Role Models

Celebrities, sports stars, family members, family friends – role models can come from any direction. We may choose our role models based on their attitude, their success or their impact on our lives.

It’s an essential aspect of life to choose appropriate role models. As many modern-day celebrities appear to let their followers down time and again in the media, is it more important than ever to look closer to home for inspiration?

Role Models
Image credit: Role Models

Role Models in the Media – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Growing up with TV, radio and music permeating every inch of our daily lives, it’s difficult not to become attached to some of the characters we encounter. As a child I idolised Spider-Man following the animated series in the early 90s. Our idols can come from fiction or reality – fictional role models can sometimes be more reliable, as their defining characteristics are mostly constant.

We have some fantastic role models to aspire towards in the media today. Many look to names such as The Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, Kate Middleton, Beyoncé, David Beckham, Lebron James and numerous others. These individuals have all achieved vastly different things in their time, but they are generally united by their positive attitude, hard-earned success and widespread impact.

However, negative role models are emerging faster than ever, thanks to the development of social media allowing fame to be achieved almost overnight for some. This has led to millions of young, impressionable teenagers following people who have questionable attitudes, a limited sense of work ethic and an awful lot to say.

These new stars are prone to making some pretty monumental mistakes. Examples are easy to find:

  • Logan Paul – 15 million YouTube followers, decided it would be okay to film the body of a young man who had recently taken his own life in Japan in 2018
  • Tekashi69 – 15 million Instagram followers, published a video online of a child engaging in a sex act, currently facing jail, yet still commands a cult following
  • The Kardashians – with a whopping 465 million combined followers on Instagram, the celebrity family of our generation have made some pretty high-profile errors. Kendall’s Pepsi ad, Kim’s “diet” lollipops, Rob sharing revenge porn, Kim posing as the virgin Mary… this list could continue for a while

Perhaps you and I will dismiss the above listed names as attention-seeking celebrities, but it would be remiss of us not to recognise the negative impact they are having on today’s youth through the sheer reach social media has given them.

The responsibility for guiding young people away from these role models lies with their parents or guardians. A teenager turning to a role model such as those above is down to a lack of guidance or engagement from those who are meant to watch over them. We’re too quick to take the easy solution today – hand a teenager a phone, keep them scrolling social media endlessly, and assume there’s no lasting impact beyond keeping them busy for a while.

Daily Maverick
Image credit: Daily Maverick

Closer to Home

Family and friends are around us day in and day out in most cases. They’re the driving factor behind so much of what we do, and it only makes sense to keep maintain a healthy circle. And this should extend to our personal role models too.

If you’re lucky, your parents will have set you up with the right role models before you were even born. Godparents can be constantly available for advice, present at every family event and generally be one of the most reliable people in your life. What sets godparents apart is the very fact that they are not your parents, and so are able to maintain a considered distance when giving advice.

I’m fortunate to have three exceptional godparents, who I see regularly to this day. Thanks to my parent’s choices, I have external role models who are positive, hard-working and emotionally intuitive.

However godparents can be hit and miss. Some send a card every year, and eventually disappear into the background never to be seen again. Therefore uncles, aunts and older cousins all carry a responsibility towards their younger relatives. If you smoke, it’s likely you play a part in influencing your nephew or niece to consider smoking. If you drink heavily, the same can be said. The actions we take every day can be, unbeknownst to us, shaping the life of a young person near to us.

Your First Role Models

Our parents provide you with the first insight into adult life. They educate us consciously and unconsciously on how to approach relationships, work, education and strangers. These are the role models we do not choose – no matter the relationship a child has with its parents, as long as they are present they are acting as a role model. This is vital to keep in mind as we get older – some of us will soon have our own children, and if we are not prepared to be role models as well as parents, then our children will be at a distinct disadvantage.

Finally, it’s important to recognise that your parents should be the first role models in an ongoing team. As we grow, role models are added to our lives from all different areas. The benefit of having a number of role models is that no single one is perfect. We can’t learn everything from one person, and when they do fail or falter, we will need to look to others for their examples.

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