I've been reading a whole bunch of papers from my students about their role models, the people they see as worthy of their respect and emulation. It's always interesting to see what young people value, and it may bring some people some peace of mind to know that high school students still value traits such as honesty, integrity, compassion, love, and helping others. Whenever I get to reading such papers, though (and I assign them every year), I start to wonder whether I live up to the concept of being a role model. I also start to realize that my strongest role model should, for all practical purposes, be me!
Think about it: We all have ideas about how the ideal person should act, what kinds of things that person should say and do, how that person should be. If those are the traits that we truly value in others, then doesn't it make sense that we ourselves should strive to live up to those ideals? Since we're the only ones who know for sure what our own personal ideals consist of, then we're truly the only people who can fully live up to those ideals, aren't we?
So we're the only people who can live up to all the ideals that we can imagine as important in a role model for ourselves.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm an adequate role model for others--for students, for fellow teachers, for people on the street whom I don't know--and I'm never sure of the answer. But now I'm going to start thinking of just what it means to be a role model for myself. What do I think a role model should do and say? And then I'm going to strive to live up to those ideals so that eventually I can become my own role model, the person I'd most like to be like. It will be a nice day if and when I ever reach that point!
It can be dangerous always looking to others to provide us with models for our actions and ideals. How often have we seen a person who seems to be strong, ethical, and upstanding on the outside, only to find out later that that person has been hiding dishonesty and hypocrisy all along? And how can we know just what steps were necessary for that person to reach the ideals that he or she has reached in life? Would we be able to go through the exact same struggles in the exact same way, or should we focus on getting through our own struggles in life, and learning from them?
One of the greatest truths that I've found is that the best role models in life are those people who don't necessarily try to be role models--they just try to do the best they can, all the time, whether anyone's around to notice or not. And that sort of integrity acts as a natural beacon--though it's often a small candle on a huge, windy plain rather than a huge lighthouse on a rocky shore.