lundi 18 décembre 2006

Who are your role models?

Sunday 27 November, 3.30 p.m.
Lynn’s mum was delighted to see her daughter and her only
Doreen Peterson was small and rather frail for her years; a bit too
gaunt for Lynn’s liking and much too highly-strung.
She gave Lynn a warm hug and threw her arms wide open as she
stooped down to welcome Nicky.
‘How’s the best grandson in the world?’ she asked, as he put his
arms round her neck.
Fifteen minutes later, the three of them were in Asda – Lynn
browsing through the magazines, her mum selecting some
sweets with Nicky.
Lynn’s mobile indicated that a message had arrived. She pulled it
from her bag to read the screen:
She didn’t have to check the sender. It was clearly another in the
series they had received for some months.
‘Role models?’ she considered. ‘I don’t have any role models.’
Replacing the phone, she continued to scan the magazines filling
the extensive shelves in front of her.
The faces before her were familiar, rather like old friends. Elle
Macpherson, Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford adorning the
covers of Cosmo, Glamour and Hello!
Elsewhere Brooke Shields was reflecting on her naked film role
when 12 and Halle Berry was discussing the impact of her father
Jerome walking out when she was four.
Lynn’s mind jumped to the last time she saw her own father. He
had left the family when she was 13, but, by that time, Lynn had
learned to ignore virtually everything he told her.
If she asked him to come to her dancing show, he would say he’d
‘try’ – but never turn up.
If she asked if they could go to the cinema, he’d say, ‘We’ll see’
– but they seldom went.
If she asked for some new jeans, he’d say, ‘Perhaps’ – but they
failed to materialize.
Her mother had been the opposite. Doreen Peterson spent her
life running after Lynn, and everybody else for that matter. She
couldn’t do enough for young Lynn. But her dad, whose atten-
tion she craved, wouldn’t do anything at all.
Over a coffee in the supermarket restaurant, Lynn asked her
mother a surprisingly direct question.
‘Mum, why did you put up with dad for so long?’
Doreen looked startled, then a little defensive.
‘What on earth do you mean by that, Lynn?’ she asked back.
‘Why did you put up with his lies and letdowns for so many years?’
came the equally blunt follow-up question.
‘Well we had you to think about,’ she began. ‘And in those days,
couples stayed together for the sake of their children, rather than
just splitting up when it suited them.’
‘Dad didn’t see it that way,’ replied Lynn. ‘He left just the minute
it suited him. Hardly a good role model.’ The last phrase slipped
out unintentionally.
‘Well he was a better role model than any of these celebrities in
those magazines you’re so fond of,’ hit back her mother, rather
annoyed at Lynn’s tone.
‘I don’t pay any attention to them,’ said Lynn. ‘I trust myself to
make up my own mind about things.’
‘No you don’t,’ persisted her mum. ‘You follow their diets, their
beauty tips. You constantly complain that you’re overweight,
when you’re comparing yourself to people who’re unnaturally
Nicky was bored with the bickering and was starting to balance
his empty glass on top of the coffee pot.
‘Nicky, put that down,’ snapped Lynn, who then turned back to
her mother. ‘Mum, I am overweight and you should be pleased
that I diet to keep fit.’
‘I’m pleased that you’re keeping fit with yoga,’ replied Doreen,
‘but that’s quite different from trying to compete with the body
of a 25-year-old supermodel who hasn’t had children.’
‘Nicky, please put that down at once,’ interrupted Lynn.
‘Anyway,’ continued her mum. ‘I didn’t come out here for an
argument. I …’
She was cut off mid-sentence by the sound of Nicky’s glass smash-
ing into a hundred pieces on the tiled floor.
‘Oh, Nicky, I told you not to do that,’ shouted Lynn. ‘Now look
what you’ve done!’
The restaurant fell quiet. Lynn could feel several pairs of eyes
burning into her back.
The two women started picking up pieces of the widely scattered
glass, continuing their spat.
‘Well, shouting at him in a crowded coffee shop is hardly being a
good role model, is it?’ prodded Doreen.
‘He just ignores me unless I shout,’ fired back Lynn.
‘He was ignoring you well before you started to shout,’ came the
blunt and factually correct reply.
Choosing healthy role models
Throughout the course of their lives, Lynn and Steve have each
acquired a unique set of role models.
These are people they have unconsciously come to look up to for
guidance about how to function in society and for direction about
how to live life in the complex modern world.
For most of us, our role models are made up of a collection of key
figures from our past and present experience, such as parents, fam-
ily members, schoolteachers, friends and religious figures, through
to modern day political leaders, celebrities and stars from the world
of music, TV, film and sport.
If Lynn and Steve want to experience genuine self-confidence and
a deeper sense of personal happiness it’s essential that they adopt
healthy role models for their lives rather than the most popular or
the most obvious or simply the most available ones.
Why? Because healthy role models will help direct Steve and Lynn
towards a set of personal beliefs, patterns of behaviour and a style
of living that will be life affirming.
Both Lynn and Steve are feeling very insecure right now, as if they
have lost their way a little in the maze of life. A poor choice of role
models is leading them up some blind alleys.
Unthinkingly following unhelpful role models is contributing to
