By: Anquinette Mosley
It is apparent that in this day in age that the communication barrier between young people and a more mature generation continues to dwindle. The face of the “role model” has and continues to evolve. And what “we” may deem as a role model is much more different than how “they” view it, and therein lies the need for more dialogue.
Social media has a lot to do with this. The world we live in “now” is highly influenced by what we see and who sees us and we now have immediate access to things we hadn’t in the past. Therefore, the picture through the lenses of our youth are much different from ours. Young people are looking up to people that often times the average adult may not deem as “role model” worthy. Yet does it make it wrong that our youth do? The politically incorrect answer is “no”.
I truly believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion of whom he/she deems to be a role model, yet my major concern is when this reverence is at the compromise of losing one’s self-respect, character, dignity, and identity. Young people are relating very much to people whom they believe are just like them, people’s whose narratives sound just like theirs. Whether that person is a now rapper who used to be a dancer, or activist/rapper who use to be a gang banger/drug dealer, they feel like they are hearing their own story. The culture has shifted and the dialogue “we” were once used to having has to shift too. However, if we choose not to discuss these “real” issues then we increase the disconnection with our youth. Of course, there are a lot of things that I just don’t get as it pertains to what our young people like as well as why they do what they do. Yet the cliché states, “They have to think that you care before they care what you think.”
As a parent to teenagers/adults and also as a therapist to young people and their families I have been able to observe, explore, and understand this shift as well as the dynamics of what happens every day with them. Moreover, the rational part of a young adult’s brain does not fully develop until the age of 25, therefore, as adolescents they are not even in mid navigation and are still learning. Yet with all the learning they are doing there still must be a quest for understanding and dialogue. I, by all means, am not promoting as responsible adults that we encourage our young people to blindly follow and aspire to be something or someone that has no real future. But strength–based/person–centered therapy teaches us to help the individual by looking at what they are good at and what is his or hers driving force. Let’s be real for a moment…. a lot of our young people have ambition (which is possessing, or controlled greatly by desire of power, honor, office, superiority, and or distinction from others). However, having ambition is fine but at what cost. I have noticed that the essence of being relevant and important to “others” is widely prevalent and as social media grows, displays of living “My Best Life” have as well.
With social media, people that otherwise may have not ever been noticed are displaying and living out their so called “best lives” in front of the camera and the majority of our young people want to buy in — and sometimes, by any means necessary.
We see it all around us that money and power equals success and to be deemed a boss is a badge of honor. But what message are we really giving them. I don’t think being deemed a boss is malicious in nature. However, I tell young people that I encounter that being the boss is cool, but it is so much better to be deemed a leader, because, in essence, the boss oversees and delegates but the leader walks amongst and teaches. I then share with them the definition of the word driven (obsessed; passionately motivated to achieve one’s goals). Yet with that drive I encourage using wisdom (having good judgment, understanding/insight of what decision to make after weighing your options). However, wisdom is gained from learning as much as you can through experiences that are faced every day in this journey we all call life. But, having guidance during these experiences is crucial. Anyone say “dialogue?”
Subsequent to most of my sessions with my young people I have them do a self-check-in in which he/she asks themselves: why am I doing what I am doing; is what I am doing getting me closer to my goals; and if so is what I am doing going to compromise my integrity and character and if it does do I care; and finally will I be able to stand boldly behind the decision I made whether it is in the public or private.
I challenge all the adults reading this article to sit down with the young people in their lives and ask them who would they choose as a role model and then ask them to tell you more about why. You would be surprised as to what they might share but it’s a start towards this most needed dialogue. These young people are “thinkers” and are capable of having this dialogue, but they still have a difficult time grappling with acceptance, whether that be acceptance from their peers, their family or other adults in their lives, as well as being able to accept themselves. And they still need our guidance. If it is difficult for the average adult to deal with acceptance just think about a confused child/teenager who has to address their need for validation.
We live in a world where people are posting how they feel instead of sitting down and talking. That is why we often see all the different memes and post son social media to “subliminally” tell others that they hurt us or made us “feel some type of way.” People, we have to do a better job at having “real talks” amongst each other as well as with our young people.
I leave you with my analogy “In order to effectively reach out we first must first reach in.” I would love to know how you all feel. Let the dialogue continue.