Do you have someone in your life that you look up to? Chances are, you look up to them because they have characteristics that you believe have made them successful; therefore you’d like to adopt them into your own life.
Role modeling can be pretty powerful; it’s no secret that imitation is a form of flattery. As I started my personal journey through self-love and teaching women how to create a community filled with kindness and inclusion (okay, a little laughter too!), I noticed that role modeling was a very useful tool. As a mom to a sassy toddler, I can tell you with absolute certainty that role modeling is a wonderful strategy in teaching social cues and norms, like not picking your nose or chewing on the edge of a table.
In a world where kindness, compassion, and understanding is made so much more complicated than it needs to be, we tend to forget the most powerful tool we have to teach it – ourselves. About 100 years ago, I was a camp counselor to a wild bunch of nine-year-old girls. I always said to them, “do what I say, not what I do,” which backfired at least once a day. They looked up to me for no other reason than I was bigger, and therefore cool, and they were going to do exactly what I did (flirt with the cute lifeguards), not what I said.
Words have power, but when it comes to how to communicate with any other species, I’m going to serve you with the five words that my parents basically raised me on: actions speak louder than words. So it’s no surprise that role modeling can be absolutely powerful in learning kindness and teaching it to others. We know that when we teach, it only deepens those values within ourselves.
I know, I know – you didn’t come to this Earth to have to watch every move you make so that other people can see what you’re doing and do it too. It’s a lot of pressure, or so I hear from watching the celebrities sit on Jimmy Fallon’s couch and cry.
You’re a celebrity in your own right – the things you know, are what people want to know. It is a power like no other to show kindness and compassion to your fellow mama, co-worker, friend, family member, or – you guessed it – a complete stranger. So let’s break it down: how are you going to use your power for good?
Patience & consistency. Parents know that patience and being consistent with your actions are two of the heaviest tools in the toolbox, but it can also be the most rewarding when it pays off. When you flex the muscle all the time, it will become easier to do (I promise), and you’ll find yourself reacting without even thinking in a calm and considerable manner.
Audit your values. Are your actions consistent with the personal values you hold near and dear? For example, I have a friend that is always finding herself burning the candle at both ends. As her friend, it hurts me that she continues to do this to herself, but one day I realized something: I don’t exactly model good behavior in that area. I find myself drowning in my own responsibilities, real or contrived, just as frequently as she does. It was time to learn a different set of skills, and now we are learning together and modeling for each other.
Recognize reality. Humans are not a perfect species, and there’s no reason why you should stand apart from everyone else in that vein. If there are times you have not practiced fairness or compassion, it just means you bleed red like the rest of us. What makes you powerful as a role model is not how perfect you are, but how imperfect you are. Owning your mistakes, doing the best you can to right the errors, and then learning a valuable lesson to move forward is even more powerful (and frankly, way more realistic) than trying perfectionism, eventually failing, and then giving up completely.
Find teachable moments. In order for me to teach my child kindness, I don’t actually need to make sure I get a book that is centered on kindness. While those books are incredible and we have a ton of them at home, there are teachable moments in her other books, too. Pay attention to the way others act in stories, or in real life, and point them out as a conversation starter to a child you have the opportunity to teach. You may not think they are listening, but they do pick up on cues, actions, and the way things sound or feel to them.
How have you made small gestures that stand out to the people you’re fortunate to teach?
– Written By Allison Nelson, Co-Founder of The Nelson Company
One For Women is honored to have Allison Nelson, Founder of The Nelson Company share her voice and her important message as part of our One Voice to Hear series.