At the pinnacle of his career, America’s Lance Armstrong was widely regarded as the greatest long-distance racing cyclist of his generation. He won the most famous of long-distance cycle races, the ‘Tour de France’ an unprecedented seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. In addition to his dominance as an athlete, Armstrong was also a cancer survivor, having been initially given virtually no hope of recovery by doctors after being diagnosed. He founded the ‘Lance Armstrong Foundation’ to help cancer survivors. He was seen as a role model not just for athletes, but for those battling cancer; an inspiration for people undergoing various personal struggles around the world.
However, Armstrong’s inspirational story unraveled in dramatic fashion on 2012, when an investigation conducted by the US
Anti-Doping Agency labeled him ‘a serial cheat’ who, to quote the agency’s investigative report, led “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”. The probe found that not only was Armstrong guilty of doping, but that he had also ruthlessly forced other members of his team to take performance enhancing drugs. He was subsequently stripped of all his Tour de France titles and other trophies before being banned for life from all sports.
Lance Armstrong was not the first ‘hero’ to fall from grace. We have seen many such persons over the years, particularly in, but not limited to the world of sports. Hansie Cronje, Tiger Woods and Marion Jones for example, were all at the pinnacle of their respective sports before their failings were so publically exposed. Whenever we see the ‘double lives’ of such persons regarded as role models exposed, we tend to feel a sense of disbelief, followed by anger and betrayal, particularly if that person was someone we looked up to.
When we are young, we are thought of the importance of having a ‘role model’ that we should look up to. It might be a celebrity, or someone who we have a more personal connection to, such as a family member or friend. By having such a role model, we are looking to emulate the achievements of that person, while at the same time, trying to live our own lives by the examples they have publically set. As such, when our role model lets us down, it may well become extremely hard to accept at first. If the role model happens to be someone you have a personal connection with, the blow will doubtless be felt much harder.
There are those of course, who claim to have no role model. While it might be true that you may not have a specific person that you wish to emulate, there would still be people you look up to for inspiration. There are others of course, who actually regard themselves as their own role model. While some may label this as being somewhat narcissistic, perhaps given the way others constantly tend to disappoint us, it may not be such a bad thing to do.
We expect our role models to be ‘perfect’. By doing so however, we overlook the fact that these ‘role models’ are human, with the same failings that are common to us all. However, if people look to you as a role model, then it is only natural that they expect you to abide by a certain standard; a lifestyle that you had built up for yourself. You have a responsibility not just to yourself, but to others as well, to ensure that you try your level best to keep setting an example for those who see you as an inspiration.
There is no reason why you can’t be your own role model. By doing so, you can set an example to others and in turn encourage them to live better lives. It’s more than likely that you will never be able to fully live up to your own ideal of the perfect role model, but the point is, there is no such thing. You can only be the best you and it is up to you to ensure that, in your quest to be the best you can be, you don’t end up sacrificing the principles that you hold so dear.