Wikipedia defines a role model like this:
A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others
All my life, I have identified people that I perceive to be a little better than I am in some facet of life that I want to get better at and I emulate them. I’ve been doing this all my life. They have been my role models.
My first recollection of this was when I was around 9 or 10 – my last two years of primary school – when I discovered that by emulating and learning how my friend Claire approached maths problems, I got better at it. Similarly at secondary school, I found the academically best people I could to inspire me.
At University there were three people that had characteristics that I wanted in myself. This was when I discovered that a role model could inspire me to change how I view and live my life as well as improve my abilities. My role models helped me get a first class degree, but one of them unknowingly helped me become a more empathetic person.
This trend that has continued all the way through my life. I’ve found people who are better than me and have emulated them. I pay attention to how they behave & what they do and try to change appropriately. My role models have (and continue to) inspired me to be better.
I cannot thank them enough.
I hadn’t thought about the gender mix of my inspirations before reading Zaron Burnett’s Can A Man Have Female Role Models? I found this article eye-opening and I highly recommend that you take the time to read. He points out that the way our society portrays and treats women has done us all (yet another) disservice by hindering our ability to select the best role-models we can:
This hidden hierarchy of gender in language and culture runs rampant as blackberry thicket and is just as thorny and difficult to remove. It’s that bias that makes men reluctant to be like women, or identify with women, or imagine life from a woman’s eyes, or conceive of what a day in her experience might be like that. That’s a problem.
A smart man selects from both men and women for his role models. He learns from both and draws lessons from the whole body of humanity’s experience, rather than only taking counsel from the half he might meet in a public restroom.
I will look up to whomever I choose in order to better myself. I suggest you do too.