Sunday, June 20, 2004

Who's Your Idol?

When I was thirteen years old, my friend Randall came up to me and asked, “Charles, who’s your idol?” I hesitated, although I already knew deep inside what my answer would be. Seeing my hesitation, Randall blurted out his own idol, as if his admission would make it easier to mention my own. It was tempting to lie, especially since my answer was unconventional, and would probably alienate me from others. But Randall was my friend, after all, so I told him the truth. “I don’t idolize anyone,” I said. I saw in his expression the unasked questions: not even your parents? Or a celebrity? Or even a superhero? Seeing that I had nothing further to say, he turned his back on me and said “Ang yabang mo naman!” (You’re so arrogant!)

When I was thirteen, adversity at home and at school had taught me wisdom. And part of that wisdom told me that other people, whether they be celebrities or not, are just like ourselves, complete with flaws as well as strengths. They are, at their core, human beings just like ourselves. That meant that while they have accomplishments worth admiring, they also have their own skeletons in the closet. But it also means that we, insignificant as we may appear to be, are also capable of just as much. Just because I was an insecure thirteen year old did not mean I could not become, say, president of the Philippines.

To idolize someone means to want to become like them. It’s easy to fall prey to that kind of syndrome. That’s why celebrities advertising certain products (such as Michael Jordan being the spokesperson for Nike) prove to be popular. But to me that path is filled with peril. I did not want to become someone else. I wanted to be me. To copy someone would not be true to me. In copying someone, sure, I might inherit their strengths, but I also might inherit their weaknesses (which is a concern of some celebrities, such as a host for a children’s program getting caught drinking beer in public). That is not to say that I don’t have flaws of my own. But I honestly think it’s wrong if we blindly mimic someone else. And some people do just that, because it’s the simplest route. Rather than take the time to assess what’s good for ourselves and what’s bad, we just start following orders from someone else or zealously copy everything that they do. In my opinion, we’re given a brain and free will for a reason. Take in the good and filter out the bad. More importantly, take the time to identify what’s good and what’s bad, what can be achieved by our limitations and what can’t be. Because as far as we’re all capable people, no one is capable of everything (and we all aren’t equally gifted).

Just because I don’t have an idol does not mean I don’t admire other people. Admiration is not the same as idolization. With the former, I can like a certain person or their particular actions, and not necessarily want to emulate their whole persona. Admiration, in my book, is good. And to be truthful, we all have people we admire, even though at times we may not necessary like them all the time (such as our parents, while they have the best intentions for us, usually rely on actions that might not be beneficial to us). With admiration, we’re selective about it, and we don’t even necessarily make attempts to emulate what we admire.

Another lesson I learned from all this is to have confidence in myself as well. Because as much as we have the potential to mold ourselves to who we want to become, it won’t matter if we don’t actually exert the effort to do so. And people seldom exert effort if they don’t think they can achieve something. But the truth is, we can! Granted, some things are beyond our reach. But we’ll never know for certain unless we try. After all, we lose nothing in the attempt (except probably pride). And if we succeed, well, that’s something to be grateful, isn’t it?