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The nature of role modeling

Updated on August 22, 2013

By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin


Hero by Mariah Carey

Superman and Wonder Woman saved the day for me when I was much younger. I remember many languid days in front of the television watching Superfriends and the Justice LeagueI am very sure that these iconic characters would have done so consistently, at least in the minds of each and every child.

Children, as do we all, need role models that exemplify good values and desired societal behavior. They turn to their parents as such references. As they grow and embrace the angst of teenhood, their idols take on a slightly ominous, unsettling form. Pop stars and the most attractive of actors begin to rule the roost in their minds.

As they grow older and broach new horizons and careers, idolatry takes on a subtle, and possibly misplaced form. They see their idols in the forms of careers, devoting an unreasonable amount of time to the rat race.

This is an ongoing phenomenon, for good or bad. It begs the question of why some have a constant need to look for what they think are perfect reference points. It also makes one think a little about whether we should see another human being, or notion, as a be all or end all sustenance of life. The idea of looking to role models also brings to mind a related idea of the the things we really should hold in regard.

Of all these great traits, which would make a person your superhero?

See results

Why people need role models

Idolatry would be defined as giving undue respect or honor to a person or even concept. Giving too much reverence to a person.

Of course, everyone needs good examples of humanity to aspire to, and this, in itself, is not undesirable at all. When things go off tangent and there is too much focus on an activity or another human being, there should be a call for proper balance.

What causes the sometimes too much focus on role models, celebrities and other idols?

The need for security

Having an example to refer to for our values and behavior gives us a sense of being assured and settled. When we know who to refer to, the presence of guidance makes us feel so much better.

So it is with little children who feel more assured when they have proper guidance from a parent, teacher and as they grow older, super heroes and perhaps, celebrities.

Peer Pressure

We all know that teens are susceptible to over-idolizing celebrities. As we grow older, we find other adults to refer to in the course of our lives. ‘

Many times, this is because we catch on to the desired behavior as stipulated by others.The pressure of peers to look to popular idols as beacons to role model upon certainly causes them to “adopt” one!


The dominance of a particular person and the consequent fear of him or her can cause a person to worship him or her as an idol. Subjugation leads to due, or in some cases undue, reverence.

Prominent political despots since the dawn of time have used subjugation as a means to instill fear and learned, if not real, respect.


Naturally, we should not discount real respect and admiration for a person’s merits and talents as a reason to idolize them.

Many around us have good qualities worth emulating, so it is not surprising that others find them so as well.


Why it may be unhealthy to give too much regard to role models

Good role models in our lives are a must, but it can be unhealthy to put anyone in an idolized position. It is one thing to respect and yet another to idolize. The former has connotations of positive mutual exchange, interaction and trust.

Relationships, as well as emotions, become a little off balance when we start putting others on a pedestal that is too high.

Relationships can become one sided.

Relationships and friendships are by no means a transaction. However, the give and take in a relationship is thrown off balance when we hold someone in esteem. The one who idolizes tends to extend a little more of his emotional self in such relations.

After some time, that can feel unfulfilling and even create feelings of being taken for granted.

We forget our own merits.

The person being esteemed may have many merits, but so does the person who esteems him. While respecting another person, our own good qualities should never be overlooked by ourselves.

We may unconsciously replicate the person we idolize, which would make us lose our individuality.

Remember our self-confidence and individuality!

We become blind to the idolized person’s faults.

While a fault finding mission should not be launched, we become blind sided to a person’s human weaknesses as we respect them. The result of not looking at another person with a holistic view can be irrational, overly emotional and impulsive where relations are concerned.

We find our expectations unfulfilled.

When we hold a person in esteem, we will form certain expectations of who they are. As we get to know them and their inevitable weaknesses, our notions of who they should be are challenged.

Of course, that can lead to a lot of disappointment.

Historical Role Models

The villanelle form

A villanelle is a pastoral form of poetry that originated from the pen of Jean Passerat, French political satirist and poet.

The subject matter of the villanelle was usually rustic in nature and captured the lives of peasants living in the countryside.

It usually has two refrains introduced in the first stanza. The whole poem has five tercets (three lined verses) and a quatrain ( a four lined verse). The refrains are repeated alternately until the quatrain, when they are both used.

