Become Your Own Role Model


"If you're comfortable, cool and clear-sighted, then the shade you're standing in most likely is being cast from someone else's shadow. If you're feeling uncomfortable, hot and uncertain, you're probably the one casting the shadow. Turn towards the source of your discomfort and stand on your own. Shine your own light.” - Scott Sonnon

What kind of person would you like to be? Honest, strong, generous, skilled, disciplined, dedicated, lighthearted… We often look outside ourselves for inspiration, and that can be very helpful. I have a usual roster of friends, writers, teachers, and thinkers to whom I turn for doses of insight. When I’m about to embark on a new venture, or when I feel a bit stuck in a rut of thought or energy, I will pull out a favorite book by someone wise and read a few pages each morning. All of this helps with perspective, gets my brain turning, and activates my soul. What sustains me, however, must come from within.

Always looking for inspiration outside can cause us to compare ourselves to others too much. We each have our own work, our own desire, and our own place in the cosmos. We simply cannot pattern ourselves off of another, certainly not after we have reached adulthood. The only person we are competing with is ourselves, and it is a competition to live the life we desire as the person we wish to be. Do we wish to be clearheaded and centered when faced with adversity? We can practice. Do we wish to be a person so dedicated we get up early before work to write short stories, exercise, or pray? We set the alarm and pay attention. We begin to model the very behavior we wish to emulate, and in so doing, we begin to model the life we wish to live.

For the long haul, I show up to the mat, the meditation bench, and the computer keyboard because that is the person I wish to be. I adjust my attitude and energy when I’m feeling fractious because I want to remember that my problems or irritations are those that stem from relative privilege. And that’s the person I wish to be. I want to model my best behavior whenever possible, as a reminder that this behavior is helpful to my long term goals, and other behaviors undermine my efforts. This isn’t Pollyanna talk, it actually makes good sense: If we are to become the people we wish to be, we have to act accordingly. This isn’t “fake it ’til you make it” either. Adopting this pattern says, rather, “I have the ability within myself right now to follow through on my stated intentions, to support my dreams, and to act with greater generosity and compassion.” We begin where we are, honestly assessing our strengths and weaknesses, and we choose to stop undermining ourselves. We choose to stop selling ourselves short.

Scott Sonnon, who’s quote leads off this piece of writing, came from a background of great adversity: poor, with learning disabilities, in poor physical health, relegated to the mental institutionalization that happened to misfit teens in the 1980s, unsupported by parents or teachers, beaten up by peers… He figured out who he wanted to be inside and has worked his whole life to get there. He’s a strong man, a healthy man, a spiritual man, a parent, a success. Having no immediate good role models, he became one for himself.

Sky by Rigo 23

Times feel hard, but inside of us is an indomitable force. We have to choose to seek it out, to bolster it, bit by bit, and to follow its lead. What job we have doesn’t matter. Where we live is of little consequence. Some of us have it easier in social or economic terms, but all of us have the spark of desire inside. Once we free ourselves from needing our lives to look like anyone else’s, we can become our own role models. Therein lies power.

Look within. Then look up. You might be surprised by what you see.

14 Responses to “Become Your Own Role Model”

  1. Jenya

    This is perfect for me today, as I work on planning for new presentations and classes. Thx, bebbe.

  2. AmethJera

    Thank You for the reminder to be authentically who I am everyday. In the stresses and millions of other distractions I sometimes forget. It’s your birthright to be who you are destined to be, and the life journey is becoming that person. I want to be a part of the bigger scheme of things, but that doesn’t mean surrendering my individuality, or settling on being at best a poor imitation of someone else. I can be my own best ancestor right now, I can be the person I aspire to be most, and I need no one’s permission to do so. If I turn someplace else or to someone else it’s because I choose to, not because I need to be their copy. What beautiful, inspiring sentiments….Once again, thank you.

  3. Lon Sarver

    “…and god is a person like myself.”

    I’ve had some success invoking the support and wisdom of my future self.

  4. Leanne

    Thanks for the push to get up from the screen and go look in the mirror!

  5. Lily

    This line jumped out at me, “I want to remember that my problems or irritations are those that stem from relative privilege”
    Very powerful. Thank you.
    It really is so much easier to ‘shine our own light’ when we don’t compare ourselves to others. I’m amazed, at times, to notice some of the junk going on in my mind – pointless comparing in which I usually come out on the bottom (though sometimes on the top which I think is just as bad).

  6. JuJu

    What a wonderful remedy for, and alternative approach to, habitual kvetching about all the injustice and failings we experience in the world “around us”. Thanks again, Thorn. Well said!

