Do Our Role Models Need A Re-Think?

Clothespin superhero in blue suit and red cape. Gray background. Confident clothespin. (retro style, soft focus).

‘We can’t solve the problems of today by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them!’

– Albert Einstein

This may be my most challenging article to date, but I feel it’s imperative that we keep attacking growing problems from every angle… Is it just me or are the people we are subtly pushed to admire becoming too heavily weighted in the redemption corner? Everybody loves a comeback story (including me), however why is it that in a lot of cases for someone to be seen as an inspiration or a champion, they need to have to come back from oblivion… We see on reality TV through platforms such as ‘The Biggest Loser’, individuals who have habitually exhibited sub-optimal habits into their lives, find themselves in a position of desperation and despair, and are in need of a life altering experience. To put it simply these people generally become a better version of themselves via a change in habits and behaviour, and from the periphery it is commendable and of course should be internally celebrated. And the world is in need of as many positive role models as possible in the current environment, however should the redemption theme be so populated at the top of the list? We are flooded with stories of people who have been socially on the brink, and in some cases spent time incarcerated due to bad decision-making, and become rehabilitated and ‘making something of their lives’. In other cases we hear of individuals who have been through mentally challenging times and suffered enormous amount of internal pain, who have now recovered to be well enough to partake in mainstream life.

I have nothing but admiration for these people, however my admiration sits more with those people that against all the odds and distraction have consistently remained great role models within society, without the fanfare or noise. These are the single parents that have raised value driven children… The mums and dads who are juggling ten balls at a time, but still manage to be great examples within their family and community… The individuals who have consistently put their lethargy, injuries and fatigue aside to sustain a fit and healthy body… The people that have had to deal with pain and loss but yet refuse to jump up and down for sympathy… The nurses, paramedics and emergency response teams that must encounter horrific events, yet show up for work the next day without fail… The list could go on.

These examples aren’t ‘sexy’ and are rarely heard of in the media or throughout society with the same amount of intensity, however as a society I feel we need to see these individuals as our stoic role models and heroes. Digressing into some surface level facts regarding some troubling trends in this country.

  • Obesity rates in Australia – Through the roof…
  • Juvenile detention in Australia – Through the roof…
  • Depression numbers in Australia – Through the roof…
  • Youth unemployment and lethargy in Australia – Through the roof…

At the same time the amount of awareness and exposure to these ‘growing problems’ mentioned above are at the highest level they have ever been. Is it worth asking, that maybe, just maybe we are feeding these problem because of those we perceive as an inspiration and role models? It is widely known and rarely debated that prevention is greater than a cure, so are we over exposing (young) people to individuals who have come back from oblivion, instead of the foot soldiers that have pushed through hardship and temptation to remain strong rounded citizens? Many people who made bad decision upon bad decision earlier in life have built wealthy businesses off the back of ‘sharing their story’ to the young and the naive. Is it worth asking what message is this sending and what subconscious impact these stories are having? Human beings are very impressionable and we need to be aware that some may perceive a ‘rags to riches’ story as the only option for their future, or more alarming, think that there is a sense of reward in bad decision making, as there can be a level of validation and benefit in the future.

If I ask you not to think about a pink elephant. Whatever you do, do not think about a pink elephant. The only thing on your mind is the bloody pink elephant. The very thing I am asking you to avoid is the very thing you can’t avoid… Could we be feeding the beast unknowingly? Could this messaging from these ‘role models’ be playing a part in the troubling trends of this country? Should a person who has returned from a dark path be influencing those that have only glimpse down that path but refused to take another step? I believe it’s seriously worth asking the question

I am about to become a father for the first time and I would much prefer my child to have role models and heroes that have stayed the course throughout all the negativity and distraction. Those who have made some minor mistakes but learnt from each experience to become better and more rounded people. The ones who had every right to quit but refused to give in. The individuals who through no fault of their own, have had to overcome adversity upon adversity to still become successful in their own right. The people who run towards danger in order to protect others with little concern for their own wellbeing.
The role models that I choose to follow are the Nic Vujicic’s of the world, the Turia Pitt’s of the world, and every other person I encounter that remain fortified amongst the chaos. Here’s to these people and others who are setting a great example for the next generation.

Do our role models need a re-think? At the very least I believe it’s worth asking the question. Keep in mind that it was Albert Einstein that once stated, ‘we can’t solve the problems of today by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them!’