Time to stop admiring flawed ‘role models’?

Time to stop admiring flawed ‘role models’?
Published : October 05 , 2020
Latest Update : June 01 , 2021

By Rania Dawud

It’s a very natural impulse to search for a figure to look up to, whatever age you are. Everyone I know is a little lost and we want someone to look to as a benchmark for guidance. 

I remember idolizing pop stars as a child; I’d be in awe of their origin stories and their music and I’d see them as a source of inspiration. Recently, however, I’m finding that the days of hero-worship might be coming to an end. 

I understand that looking up to celebrities might be questionable, to begin with, but the type of admiration held for celebrities has now extended to any figure we admire, including politicians and sometimes even people we know in our lives. Also, all it takes is a quick scroll online to show you how a person from any type of discipline can become an influence with a large-enough following. 

Any type of public figure can be considered a hero if we really zero in on their positives. We sing praises at any admirable effort and celebrate them ceaselessly for doing what we can’t, or won’t, do.

Part of me thinks that we only have heroes to project our shortcomings onto, holding them to the standard we can’t bear to hold ourselves to. 

But the flaw in looking up to someone is the myth of them you create in your head. Your admiration of them takes on a life of its own, you fill in the gaps of what you don’t know about them with gallant and commendable qualities. Because that is the bitter truth about most people: we only see what they show us. This is especially true for public figures or what we today refer to as “influencers.” 

That is why I believe “Cancel Culture” can feel devastating at times, because we’re forced to acknowledge the entire humanity of our heroes, including the ugly. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that the people we admire have the same capacity to do wrong as we do, as any person does. Whether it is distasteful comments or tangible harm towards others, no one is exempt from disappointing deeds, no matter how well they carry themselves in the public eye. 

We tend to look to these figures as a beacon for answers, but in doing so we are letting both of us down. We are asking too much of these people and we’re not doing ourselves any favours by relying on others for counsel and direction.  

There are always going to be admirable people, from artists to community leaders and influencers. This is not to discredit their efforts but we should be cautious of the type of admiration we practice towards them, as it seems there’s a fine line between celebrity and deity.

They are not here for us and we can foster a healthier relationship with these figures when we are able to embrace the full humanity of others.


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