Role models are important. The dictionary defines a role model as, “any person who serves as an example, whose behaviour is emulated by others.”
It doesn’t matter if you dream of skulking in the shadows, dressing up as a giant bat and defending the defenceless, or cooking exquisite dinners whilst jumping around like a jackrabbit after four coffees like George Colombaris, a life without role models is void and vacuous.
For many children, their role models generally fall into two distinct categories: fictional and non-fictional.
Growing up, my fictional role models were Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Captain America, and a whole cadre of other superhero’s.
My mom still loves to tell the story of our flight from America to Australia when I was 7. The nice old lady in the seat next to my mom leaned in close and, mid-flight whispered in her ear, “I feel so safe now knowing Superman is on our flight.”
I was dressed as Superman.
Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, and Will Smith personified the person I wanted to be when I grew up.
Every time I stepped onto a basketball court I was convinced I was throwing no-lookers that would make Jason Kidd jealous and sinking fall aways that would make MJ ask for pointers.
When I was 11 I went to my sisters Bat Mitzvah disco dressed as a MIB agent, sure “I made this look good.”
From Captain America to Will Smith, Batman to Mahatma Ghandi, these were the personalities and characters that I modelled myself after during my formative adolescent years.
During primary school, when I got viciously bullied for two years, I thought about what Spiderman would do. How would he react? How would he handle the bullies? I drew strength from watching Flash Thompson repeatedly smash Peter Parker’s head into a locker. If Peter could take it, then so could I.
Later in life, when a close relationship of mine fell apart, I started reading Martin Luther King Jr’s sermons and found strength and resolve in his words. I wanted to act in a way befitting of a legend that suffered so much but changed the world.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “what are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King Jr.
Everybody needs role models. People who you aspire to be like, look up to and that make you hold your breath with their amazing exploits and introspective words.
It may be a pessimistic statement, one bred from the vacuous Dark Side, but you will never be the fastest, the strongest, the smartest or the best at being awesome. There will always be someone faster, stronger, smarter and more awesome than you. But before you get all droopy and depressed, let me explain why this is actually a positive.
Believing that you are the best and that you have no one left to beat, leaves you complacent. Complacency leads to down a dark and twisted path where you end up getting eaten by a dragon (I don’t know if this is true, but it’s a metaphorical dragon, so yeah, sure).
Role models will always be better than you. It’s a fact. If you were better than them, you’d be their role model. And you need a role model to measure yourself against. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing sacrilegious or emotionally crippling about comparing yourself to a great. It keeps you on your toes, it MAKES you want to consistently get better and better.
It’s life and it’s essential for personal growth.
But if your role model is Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, or anybody from The Shire or Jersey Shore you’re gonna have a bad time!