their confusion and increasing their sense that life has currently
lost some of its meaning and direction.
Celebrity role models
Lynn, without ever consciously deciding to do so, has at some stage
in her past chosen certain celebrities to be among some of her role
models. And in doing so she has unwittingly adopted some of their
values, beliefs and behaviours.
Relentlessly, on a daily basis, their messages and commands shout
out at her from the pages of glossy magazines, and film and TV
Look at ME
YOU ought to look like me, too
You should really be as THIN as I am
Get on this DIET right now
this way
Live your life like me!
Lynn is surrounded by misleading and pervasive influences.
There’s no escape. And particularly so because nearly all of her
friends share the same beliefs.
Lynn is being brainwashed!
She has bought into these messages and beliefs, telling her how to
live life, which scream incessantly at her from the page and screen.
But Lynn is forgetting one very important fact: celebrities from the
world of fashion, music, TV and film make a living out of creating
and promoting an image – their image.
And that’s the problem. Because an image is misrepresentative of
real life and how to live it well. Neither is it based on building real
confidence, nor has it necessarily got other people’s best interests
at heart.
Basing her beliefs about her size, shape and weight on the pro-
fessed views of celebrities is causing Lynn much confusion and
dissatisfaction with herself. Even Steve sees it.
After all, when we want to learn to drive we go to a driving instruc-
tor – rather than to the Silverstone F1 race track or the dodgems.
Similarly, when we want to learn how to live well, we need to take
as models the values, beliefs and behaviour of genuinely successful
and happy people.
Lynn needs to re-examine her personal beliefs in terms of whom
and what she is basing them on – to start thinking for herself.
New role models
To a large extent, children learn by adopting the beliefs, values and
behaviour of their parents. They copy them. And we, as adults,
continue to use the same process throughout our lives.
Lynn adopted her mother as a key role model from an early age.
She has copied her mother’s style of ‘meeting everyone else’s needs
except her own’ and expecting little back, even from her closest
family, throughout most of her adult life.
In some ways, Steve reminds Lynn of her father – often absent
and emotionally unavailable for much of the time. She sometimes
wonders if that’s part of what attracted her to Steve in the first
place and if it played a part in why she chose and eventually mar-
ried him.
Steve, as a boy, on the other hand, spent little time with his dad and
was bullied by him to some extent in many different and painful
ways that gradually eroded his developing sense of self-worth and
Now a parent himself, Steve has learned this pattern of parenting
and way of fathering from his dad. But he is now at risk of repeat-
ing the same unhelpful and destructive cycle with Nicky. More
worryingly, he’s unaware that he is doing it.
He’s even beginning to bully his female work colleagues.
Like Lynn, Steve too needs to reappraise his behaviour and choice
of parental role model. Perhaps he could begin to look to his old
boss Craig as a good example of how to relate well to others and
achieve a deeper level of personal happiness and success.
Both Lynn and Steve urgently need a new set of role models.
Steve had prepared a lasagne for Lynn and Nicky’s arrival, shortly
after five.
As Lynn struggled through her front door, carrying four Asda car-
rier bags, the smell of food brought about a strange sensation.
She felt guilty.
‘You didn’t have to make supper, Steve. I’d have done that,’ she
‘Nonsense,’ he replied. ‘I enjoyed being creative in the kitchen.
Well, opening a Marks & Spencer’s packet. So, anyway, how was
your gran, Nicky?’ he enquired.
‘She was grumpy,’ came Nicky’s stark reply.
‘Grumpy?’ enquired Steve, this time of Lynn. ‘Why grumpy?’
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ began Lynn. ‘The whole outing was a bit of a
disaster. Nicky smashed a glass, Mum was being argumentative …’
‘About what?’ asked Steve.
‘Well, everything,’ she replied. ‘It started when I asked her why
she put up with Dad for so long – continued as she accused me of
worshiping celebrities as role models and ended in her question-
ing my parenting skills. Apart from that, we got on well!’
‘She does have a point about the celebs, Lynn,’ ventured Steve.
‘You do spend an inordinate amount of energy and time follow-
ing their every fad. And in your mum’s day, she would have role
models like the Queen, the vicar – and probably the local MP.’
‘Well, not many people would regard any of them as role models
today,’ replied Lynn. ‘Head of a dysfunctional family, head of a
church that tells you each week how sinful you are – and a man
who tells lies for a living!’
‘My God, your mother really has rattled your cage!’ exclaimed
Steve. ‘I didn’t realize you held these pillars of society in such
‘Well, I just question who you should listen to these days,’ an-
swered Lynn.
‘Well, just consider the people you admire, Lynn,’ suggested
‘Like?’ asked Lynn.
‘Like your yoga teacher,’ he replied. ‘You really respect her.’
‘That’s true,’ said Lynn. ‘She’s just got a well-rounded personality,
I suppose.’
‘And you could also listen more to yourself, Lynn,’ offered Steve.
‘Because from what I see of your bank colleagues, others listen
to you.’

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