As a youngster I enjoyed Clint Eastwood films because I wanted to become a strong man like the characters he portrayed. When I was a boy, I emulated actors that I saw in the movies and television. I had become conditioned to believe what I saw in media was real. As a result, I would pretend I was Clint Eastwood when confronted with difficult situations. I spent my childhood copying others instead of cultivating my own individual self-worth. I’m not the only one who falls into this trap. A lot of kids lack sufficient role models at home, so they have little choice but to emulate what they see in the movies.
On the silver screen, Eastwood could diffuse any situation by displaying a menacing gaze. If that didn’t work, the action star would simply pull out his .357 Magnum! He portrayed a tough guy in the movies, and he always came out on top. As a child, I unknowingly assumed the role of Clint Eastwood when confronted with school yard bullies in an attempt to dominate a situation. This strategy served me moderately well as I slowly evolved into adolescence, but something was missing. What I came to realize was that I was living behind an internal tough guy mask. Using this cerebral template provided me with a scaffolding which enabled me to navigate my small world. This was problematic however, because I was viewing life through a narrow slit. My mask would only allow a small portion of the big picture to permeate into my mind’s eye. Clint Eastwood served me well, but not all role models are the same.
In the 1970’s a PBS television program featured a character named Mr. Rogers. He was a soft-spoken adult who cultivated relationships within his community in an effort to sow the seeds of kindness. Mr. Rogers was in tune with a wide range of emotions which made him a good role model in that respect. In my youth, this program encouraged me to create a Mr. Rogers template to coincide with my tough guy image. Using this additional template as a cloak, I would mimic the personality of Mr. Rogers for my teachers who would then fawn over me. When we live from the nice guy template, we inadvertently draw out kindness from those who surround us. On the other hand, utilizing the tough guy mask in the classroom would have been problematic. As a child I would alternate between the tough guy template, and the nice guy mask, depending on the situation.
As an adult, I strive to meet each moment as it comes without wondering how I’m perceived by others. In this way our identities tend to fall by the wayside. Sometimes It’s okay to use our masks as long as we don’t get trapped in them. I think of templates as training wheels because they help us to develop our initial personality.
Living behind a mental mask activates a synthetic mechanism that helps us cope, but it comes at a cost. In order to exist without our templates, we must tune into our own inner frequency in an effort to cultivate an authentic persona. In this way, we learn to benefit from our own internal compass. Your True Core already has an innate ability to rise to any occasion, but we tend to ignore it. The objective is to cultivate awareness in a way that will allow us to transcend our masks. We achieve this through a process of introspection where we discover what we hold sacred. Once this is established, we can get acquainted with our core values. When you truly identify your authentic self, it will know how to react to any situation with maturity and grace. Your True Self is sure and confident, so it doesn’t need a mask. There is no need for it to defend itself.
Living a template free life requires us to be mindful of our emotions while confronting erroneous thoughts. We must remain cognizant of how we react to events in real time. In this way we put a mechanism into place which automatically puts our best foot forward. Self-awareness promotes healthy reactions to life’s stressors.
During childhood wearing mental masks helped us to navigate our environment, because templates helped us to socialize. However, once we begin our transformation into adulthood, we realize that we have been looking through a filtered lens. Because of this, it is incumbent upon us to break free from the molds we have constructed within ourselves. Once we outgrow our templates, we’ll be introduced to the entire spectrum of opportunities because we now see the Big Picture. As they become unlocked, unimaginable possibilities magically present themselves. When we learn to remove our masks, we will live each day in a constant state of total amazement! We become our own role model because we are living from our True Self.
Who are your role models?
I’m a 54 year old white male, a father, a writer, and a recovering narcissist.