Wanted: A role model

Last week when one of my friends asked me to name my role model, my mind immediately raced to scout for a woman whom I hold in high esteem. I stopped right there. My unconscious bias had shown up. And I asked myself – why did I not think of a male as my role model? Was I deep down wired to think of role models only amongst my gender? 

Shaking your unconscious biases is no easy task. There is no magic pill that can rectify the deep-down biases that we all hold and are not even aware of it until the day they surface without a warning. The good thing is, we can be made aware of them by paying more attention to our thought processes and what we think and how we think.  

The journey towards self-awareness is however fraught with risks. The more one understands about oneself, the more vulnerable one becomes. Vulnerable to new discoveries. Vulnerable to understanding yourself better. Vulnerable to letting others know you closely. 

Self-awareness is about questioning yourself and asking the how and why you of a particular decision or choice that you made. What factors governed that choice? What or who motivated you? 

There is no specific timeline for this journey of self-awareness. It is akin to a calling that you experience – until you open yourself to receiving more of yourself, self-awareness will remain elusive and even play a cat-and-mouse game with you. 

Why is this journey of self-awareness important for you as a professional? Only when you know yourself better and understand your decision-making process, will you be able to deliver your best in your organisation. 

Do you recall how you felt on the day of your school/college board exams? Or the day before? What is it that you recall? Is it stress? Or is it a calm state of mind? This itself gives an indication of your ability to handle stressful situations. We all react differently to stress. Some binge. Some starve. Some shut themselves out from the rest of the world. And then there are those who let go of stress by letting their hair down. There is nothing right or wrong here. It is what works for you the best. Self-awareness is about using this knowledge to make it work to your advantage.

For instance, if you are alert to the signs your body gives you as you enter a situation that you term as ‘being stressful’, you can refocus your mind so that stress is not induced at all. By being aware of situations that make you upset or agitated, you can consciously alter the environment so as to elevate your mind.

Let me give you another example. If you are aware that you are an impulsive person who speaks his/her mind immediately, your self-awareness will act as an automatic speed-breaker. It will make you pause and weigh your answer before you speak. All of this will happen within a fraction of a second. The way you answer and the different approach that you take can easily open new doors of negotiations for you.

Years ago, when working in the field of advocacy and government relations, I realised that I would invariably reach out to this group of stakeholders only with problems. While I would get a sense of satisfaction in having got the listening ear of an important government functionary, the meetings were never productive. Deep consultations with my own mind gave me a different focus – what if I were to approach these meetings with a solution-oriented mindset? And I realised, the perspectives changed, the outcomes were different and the discussions more valuable. Sometimes, all it takes for us to change the dynamics is to change our approach. Your self-awareness of how you approach problems and your openness to embracing a solution-oriented mind set play a pivotal role in your growth.

I go back to thinking of a role model….and this time I have my answer. If you are looking at a role model to help you kickstart on your journey of change and new challenges, just peep in the mirror. Your role model is you. Who better than you?

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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