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choosing a role model

Here we discuss the function of a role model in our lives, and provide some thoughts on choosing someone who feels right for you. 

Role models can be important in helping to guide us through life.  Our televisions and newspapers are filled with a seemingly endless supply of people who we are supposed to aspire to, however choosing a role model is a much more personal and individual process than simply accepting the role models on offer. 

When we are young, we look to role models for inspiration.  As adults we can use role models to help guide our behaviour when thinking about how to act in a certain situation, or when making a decision.  One theory is that this process is a survival function designed to help us to mimic the traits of successful members of our tribe or society… thereby helping us to be successful too.

Before we begin discussing how to choose a suitable role model, consider the following quote from Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself, everyone else is already taken".  In the context of role models, this sentiment is important.  Try not to put your chosen person (or persons) on a pedestal. They are human after all and should be recognised as such. Everyone makes mistakes and so to follow another person without question is not recommended.   Instead, understand that this person is a ‘guide’ for you. 

What to consider if you are choosing a role model

As we have stressed, the process of choosing a role model is unique to each individual.  Therefore, we don’t want to offer tips on what personal character traits are ‘good’.  Instead, we have offered some general thoughts and guidance on what to consider before you start thinking about who to pick. 

The ideas below can act as a reference and good starting point for understanding who and what you admire and what character traits inspire you.

• Take some time to consider who you admire, and then think a little more deeply about why.  What exactly is it about that person that gives you a positive feeling? 
• Consider someone who is authentic and unique, rather than someone who confirms to what is expected of them.  They might have had to withstand some ridicule, but are likely to be more resilient as a result! 
• If you feel any negative comparisons or associations with your role model, then it is unlikely that they are right.  It won’t be helpful if you are thinking ‘I’ll never be as good at X as they are’. 
• Look for someone who is living life the way you would like to.  Again, this will be a very personal thing and can actually help you to focus on living the life you want.

On a final note, trust your choice.  It is important to have a role model which is meaningful to you, and so even if this means selecting someone who wouldn’t be the ‘popular’ choice, then go with your decision.