Older siblings, counselors, mentors: we all want to make the strongest impact we can. We all have different approaches to achieve this goal. The burning question is, what does a powerful role model look like? What kinds of people compel us and inspire us to be better?
Most public figures take on the parental approach of influence; they want to be respected and admired, but they can’t let you see their faults. If only they understood what it meant to the ones who look up to them to know they fell multiple times before they were able to stand as tall as they do now. The fear of any public figure or mentor is the risk of setting the wrong example. It is the fear that even in the stories they tell of beating temptation or breaking a toxic habit, the ones who hear the story will not take the same lessons that they intend.
But the ways we act in fear of setting the wrong example put us in a position of losing relatability. How much do we have to compromise? How much do we have to reveal to be relatable? Where is the balance of opening up to others and keeping your sins hidden? It is a fine line, but there is a place to begin.
As students of life, we must look at our mentors, parents, older siblings, and scholars as people that are just like us. We must listen to the stories and the advice, knowing that even though they haven’t expressed the entire backstory, there was a journey they took to reach this conclusion. We may not know the exact path or the thought process that guided them to give us that advice, but it is coming from a foundation of experience and they are saying it for a reason.
As mentors, as parents, older siblings or teachers, it is okay to show those you care about that you are just like them. You are human and you too have made mistakes, but critically, you have learned or are still learning. Show them you have bled the same and even though sometimes you don’t tell the stories of your scars, you have them too. Share the stories you were never told when you were younger, the ones that would’ve made a difference. Although we think we might risk our image in attempts at being relatable, we are definitely risking our potential as role models when we prioritize it over the openness that our communities need.