To be honest, I wish there were more female role models. And it’s not the younger generation I’m most concerned for…
Amanda Bynes. I grew up watching her in such Nickelodeon classics as All That and The Amanda Show (Manda Manda Manda Manda Manda, Shooooooow). She was a paragon of her kind, a great example of a young lady who successfully negotiated the teen years and made it out alive. Kids could watch her shows and you could trust amidst all the funnies, that your kids were watching someone trustworthy. A child star who truly bucked the trend of where most child stars end up.
Sadly, in her late 20s, she too was pressured by fame and joined the ranks of many a female role model who is now the target of tabloids and gossip columns expounding her every move. Where once parents were happy to have their children aspire to be like her, now they’re a bit more hesitant.
Such is the realm of female role models.
This week I was talking to a number of my female friends, just catching up with them, seeing how they’re doing, the usual sort of talk. And I couldn’t help but start to think along this topic of female role models – not for the children of today, not even for our teenagers, but for our young adult ladies who are negotiating the challenges of life.
The struggles of the 20-somethings and 30-somethings
I’m not a woman, but I value the women in my world. I know a number of great and strong women who are moving forward in life, kicking goals, living out their independence, enjoying marriage, all the different seasons that they may find themselves in. But I was thinking the other day that it’s really not all that easy being a woman in your 20s or 30s. There are all sorts of challenges that you face – the decision of career or family (or both), the decision of which city to live in, the decision of dating, the decision of how to manage your time, and all the other decisions of life.
And sometimes there are lots of struggles that aren’t always being talked about as much. Sometimes I see my female friends struggling through some really big stuff that they don’t know how to handle. Let’s take dating for instance. There can be a lot of pressure on you when you like someone. There can also be a lot of pressure on you when someone likes you and has communicated interest. There are aspects of the female experience in this area that men just don’t go through or always understand. How do you negotiate the friendship to romance phase? What do you do when he comes on too strong? Or not strong enough? If you’re single, there’s the challenge of dealing with the constant barrage of people asking you when you’re going to get married, and negotiating that pressure when it is actually something you really want to do, but don’t feel a lot of control over. If you are dating someone, there’s the pressures of what to do when your man is fatigued or his personality and direction are changing. When will he propose, will he propose, will we ever have kids, is this still the right decision, how do I support him, how do I encourage him to support me?
Then there’s sexuality. Many women never really talk about this one, but there are a lot of challenges being a woman approaching (or inside of) her sexual prime. All the hormones and the desires. What do you do when you’re a woman who struggles with masturbation, but not sure what to do because women don’t struggle with that… right? What do you do when you’ve been together so long and you’re feeling undervalued in that area of your life? What do you do when you have the constant barrage of imagery and fantasy being blasted at you when you’ve decided to strive for purity? How do you deal with feeling unloved, or only loved, in the bedroom? How about after kids – how do you deal with those sorts of changes?
And there are so many other areas. And they’re all deeply personal, sometimes painful, sometimes difficult, and oft times confusing.
And what really breaks my heart is I’ve seen many of my female friends carrying these sorts of concerns and worries, and sure, they’re telling their friends bits and pieces, but they really have no one they can look to to guide them through.
Struggling together and someone to follow
I love it when my female friends have a strong network of women around them that they’re doing life with. I love seeing those friendships where the women I know can be completely themselves, completely frank, completely upfront and real about what’s going on, and that they get to talk and walk things through with other women of the same age. Everyone has freedom and permission to open their lives, and be frank with their girlfriends when they think they need a stern word.
The problem I think though is that in all this, everyone struggles with the same sort of issues, and they all struggle together. Male and female, sometimes we are still struggling because we’re only getting advice from people who are still in the struggle. In some ways, it’s kind of the blind leading the blind.
What we really need is to be looking for people who are actually beyond where we’re at. If there’s a struggle with career decisions, we should be looking to women who are seeing results in their career. If we’re struggling with family or relationships, we should be looking for people who have those areas of their lives locked down.
What often happens is we end up getting advice from either people who are at our same level, or they don’t really have the fruit in their lives of someone who would be wise to take advice from. If you want marriage advice, and I say this with all respect, it’s probably best not to be being consulted by those who are bitter about their divorce. If you need advice on talking with and dealing with men, it’s probably best not to ask women who hate them. The same is true for every area.
I just mentioned the term “fruit”. By fruit, all I mean is that their lives look like what they say they want it to look like. They grow others, they have the lifestyle to back up what they’re saying, they’re trustworthy and people you actually want to be like. Their life is healthy and produces healthy outcomes.
So… what do you want your life to look like?
I think it’s really important that female role models continue to make their presence known even beyond the teenage years. We don’t just hit adulthood in age and instantly “make it”. We still need people we can look to for guidance.
There are so many more seasons of life as you grow older. To make it through successfully and with greater strength, we need to look to those who have already gone before us.
And if you are a woman who is reading this and you find yourself seeing some great results in your life, please don’t hesitate to share your secrets and to make yourself available for those around you. What great power and strength in a community who helps each other move forward through life.
Male role models in a woman’s life
I also wanted to make mention of how important I’m finding that male role models are. It’s so important that we have men that we can look to for answers, direction, encouragement and appropriate rebuke. And I’ve found (at least with the men I know) that many of the men in my world have people they look to for direction through their own challenges.
But I’m increasingly aware of how important it is for the women I know to have good male role models themselves. Obviously not so they can deal with their own internal masculine challenges, but so that cross-gender area of their lives has greater strength and wisdom. I’m always amazed at the impact of the presence, or the unfortunate absence, of men who have demonstrated the character, the strength, the concern and care for others, and the provision that should be expected from the men around them. Without those examples, many women find themselves having no idea what a good man should look like, how to relate to them, how to just be friends with guys, how to take it the next step further, and all the other stages of life.
I hope I’ve made sense here with what I’m trying to say here. Whether they be fathers, father figures, friends, uncles, brothers, or otherwise, a man of character living his life with integrity can be a great blessing, not just to the men in his world, but also the women.
And hey, the same is also true for men also having great female role models they can look to for the same sorts of advice and direction.
A willingness to follow
A final observation on role models is that I think there has to be a willingness and an openness to allow the counsel and the voice of the role model to be accepted in your life. Sometimes I’ve seen that we can have those people in our lives, but we remain closed off to them. That there are those voices and examples around us, but unless we open ourselves up to their influence, we may just continue to struggle together.
Who do you give permission to love you enough to say what needs to be said?
In closing, I’m not a woman, but I believe in women. I think women are one of the most amazing blessings to this world. I just wish sometimes that the same level of support I feel in my own life from the role models around me, and the men around me, would also be experienced by the women in my world. That they wouldn’t live burdened with a sense of no direction or of feeling alone in what they’re going through, but they would live with the voices that would champion them to continue to grow into the women they are called to be.
How about you?
What are your thoughts on female role models? Agree or disagree with anything you read here? Share your thoughts and join the conversation.