Do I want fame like Shah Rukh Khan’s? Do I want success like Sachin Tendulkar’s? Do I want beauty like Aishwarya Rai’s? Do I want intelligence like Dr Kalam’s? Do I want compassion like Mother Teresa’s? Do I want power and courage like Kiran Bedi’s? Do I want to be a good human being, like my parents are? Or do I just want be myself?
These are some questions that flit between our unconscious and conscious mind. Such questions not only help us formulate our own characteristic features but also help us choose our ideal persona. That choice determines our oneness with that ‘other’, which we generally call ‘role model’.
Although it has come to have a variety of connotations — from a source of inspiration to a social icon — the phrase quite literally means a model for a role, a person one can strive to emulate. For example ‘Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’ is more than a name — it is a symbol of dreaming big, realising those dreams and inspiring others to do so. Dr Kalam is not just a huge success — the son of a fishing boat owner who went on to become a rocket scientist and then the President of India — but he also embodies the right values.
In short, a role model in every way.
Children choose role models for themselves as early as the pre-school years, according to a theory of Dr Amy Beth Taublieb, a clinical psychologist. The type of model changes with the development level of the child. It is the youth, with the unlimited possibilities of the future before them, who are influenced by the people that inspire them to fly high.
Today’s role models are associated with money, beauty and fame. Actors and rock stars have become the centre of attention as our heroes in the 21st century. But a good role model is someone we should want to be like because we see value in his or her actions. The role models people choose reflect the type of values they have and the society they will create.
We often do not recognise our true role models until we have noticed our own personal growth. Thus, we need to keep the following points in mind before defining our source of inspiration:
Choose someone who has a lot of confidence in himself/herself and in his/her abilities. A good role model would be someone who knows who he or she is.
You do not want role models who would pretend to be something they are not, and would fake a personality to suit others.
Choose someone who thinks it is alright to be unique, even if that means facing some ridicule. They should make you feel good about being yourself; they should not make you compare yourself to them and wish you were prettier or richer.
Choose someone who is kind and can communicate with people.
Look for someone who is living life the way you would like to. If you want to be a famous author, your role model could be someone who is a success at writing.
With these points, plus our intuition or faith, we can create a picture of the ideal self that we really aspire to be. Then we just need to take one step forward to close the gap between that ideal self and the real self.
The author is a senior consultant psychiatrist with Moolchand Medcity & Vimhans, New Delhi. Send him an email at email@example.com, marked ‘Dr Nagpal’