How to Make the Most of Your Role Models and Those Who Inspire You
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition & Job Search Coach | Stress Management, Sleep Science, & Holistic Wellness Coach
Most of us have or have had a few role models in our lives. Perhaps your consider one or both of your parents to be your role models. Some people consider a teacher from their past their role model. The people we tend to look up to are those we would like to be like in some way.
The people who raise us and the adults around us provide us with our first blueprint for success. We then make decisions about who we want to be and what we aspire to become.
Beyond people we know in person, we also admire other inspirational figures.
We find role models in celebrities, for example. Some might even want to emulate fictional characters.
There are a lot of pop culture figures that inspire followers. Some of them, I admit I don't get. I have never been a Kardashian follower, for example. I don't get the family or what their show is about, but they clearly have their fan base. They are popular in ways that I may not understand but others do. And that's fine.
I am inspired by people like Oprah Winfrey who is successful beyond most people's dreams. Part of her success is due to the fact that she has managed to stay true to herself for most of her career. She encourages others to live their best lives.
I also admire the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the writings of Eleanor Roosevelt.
As a young teacher, I was inspired by an educator named Mary Hatwood Futrell. She was President of the National Education Association for an unprecedented three terms. She was from Amherst, Virginia, and as a young black girl, she had grown up in segregated schools.
Mary told the story of how her mother, a domestic, stopped at the public library often. She dug discarded books out of the dumpster to take home to her kids because the public library wasn't open to black people at that time.
Mary's teachers saw something special in her and raised money to help her go to college.
She went on to make those teachers proud. She became a business teacher. She later became President of the Virginia Education Association. In 1980, she became President of the National Education.
Dr. Mary Hatwood Futrell
Mary had a way of speaking that captured people's imaginations. When she offered her reports, people stopped in their tracks and listened. When she spoke at the NEA conventions, you could hear a pen drop. Over 10,000 people would listen with rapt attention for fear of missing a single word.
She commanded a podium the way few can. Her oratorical style was like that of Martin Luther King, Jr. She has the lyrical intonation of a minister and the personal charisma of a rock star. She remains an inspiration to me to this day, and she is at the top of my list of role models right after my father.
Other people who inspire me are the young people out of Parkland, Florida. They are spending their summer vacation traveling the country mobilizing voter registration.
I am inspired by people who speak truth to power regardless of the danger that doing so may put them.
My role models are those who stand up for what is right even if it makes them unpopular.
Where do you find your inspiration? Who are your role models? Are they a force for great good? Consider the following when selecting your role model.
Consider what inspires you.
What are the values that your role model inspires in you? Is it that they have been successful in business? Is it their money or their big houses that you admire?
Or is it their personal story of overcoming adversity? Did they overcome a physical or emotional challenge and become successful in spite of the challenge?
Maybe you admire their athletic ability. Consider the number of swimmers who have been inspired by Michael Phelps. How about the number of tennis players who have been inspired by Serena Williams? And think of the number of aspiring golfers who followed Tiger Woods' career in his early years.
Remember that nobody is perfect.
Remember that nobody is perfect. Taking inspiration from someone is one thing, but hero worship is something else. What’s important is that you recognize the limitations of your chosen role model. Don’t put them on a pedestal. Don’t be blind to their flaws. Admire aspects of their character, but be wise enough to also see and learn from their mistakes.
Maybe your personal hero is Arnold Schwarzenegger because of his inspirational personal story. That's great. But don't turn a blind eye to his bad behavior. Admire him for his personal charm, charisma, and entrepreneurial drive. But don't admire his bad behavior which led to the end of his marriage.
Another cautionary tale is Tiger Woods.
In spite of his amazing success in golf for an extended time, his personal life was in shambles. His reputation took a hit from which he has never fully recovered. Remember that your role models are only human. We make a mistake if we put them on a pedestal and expect them to be anything but.
It's a good idea to have more than one role model.
Borrow different aspects from each of them, while injecting something uniquely your own. Become your own person, not a carbon copy of someone else.
Don’t make comparisons.
Another thing to avoid is comparing yourself to others. Role models can help give us vision and inspiration. But they can also damage our self-esteem if we compare our success with theirs. Try looking for role models who are a similar body type or who work in the same industry. This way, you will find there’s more you can learn from them
Remember that just like you, they had to start somewhere.
By the time you are aware of their success, they have made it through and over many hurdles. They had paid their dues. There is no such thing as an "overnight success." Even the Beatles were unknown in their early days. And people made fun of Elvis before he became an icon. ( I am dating myself here. My apologies to my younger readers. But you get my drift.)
Finally, be your own person!
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this wonderful piece of advice: "To be yourself in a world that is constantly tying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
Remember, somewhere out there is someone who considers you to be their role model!
If that isn't the case yet, it will be one day. I remember how surprised I was the first time someone shared with me that I was their role model. It is humbling, let me tell you. But it also means that you have to be mindful of your behavior. You never know when people are watching you. They are taking note of how you handle every situation. If you behave in a way that is admirable, you can inspire someone to be better and do better. Make sure you acknowledge what an inspiration you already are.
Until next time.