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Our website competition required our high school learners to write about Inspirational Role Models in 2019. Deconstructing the question as to whether we have any in today’s society, Imaan Sayed in grade 11 won from the Girls High School. Below is her winning essay:

What is an inspiring role model in 2019? The impulsive answer comes naturally- the incredible right-wing men
and women who exemplify the principles of our 21st century society, from 16 year old Greta Thunberg, to health activist Jamila Al-Jamil, to the fearless Malala Yusafzai and the oceans-deep Rupi Kaur.

The choices in the buffet of eligible role models seem immeasurable- but is it really so? In an era of early-developed intellectual realization, does the idea of the “role model” still exist, or has this all-you-can-eat selection been left for the flies?

The idea of the role model has been long believed in, and encouraged as a mode for progression and ideal belief-creation in young people, especially children. However, this vehicle of developmental emulation is one that has become arguably out-dated in oncoming and current generations – already from their primary school days, children struggle to identify a single, substantial “role” model.

We can credit this to the rapidly-increasing rate of early developed consciousness of social awareness. Children, and young adults specifically, are becoming less able to believe entirely in a single person, due to how aware we are of the imperfection of humanity, and knowledge of the foolishness in believing that one person can be used as a model for a standard of behaviour. Inform any knowledgeable teenager about the great altruist Mother Teresa, and just as quickly they will bomb your boat and advice you instead of the flaws in the perfect story that they’ve been fed. These days, we’re more likely to respond to the idolization of such figures with “But, actually…”s than with the usual outpouring of “Yes, indeed”s.

We’ve come to realise that with every inspiring story, there is another perspective to see from; with every perfect role model, there is the acceptance that we all don’t exist within the means and circumstances that forged their renowned stories.

Instead, a new deviation of the “role model” has been created, away from the customary idea of the current definition. This role-model is not the admiration of any certain character, but rather the building of one’s own, created from the most admired characteristics of others that one wishes to emulate within oneself.

One might argue that instead of this, it is simply that role models of traditional expectations are becoming less frequent. Perhaps, this is due to the burden of extreme achievement that the typical role models usually possess. Instead, the relatable common man has replaced them- people like Billie Eilish and Emerson Barret, within whom we identify the same difficulties that we ourselves face, except that they have managed to produce beautiful, extraordinary or magnanimously empathetic things through and despite these hardships.

My hypothesis therefore stands at two possibilities, both in equal balance atop this pedestal of admiration. Inspiring role-models in 2019 still exist, however away from the beaten path of character and description. They are the people who survive, inspire and persevere beautifully through their suffering, who acknowledge the actuality of their flaws, and exist not as entities unrelatable to ourselves, but stand akin in our planes of existence.

Alternatively, our role-models have progressed from the blind enamouring of unreachable idols, to the building of an image of our ideal attainable selves- the placing of the steps in which we will walk, carefully placed on a path that grows and swerves as we become wiser, more intelligent and more matured, guiding us to the most satisfactory version of ourselves.

Or maybe, it’s neither. And maybe, it’s both. It’s certainly tricky to define- but it is only now, when we question our understanding of the ideas that we are fed, that we gain clarity. Not anyone else’s, but our own, true, personal understanding.

So, allow me to ask you once more-

What is an inspiring role model?

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