I believe a role model is someone from their actions who inspires others directly or indirectly to be themselves in living their own stories and reaching their full potential.
While everyone can be a role model by deliberately aiming to help others, the best role models are those who are naturally inspiring yet mostly humble about the power they have. They often have natural leadership skills and they are able to listen well to others. Good role models are not idolised like superheroes but rather quietly respected for the contribution that they make to others.
I believe I have always been one of these role models since I was a young child and long before I understood I was one or indeed understood the very notion of a role model. I think as an independent thinker, as a friend described me as yesterday and someone who is very difficult to miss due to my physical appearance and emotional presence.
Being a role model is nothing like being famous although it is possible to be both. There is little glory to being a role model and you can be met with criticism from those who are in the process of growing their story as they see you and your confidence as a direct challenge to their current way of thinking.
Role models may drop pebbles in the pool of life that ripple out, but they will not see many of the effects of their actions. Their actions may assist many people in many ways the role model and others may not see or understand, and this assistance may not provide benefit to individuals until years after the interaction with the role model has occurred.
Being a role model can come with great responsibility when people look up to you and it is important to be aware of your interaction with others, especially when they seek information, advice or support. This does not mean having to be morally perfect but I would suggest keeping truthful to your world perspective, provide accurate information on factual issues you have knowledge about or suggest where they can get accurate assistance from.
Clearly, there is a responsibility to ensure you play your contribution in keeping people who are potentially in a vulnerable situation as safe as they can be by not providing false information, scaremongering or offering dangerous suggestions on how they should behave. In the same way you can indirectly assist someone with your words and actions, you can also harm them.
I wish disability ‘leaders’ who make wild accusations about the benefit assessment based on one sided evidence were aware of the impact they make to listeners in terms of fear, stress and distress, potentially contributing to suicides.
Role models come in all shapes and sizes from all backgrounds, their role is often silent, but an important one in inspiring the next generation to be successful.
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