  7. Stephanie Hartzell-Brown

    To be honest with oneself and live the life we choose is a journey we all must make. Some never do for the superficiality of “what we should be” takes over and the true authentic self never is allowed to bloom. Mine has bloomed into a beautiful full flower that each day gives me the pleasure to feel honest, good, thoughtful and helpful. I am in a great place in my life and can’t imagine being more fulfilled! Thank you for this piece; it’s a great reminder to us all to be in the here & now.

    • Thorn

      Thanks to all of you. Let’s keep showing up for ourselves. It’s the only way to show up for anyone else.

  8. Friday

    This is an interesting one for me: I’ve often felt pretty bereft of role models, at least in people I interact with in person, (and aren’t historical or fictional.) It’s been cause for some introspection about where I may have walked away from that idea entirely, and how I’ve really done at stepping up and being my own.

    It’s been on my mind a little: I took some note of how I lit up just to see the face of an old academic mentor (from an education that circumstances tore me out of) on a documentary, and how important it was to have supportive people to look up to. It seems to be a recurring problem for me that ‘shining’ too hard has tended to result in a pattern of being torn down or blocked by others, even some who’d been demanding/encouraging more. It’s hard to figure out without resorting to astrological explanations, but perhaps role-modeling does have some function here: or reactance against the idea.

    Maybe suddenly seeming like one might be a role model to *others* puts people in an accept/reject situation that can scorch.

    It makes me think about the broad culture’s way of idolizing the solo hero/heroine with the world against them, then when anyone too much resembles them, they’re ‘sacrificed’ so to speak, or ‘brought down to human levels,’ Sometimes with anonymity the only real defense.

    Kinda been there.

    I’ve been watching Star Trek a fair bit, just for some kind of comfort in these times, …something about humanity’s better aspirations, and I was recently struck how Captain Janeway kind of fills the bill as the conventional idea of a ‘role model’ for me, by dint in part of some resemblances that one would take notice. (Similar accent, for one thing. 🙂 )

    But it’s kind of a big contrast with how we treat each other as mere humans (or whatever it is we think of celebrities,) (I mean, too, look how our President has been treated: the first thing the opposition went after was his leadership ability and vision of actual hope and doing things better)

    Perhaps we treat these things *as* not for mere humans, and maybe that’s part of the problem, too.

    Perhaps it’s a big part of the ‘don’t you dare’ undercurrent in all these interactions.

    I think perhaps we have real trouble *admiring* people. Or find the idea so threatening or potentially loss-inducing that it becomes self-fulfilling.

    We can ‘show up to practice,’ (I always love Thorn for a ‘kick in the pants’ about things like self-discipline and actually working the Stuff, ) but I wonder if all this is an element of what makes it so much harder than maybe it has to be.

    Inspiration kind of scares people. Not that it means you can really bypass “work,” when it’s required, but it does seem to sort of bypass the negotiation we try to make about, “This is only OK if you suffer and struggle for it,” ..of course it may not really be so, but perhaps it seems that way.

    Role models, at least, are often a *challenge* to be more of yourself, and perhaps not necessarily merely an imitator. (Which our own way of phrasing is loaded with some heavy negative connotations sometimes. ) It’s funny, cause if people are ‘Inimitable,’ its safer, and it’s often apparently only acceptable to ‘take after’ or imitate Gods or people practically deified.

    And where does that leave us, when we’re in danger of *becoming* someone who might be a role model, if only to ourselves. How do we treat that potential ‘role model,’ or the challenge they might present. Conversely, how do so many people who might *be* role models treat those who might need one? Themselves included? The other side of the same dynamic, too often? Perhaps?

    Maybe that’s why we’ve had what seems like an incredible disappearing President of an inspirational leader, too… perhaps he’s responded to being treated as a ‘threat’ by backing off.

    Anyway, I do ramble, sometimes.

    But I think the role-model dynamic may be important. Even if we take it upon ourselves, just for ourselves. How do we *treat* that?

  9. carol

    everyday I am inspired by the good in others, I think that humbles me and if I can identify the good in others, that could be within me too. I also see things I do not like in o

    thers, and I know that could be within me too…I try to have balance without being to critical/idolizing and by rather taking a step back because maybe I can observe some of that which is also me and slowly I get to see parts of the picture which I want to be, mostly I want to love, but sometimes have this need to be loved more than I should because to love is more of a blessing I think….but through it all I have to take time to nurture and love myself because every now and then I feel a presence within me older and wiser than I can even fathom and in times of my ego ugliness the thought will come to me that that kind of behaviour/thinking does not become me. oh I am like the centipede who was asked which leg it put forward first then next in the effort of walking and fell in a ditch confused, trying to remember how to walk. thankyou Thorn, for great insights….i think i need to find my natural rythm.

  10. Bess

    You blew me away with this one, Thorn. Thanks for much to think about as I stew in a pit of stuckness.


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