What prompted this writing was a recent Oprah Winfrey show. I am a fan and not embarrassed to say so. This is Oprah’s last year hosting a network talk show, her twenty-fifth season of talking to countless numbers of people. Although I cannot count myself as a devoted fan, I did keep an ear open for the shows that hosted guests whom I wanted to hear from and about. What a cool job she’s had. So far this fall I have seen a reunion with the original cast of The Sound of Music, my favorite musical of all time, and interviews with some very interesting people. Is Oprah a role model for me? She sure is. Another of my role models, Barbra Streisand, was on this particular show that I enjoyed. Why are these two powerful women in my role model group? I see them in their roles as successful, talented, honest, thoughtful and wise women. Their lives are the epitome of the American dream fulfilled, coming from literally nothing and working their unique ways to the top of their craft. They have renewed and recreated themselves over the decades. I believe their hearts are devoted to their work and to making life more beautiful and uplifted. But one of the greatest aspects I admire is that neither of them has hidden their human, flawed sides from the public.
When I reached my thirties, I started to think about who my role models were. It became important to me to name them, to think of them in more detail. I wanted to become able to articulate what I loved about each of them, why I consciously chose them for role models. Because in sorting through these qualities and details, I gained more clarity about who I am inside, and became more explicit in thinking about how I wanted to grow myself. Not as in, I want to be like Oriah or Claire or Roberta (more of my role model group), but rather in how I want to use my inner talents, how I want to be seen as a person of integrity and compassion, how I want to be remembered as a devoted mother and wife.
Role models are like wind for our life sails. When we choose wisely and thoughtfully, the story of their lives, their good deeds, the qualities we are so drawn to in them, all of this is like a strong gust of wind that mobilizes our inner qualities, inspiring us to activate our best self. We might imagine them in our ship when times get troubled, when the seas become rocky. In our mind, we might ask them, “Hello – Oriah – how might I deal with this anxiety I am feeling – I don’t think I can give this presentation the way I am feeling right now - HELP” Then, sitting quietly and imagining our role model right in front of us – she is telling us how she might handle the situation. And we find the strength to carry on.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I love this line, because – isn’t it so true? If someone is imitating you, it is clear that they admire you - or that way that you walk, or that way that you speak and say the hard thing gently, or the way you give good attention to how you present yourself to the world, knowing others respond to first impressions, like it or not. It isn’t that we necessarily imitate a particular person, but rather we call on that quality within, to find our own version of that thing that we so admire. Because if indeed we admire something, that quality lies within us whether we are in touch with it or not. One way to see our role models is to recognize them as the chosen ones that call out to the very best in us to come forward and assist us in developing the life we truly desire.
So my heartfelt thank you’s go out across the airwaves to Bobby, Cindy, Joanie, Mary, Cheryl, Christiane, Oriah, Oprah, Barbra, Niti, Claire and so many others that have inspired me over the years to speak up, to remember to laugh, to listen to my body, to ungrip, to BE happy, to write my thoughts and feelings, to listen within everyday, and to keep opening more deeply so that I might become all that I can be and love every minute of it! I am grateful to you all!