person as I am today. For that I am grateful for the all challenges I have faced.
As fate would have it. Around the same point in time I started taking martial arts. I chose my instructor to be a positive role model. As I got older, over nearly a decade our relationship had developed through many stages. In all, he has been and continues to be the greatest role model in my life. He has always challenged me to be myself, no matter how scary that can be at times. For that and many other reasons he is the most amazing person I know. He is my best friend and now my husband of almost 18 years.
I came to be someone who knew many people but really had few friends. I often chose friends who had something about them that I admired and aspired to.
Currently I have been blessed to know a couple more people over the last few years who I can get alternate perspectives from when I find myself questioning my own perspective on things. It is always good to have three very different people to bounce things off of, to then ponder and determine what your true thoughts are on life matters. I value their opinions and admire much of who they have chosen to be as people.
The first of my three, of course being my husband.
Second, my personal trainer who through example has greatly inspired me to find value in experiences over things. I have never really considered myself materialistic but I have a new-found appreciation for finding value in experiences.
The other is my acupuncturist. Such a kind and caring soul, she finds joy in helping people heal.
All are always willing to give their point of view when asked. They are in my opinion excellent role models and I am grateful to have them in my life.
Through it all the good, bad and in between have helped me open my mind, helped me discover who I want to be and guide to me to who I am. I regret nothing because I love who I am today.
As my husband would say “Change is the only thing constant in life, get used to it”. My take on that is, if things are going to change, make them change for the better. And change in the form of growing and becoming a better person is a good thing. Anyone who can help you achieve such growth is a role model worth having in my opinion.