When I set out on this radio course, the idea of being a role model never crossed my mind. I’m not sure anyone ever envisions stature or influence…at least I didn’t. It’s only in the last few months, after receiving an email from a father whose daughters love listening to my show, that I began to chew over the idea. Is it my responsibility as a public figure? If it comes with the territory, what do I want people to see, hear, and notice when they tune in or interact with me?
By definition, a role model is “a person looked to by others as an example to be imitated.” I’ve always believed it’s best to emulate people we know personally…to find role models among those we can speak to, ask questions of, interact with on a regular basis, and watch closely. For me, the first person who comes to mind is Mom. In addition to her love and support, I learned strength, humility, compassion for others, and the art of conversation. She raised two kids by herself and did it while changing careers and juggling multiple jobs. Despite her struggles and heartache, she never quit; and she consistently practiced the grace and love of Jesus. Other role models include my grandmothers (one now at 93), my high school English teacher, a former pastor, several father figures who cared for me, a godly friend who’s also an NFL agent and faces the same hurdles in her line of work that I do in mine. Mentors that we know on a personal level carry the greatest impact. And we need role models for the various life stages. As I wait to become a mother to my own children, I’m blessed to watch and learn from several confidants who double as amazing moms: my best friend since junior high who never seems to lose patience with her boys and another longtime friend who uses truth and transparency to raise her adopted babies. These lessons will serve me well when my time comes, and I’m grateful for them.
Even though I never started out to be a role model, people are watching, listening, and paying attention to my every move. In the new age of social media, they’re also commenting on EVERYTHING I say and do. I can choose to ignore those facts or I can try to turn it into a positive and sieze the opportunity to be a role model. In my opinion, it’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Even as I wrestled with this idea recently, two names came to mind: Deanna and Lauren. By far, my nieces are the number one reason I can be thankful for my singlehood over the last 15 years. I’ve been able to cultivate amazing relationships with two smart, funny, sweet, caring, genuine, thoughtful young ladies. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. And while my brother and his wife are great parents who’ve raised them the right way, I cherish the chance to be a role model to them. I want to show them it’s a gift to be a strong, independent, intelligent woman following her own path; that it’s a blessing to be different; that faith in God, family, and yourself provide a solid foundation for everything else.
Another ideal I desperately want to mirror for my nieces is one I believe all young women need to grasp: it’s NOT about how you look! As a female in sports broadcasting and a woman in our superficial society, far too much of the focus is on outward appearance. Even though radio is not a visual medium, I am bombarded by comments about my face, my hair, my body, my clothes, my height, and my weight. NONE of those things matter in radio; and of course, my male counterparts aren’t subjected to the same feedback. But during an average week, I’m branded everything from gorgeous, sexy, and beautiful to ugly and fat (along with names I’d never repeat). It’s ridiculous…as though I’m some insecure teenager who requires validation from gawkers or will be crushed by the opinions of total strangers. As a role model, I want my nieces and other young women to know it’s your heart, mind, and soul that count. Far more valuable are your brain, education, ability to communicate, determination, perseverance, confidence, sense of humor, zest for life, compassion for people. Yes, I care about my physical appearance; but I’d rather be described as healthy and fit with a ready smile. Role model, not supermodel. Realistic and relatable, not airbrushed and unattainable.
The concept of perfection is another I want to shoot holes through as a role model. While I am a perfectionist and hold myself to the highest standard, I also recognize there is no such thing as a perfect job, perfect marriage, perfect family, perfect friendship, perfect body, perfect woman, or perfect life. The truth is life can be flat-out HARD. It totally stinks sometimes. I’d rather demonstrate poise under pressure and peace in the midst of chaos. I’m trying to show humility when I stumble and forgiveness when others do. Respect in the face of disrespect, kindness in the face of insults, logic to counter extreme emotion, integrity in place of dishonesty, transparency instead of secrets, faith in the midst of a storm, love for the unlovely. Since I’m nowhere near perfect and frequently fall short of these marks, I also need to practice saying I’m sorry and starting over when I mess up.
What kind of role model do I want to be? The kind who realizes the platform and remains humbled by the opportunity. For my nieces, friends, dads of young girls who follow my career, and listeners who pay attention…and because my mother, grandmothers, and so many others have done the same for me, I choose to embrace the responsibility of role model.