Several years ago, I was driving to the grocery store with my great-nephew who was 5 years old at the time. He was appropriately sitting in the rear seat all buckled in. As we drove along peacefully, my beautiful nephew, with the seriousness of a traumatic situation asked: “Aunt Marsha, why can’t I take my teeth out?” He went on to say and demonstrate how he had been pulling on his teeth to no avail. They would not budge. He was really sad and needed to be reassured he was just perfect.
Lets roll back the story. My mother, her mother, and my sister (my great-nephew’s grandmother) all wore dentures. My great-nephew routinely watched as they put dentures in and took dentures out. He probably marveled at dentures in some cup in the bathroom. Can you imagine the number of times he must have pulled on his own tiny teeth, hoping he would be “normal”, hoping he would be like those he loved and looked up to? After all, his world was insular and his experiences few and shallow. These family members were his role models. These were the people he wanted to be like. He was saddened by his inability to emulate. He thought something was wrong and that it was wrong with him.
On that day which I will always remember, I tried to convince my great-nephew everything was wonderful with him and everyone did not take out teeth. I pulled on my own teeth and hopefully expanded his thinking about oral health and teeth – real or false.
This half-comical, half-serious moment with my nephew always comes to mind whenever I think of how many of us select other human beings as role models. WE SOMETIMES BLINDLY MAKE ALL ATTEMPTS TO BE LIKE THEM, TO TAKE OUR TEETH OUT AS THEY DO. WE STRUGGLE TO FEEL OKAY ABOUT OURSELVES, USING OTHERS AS OUR ROLE MODELS.
Let me hasten to say seeing others who have achieved the kinds of things we want to achieve often helps to strengthen our belief that we too can achieve certain goals. THERE IS AN IMPORTANT PLACE IN OUR LIVES AND CAREERS FOR ROLE MODELS. THE IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS ROLE MODELS ARE HUMAN AND HUMANLY FLAWED, JUST AS WE ARE.
Like my great-nephew, the more insular your world and limited your experiences, the more you try to emulate others without sufficient understanding of who or what they really are. More importantly, you cheat yourself of growing by knowing the beauty of who you are, just as you are.
- Be very careful as you select and study people in your family, community, world, and workplace whom you want to emulate.
- Before you beat up on yourself for not “being like”, “thinking like”, or “looking like” others, take a good look at the teeth. They may not be real.
- Set high standards for yourself.
- You are wonderful just as you are.