Leading from the front

We often underestimate the value of a role model in today’s world. I think this is a mistake. Role models guide and inspire us because, in part, we see underutilised aspects of who we could be, in them, if we aimed high enough and fought tooth and nail to protect our dreams at all costs.

Role models keep us aligned, shining a light on our north stars. Sometimes those role models are famous celebrities and entrepreneurs. Other times, they occupy our inner worlds, like Jiminy Cricket. And if we’re lucky, they’re much closer to home.

In our more youthful years, and not knowing yet who we are, we tend to mimic others. This, I believe, is both a necessary and healthy part of growing up. We need to figure out what fits and what doesn’t, like clothes. Making mistakes, experimenting, travelling and dating is how we all stumble forward, one foot at a time, toward the lives that were waiting for us from the beginning.

Failure, therefore, only wins through if we stop trying.

As a teenager, I was inspired by different role models. Some would be considered traditionally masculine. I was inspired by hard and rough footballers, soldiers, fighters and chivalrous knights who ‘swept women off their feet’. I was trying to figure out what the word “man” meant to me, so I put on many costumes. Looking back, I was always there, beneath that pile of clothes, waiting until someone gave me permission to be me.

But now as a twenty-nine-year-old adult, I feel more like a cocktail than a fine wine. It took many different ingredients to find that sweet taste of authenticity. And the costume that once consisted of many other costumes stitched together has been tossed in the bin.

With hopes of becoming a role model when I have children one day, I am excited to be reflecting on what a fatherly role models means.

When I was much younger, I resented my dad because I wished he embodied all the qualities I was inspired by at the time. I had hoped he’d take me to the bush and teach me how to hunt whilst urging me to increase my fitness by doing more push ups. I wanted him to out-run me on the athletics track; I wished he’d added to his resume by having an illustrious career as a soldier with six overseas deployments.

By then, he’d also have played hundreds of games for Hawthorn in the AFL with three grand finals and a Brownlow medal to gloat about. And how I wished he was six foot six! Then, I could have really looked up to him!

My dad wasn’t the role model I wanted but he was the role model I needed. Beyond the flashy superficialities, my dad is, and has always been, himself. I now recognise that his unwavering authenticity helped me find my own self.

As a father, being a good role model is about helping your child see that who they are is enough. Being human means being flawed. People often spend decades suppressing their imperfections and exaggerating their strengths, attempting to prove their worth to others. But I never really had to do that because I had a father who led from the front.

It’s as simple as that. If a father owns his individuality, his children will have approval to do the same. And when his children are old and frail, long after his final breath, they’ll have him to thank because he taught them to live with the courage to be themselves.

Father’s Day was held on Sunday September 4. All the best to fathers everywhere!

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