It’s November is National Inspirational Role Models Month! Founded in 2005 by award-winning journalist Darlene House, the ongoing purpose of NIRRM is:
“To acknowledge impact contemporary and historic role models have on our lives. Individuals chosen for recognition may include celebrities, historic figures, relatives, friends, colleagues and associates. Celebrate with creative projects and activities featuring historic role models and by spending time with contemporary role models.”
With Thanksgiving pretty much tomorrow, it is a fitting time to recognize and give thanks to those persons in our lives who have made a difference or who continually inspire and give us that love and support (IM40 Asset #1, Family Support).
So what is a role model? A role model is someone that motivates, encourages and is someone others aspire to be like. They help us become who we want to be. They have behaviors, attitudes, actions, traits and roles that others want to model. It doesn’t mean they are perfect, because no one is perfect. But it does mean that they have something someone else thinks is worth having too.
A role model could be a family member, teacher, coach, artist, musician, business(wo)man, tv/movie actor/tress, peer, boss, or even friend. Role models come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Oftentimes, role models have qualities others want. We like list that Marilyn Price-Mitchell PhD, published on Roots of Action.com complied as a result of a study she did detailing the top five role modeling qualities that matter to teens. And the voices that shaped the list were the voices of college youth. Okay, what are the qualities?
- Passion and the Ability to Inspire
- Clear set of Values
- Commitment to Community
- Selflessness and Acceptance of Others, and
- Ability to Overcome Obstacles
If we took a look at the IM40 Developmental Assets, these qualities represent several of the assets, including #3: Other Adult Relationships, #9: Service to Others, #14: Adult Role Models, #15: Positive Peer Influence, #26: Caring, #27: Equality and Social Justice, #28: Integrity, and #39: Sense of Purpose. Those assets fall under the categories of Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, Positive Values, and Positive Identity.
When could someone have a role model? Anytime! Many people attribute role models to children or youth, but even adults have people they admire and aspire to. You can have a role model as a young person all the way through old age and for any length of time.
Who were or are the Inspirational Role Models in your life? Maybe you had one role model when you were a young child and now you have a different role model for a different reason. Many people even have role models that are no longer living. That’s okay! Role models are a personal decision that someone makes and they determine why they choose who they choose.
Where can you find role models if you don’t have one already? Before you begin your search, make sure you have an idea of what you’re looking for. It’s okay to make a list of the qualities that YOU want for yourself and then a list of people that exhibit those qualities. Maybe you want to be honest to a fault, poetic, and successful in your career, so when you look for people they should have achieved those attributes. Don’t forget to look around you. There may be role models closer to you than you think. Your role model may even become your mentor. Other places include youth organizations, like schools and clubs, or community leaders.
Lastly, how does one become a role model for someone else? You cannot make someone choose you as a role model and there are many definitions of what a good role model is out there. But here are just a few things you can do to put yourself in a position to be seen as role model material, if you will…
- Be accountable and honest. No one expects you to be perfect, you will make mistakes, but take responsibility for your mistakes and be honest.
- Be consistent. One of the most important contributors to learning is repetition. 1+1=2 every time you do it, so try to make sure that what you do is consistent so you’re not modeling confusion. If you change up, explain it and why. This helps teach that there can be some gray areas.
- Think out loud. Show others how you come to the decisions and conclusions you do, even if it’s a hard one. This helps them visualize and learn the process of decision making and problem solving.
- Walk your talk. This is another form of consistency, but warrants its own process. Don’t say one thing and do another. Your words and actions should match. Remember as a role model, you’re being watched and copied.
- Treat everyone with respect. This is very important. No one can go through life without interacting with others, so modeling respect for others will help others show respect, as well as respect you.
Take a moment and find the role models around you! Watch your development take off!