Here is a little villanelle entitled “Why do we esteem”. It is not pastoral in nature but on role modelling. It is also on the tendency, for some of us, to role model a bit too diligently.


Of our heroes, we do dream

Of our heroes we do dream

And despite their human stains,

Why do we hold in esteem?

These greats too fall off the beams

Sideways, conflicted and in pain,

Of our heroes we do dream

We burst to give them at the seams

Scale of emotions skewed to side

Why do we hold in esteem?

Our own gifts within us teem

To share forth and and to bless

Of our heroes we do dream

Much like our own, faults pile in reams,

That will wear and do so tear

Why do we hold in esteem

Our great outlook, so pristine

That may in time, become less clear

Of our heroes, we do dream

Why do we hold them in esteem?

We need our role models, but must balance that need with a healthy dose of self-esteem, confidence

and awareness of our own individuality,

What are your thoughts on role modelling? Share them in the comments!

Original work by Michelle Liew

All Rights Reserved


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, they do indeed, Paul, and when we provide the wrong ones it can be disastrous. Thanks for sharing!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is an awesome analysis of role modeling which I find very useful and interesting. Young people definitely need role models in their lives for the teaching of moral values. If a young person doesn't know what good moral behavior is and how it is applied in everyday life, he or she will grow up not knowing the difference between right and wrong. Voted up and sharing with followers. Also Pinning and sharing on Facebook.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Travmaj. you too!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Vellur!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Vinaya!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      7 years ago from Dubai

      A great analysis of role models, great write.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      Parents are the first role models for children and teachers are on the second spot. Thanks for this wonderful hub.

    • travmaj profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      Very interesting hub Michelle - really made me think. I'm impressed with the villanelle also. Lovely poetry form. There's certainly a fine line between role models and idols - I'm thinking young people - I find the entertainment scene a little scary at an impressionable age. Watching the g kids with interest. Thanks for this and voting. All best...

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Ish. Really for the youth to learn!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, Nell, it should be the family!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      It's spotting that difference that humans find very hard to do! Thanks for sharing, Mary!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, pinto2011~

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi, Jackie! True, this is why I wrote this post...unfortunately, many don't practice the balance when it comes to role modeling and it can sometimes affect relationships! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Jayme. All is balance!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      7 years ago from Chennai, India

      A well-written & well-explored hub ending with a wonderful villanelle! I have seen some youngsters emulating pop stars and movie stars to a great extent which is not very good. Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Awesome. Voted up

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Great article michelle, I think my dad was my role model, of course I saw people on tv, but it was more to my family that I turned to learn what I needed to, and admire them, voted up and shared! nell

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      That is very true about role models. Thanks for the information about villanelle. It is good to know another form of writing a poem.

      Voted up and more. :-)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      I really like the way you point out the difference between a role model and idolatry....admiring and wanting to be like someone is definitely different than worshipping an idol.

      Idols, in the form of humans, will often fall off the pedistal while role models are human and help to teach us how to deal with those things we don't like or are hard to handle.

      Always ending with a new style poem is a great treat for us!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • pinto2011 profile image


      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very nice hub with real applicable ideas.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      Wish all youth would believe you, a very important message. Probably many adults still at it, too. A real shame, I don't see how anyone can be a real person trying so hard to be someone else. I think they sometimes lose all sense of reality. It is a sad state. Great write!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma

      Excellent hub. A great balance of role models and personal independence makes a healthy mental environment. Very useful info. Will vote and share!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 

      7 years ago from Georgia country

      As long as we don't focus too much on role models it's fine. Thank you for sharing this great hub with an interesting topic.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      A great hub Michelle and voted up.


    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Bill! Well, putting too much emphasis on them rather than ourselves can cause misplaced perspective!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Shampa!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting subject Michelle. I'm not sure I have had a role model since my dad died many years ago. Maybe I am afraid to give that much love and respect to others if they are just going to die anyway????

    • shampa sadhya profile image

      Shampa Sadhya 

      7 years ago from NEW DELHI, INDIA

      An interesting write-up! Voted up and interesting.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      An article on the extent to which we should role model on others.


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