Between YouTube videos, commercials, TV shows, books and movies, we are shown a lot of different ways to act in the world – some good and some bad. It’s okay to enjoy a variety of media, even some of the lower quality stuff, as long as we do it with our brains turned on.
The media often presents famous people as role models for us all, but if their fame is the only notable thing about them, they may not be a good choice. Most famous people never intended to hold themselves up as an ideal, and they may not always behave as maturely as we would like.
We need to think carefully about whom we look up to, and choose role models who accomplish things through their own hard work and who behave in ways that we respect and admire. That may include famous people, but it may not. Choosing someone as a role model just because they happen to be famous is sure to leave you disappointed.
When you watch videos or commercials, keep your brain on by asking yourself what message is being sent. Are they telling you that girls are strong, valuable, and good, or are they giving the opposite message? What examples are they giving about relationships with peers, parents, teachers and dates? Do they match what you understand about how the real world works? Do you agree with the messages being given? Is this a role model that you would consciously choose?
Even if the answers are all no, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the music of a given artist or the books of a given writer, or the shows of a given actor, but you should consider what supporting their work means. By buying their work, are you endorsing their values? Is that something you want to do?
A good role model should inspire you to be your best self, whether that is a public figure, your Guider, someone in school or in your community, one of your friends, or a member of your family. They show us some new things that can be achieved, and how they were done and, hopefully, that they were done by someone who is like us in some way.*
Potential role models are everywhere but it is better if we choose them ourselves and choose them consciously, based on our goals, rather than just following whoever comes along. Instead of letting the media choose our role models, we can choose our own based on our values.
Your first step, then, in choosing a role model, is to determine what your values are. What is most important to you? What kinds of things do you want to achieve? Where would you find the types of people who have those same values or have achieved similar things?
If you know your own values and goals, and you watch, listen and read with your brain turned on, you will find plenty of inspiring role models out there. And as you achieve your goals, and act in ways that reflect your values, then you can become a role model for others.
How did your role models earn their place in your life? How have they helped you?
*That’s part of the reason that it is so important to have diversity of race, gender, and sexual orientation represented in the media, because not only does in more accurately reflect the world we live in, but it gives everyone role models to inspire them.
Some books of great female role models from A Mighty Girl: http://www.amightygirl.com/books/mighty-girls-women/role-models
A good discussion and tips for parents on role models in the media: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/advice-for-parents/celebrity-role-models
A list of good TV role models for girls: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/tv-lists/positive-role-model-tv-girls
By guest blogger Christine Hennebury. Christine is a writer, storyteller and life coach who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. Helping people feel a little better right now is one of her favourite things to do. Read her previous posts on GirlGuidesCANBlog: Pretty Powerful Princesses, Don’t Forget to Breathe, and Figuring Out Your Feelings.