How often are you completely relaxed, do you do things exactly the way you want them to do and are you completely in control? Probably less often than you would like. And how often do you feel stressed, insecure and lived by others? Probably more often than you would like. You are not the only one. And given the hectic and connected world we live in that is not surprising.
But there are people who—seemingly effortlessly—withstand the pressure and always stay their calm and confident self. You might look at them with a certain envy and even find them a bit annoying because of their imperturbable calmness. But looking at them and seeing them as role models can be quite helpful. Role models work for many aspects of life, and so they do for reclaiming your calm and confident self in this age of social media.
But whom to take as role model? Here are a few candidates you might think of:
- Movie or book characters including Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, Pippi Longstocking and Disney’s more recent Moana (Vaiana). They are all strong-willed individualistic characters daring to be different.
- Rockstar entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. They are famous for their unique ideas and approach and their headstrong disregard of conventional wisdom and public opinion.
- Political and religious leaders like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, who stood up for their belief in a better world and persisted despite all the threats and suffering.
But wait… “These are not real people,” you may argue, or “they are real, but surreal exceptions and not like ordinary people.” You are right. So, even though we can learn from them, they are so far out of reach that taking them as a role model might be too much of a stretch. But there are more ordinary people who manage to stay true to themselves as well:
- The mysterious monks who live a structured, dedicated and segregated life in a monastery. They successfully manage to keep the craziness outside and live a peaceful, silent life together.
- The “mad” scientists who ignore what others are telling them and continue their quest for the truth. They stoically manage to follow their own ideas and let others laugh at them.
- The hard-nosed politicians who follow their own convictions and convince others too. They manage to withstand the pressure of populism and fight for their own ideology.
“But…,” I almost hear you object again, “…these hardly qualify as ‘people like us’.” You are right. They have chosen a rather particular career and made extraordinary sacrifices to follow their heart. Despite their perhaps inspirational way of life, they are exceptions too and hard to relate to. So, here’s another, and perhaps less likely list:
- Your outspoken aunt wearing her purple dress, carrying her own herbal tea and having a smiling face all the time. She manages to deviate from what “everyone” finds “normal.”
- Your imperturbable colleague sitting next to you in the flex room, who would continue working even if a bomb went off next to her. She can switch off her ears or so it seems.
- Your offline grandma who still writes letters on her old typewriter and whom you can only reach by wired phone, snail mail or by visiting her. She manages to escape the social media craze completely.
- Your nerdy neighbor who wears the “wrong” jeans, laughs about the “wrong” jokes and likes the “wrong” music. He manages to stay totally ignorant about what is supposedly wrong.
- Your explosively energetic four-year-old who talks to her imaginary friend and sees cars where you see random scribbles. She manages to let her fantasy speak for itself.
Even though some of them look like outright anti-heroes, they are the real heroes today. They are as ordinary as people can be. And yet, they do something that seems increasingly extra-ordinary: they withstand the pressure around them, keep a cool head, and stay close to themselves. The good thing is that we can learn a great deal from them. Because what they do is nothing magical and doesn’t require supernatural skills. This means that all of us can do it (see here and here to learn how).