Since I’m the oldest child and cousin in my family, I’ve often looked outside of my family for role models and mentors. I found a lot of older female role models in high school via Greek club and GOYA, and later at Camp Saint Paul during my first year on staff.
I found myself looking up to these girls, without really getting to know them, because I was extremely shy when I was younger, and saw them as the outgoing and charismatic people that I wanted to be. Before I even knew about their commitments to their faith, I saw their commitments to their goals, to their families and friends. I think it was just what I needed to see to inspire me.
Then, I actually became friends with these girls.
Soon afterwards, I found that these girls made mistakes. They weren’t perfect. They gossiped, they skipped church, they didn’t always make great decisions.
The reason that I found these things out was simple: when you get to know people on a deeper level than simply looking up to them from afar, you’re going to see them more fully than before. Read: the good, the bad, and the ugly. To be completely honest, I was pretty thrown off when I first realized this. I felt like I had misread my role models.
That is, until I realized, I do all of those things too. They were actually much more similar to me than I had ever thought.
As Christians, we all struggle to do what is best. We are all imperfect, and we are all in need of God’s mercy. Admitting your shortcomings, not hiding them, but instead seeking God’s mercy for them is a beautiful thing that we could all stand to do a bit more. So at the end of the day, I’m glad that I was able to see both sides of my mentors.
By being imperfect, my role models showed me something that’s more important than always being on your A-game: being honest, repentant Christians who work through challenges and don’t give up their faith.
And because of them, I’ve learned to not only accept, but to love people who admit their imperfections, both seen and unseen.
As I have gotten older, I have become a role model to others as well, unworthy as I am. I am always wary when someone tells me that they look up to me, thinking, “Aren’t there better people to look up to than me?” I am reluctant to be seen making mistakes because I’d rather people who look up to me don’t follow in my footsteps.
But it’s a teaching opportunity. I can’t help being imperfect, and neither could the girls I look up to because (surprise surprise!) they are humans. They didn’t choose to be my role models and mentors, yet I wanted them to be. And realizing that they were imperfect was just one of the countless blessings that I received by meeting them.
Now, I can look up to them in a different way. Look to them for guidance not only as to the woman that I want to be, but for guidance as to how to get back up when life knocks you down, how to admit your flaws and work on them, learn to live with them or grow from them. And to remain a beacon of light through all of that.
I’ve also realized that mentor relationships work both ways. I’ve had people I really look up to come to me earnestly seeking advice. It’s a really nice and welcome reminder of how I have grown with their guidance.
The best role models I’ve had are the ones who admit their shortcomings. It helps them love me and guide me through my own shortcomings and mistakes, urging me not to make the same ones and showing me how to set things right through their loving examples. It is only through understanding that my mentors are not perfect that I am able to truly respect and love them.
Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.