Wednesday 01 January 2014

On Being A Role Model

American sociologist Robert Merton popularized the theory of role models when studying the socialization of medical students. According to Merton, a role model is an individual who attains a significant status in an established social structure to which a certain set of desirable behaviors is ascribed. The concept is an extension of Merton’s own theory of reference groups that explains why we judge our own behaviors by comparing ourselves against others who occupy certain social roles to which we aspire. Sadly, today we are often too quick to endorse an individual as a positive role model merely by some limited accomplishment which that individual has achieved, while being blinded to other conduct of the same individual which is otherwise unbecoming for a role model. Worst yet, we often misjudge a prominent celebrity to be a role model by wealth or fame alone, mistakenly believing that these are desirable qualities of humanity for which we must strive. While no individual is without faults, positive role models seek to redeem their own failings and do not justify their bad behaviors as a necessity for success. In other words, being a role model is more than just achieving success in life: it is how this success is achieved through positive and moral behaviors, which we seek to mirror in our own lives, that is the essence of a good role model.

By Philip Jong • At 01:01 AM • Under Column • Under World
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