Professional Development

Why having an anti-role model can be a good thing

Written by Eric Titner

We’re all aware of the value of having a role model in our lives—someone we can look up to and aspire to be like, a person who embodies the success and happiness, personal characteristics, behaviors, and mannerisms we hope to someday see within ourselves and have others notice within us. Having this sort of idealized model for us to measure ourselves up against can be beneficial in many ways. They can keep us motivated and on track as we work toward the individual goals we set out for ourselves. They can help us resist negative temptations and influences that could threaten to derail us. They can anchor our ambitions and concretely determine what we need to do in order to achieve the level of success, ambition, and happiness we envision for ourselves.

The benefits of having a positive role model in our lives sounds like a no-brainer—but have you ever thought about the power of having an anti-role model and what it can do for you? It may sound strange or counterintuitive at first, but keep reading—there is a clear case to be made for why having an anti-role model in your life can be a good thing.

What is an anti-role model?

Let’s start off with a quick definition of an anti-role model. They represent the exact opposite of a positive role model—it’s someone who embodies the opposite behaviors, traits, and trajectory that you want to have in yourself and your life. An anti-role model often comprises everything that you want to work against and avoid as you plan your life and make progress toward your personal goals.

Use negativity to motivate you to be your best self

Despite the negative connotations that immediately spring to mind when thinking about anti-role models, the truth is they can be powerful forces for good in our lives. Knowing what we don’t want to be can be just as powerful as watching someone who always does the right thing in any given situation. The eagerness to avoid becoming an unwanted version of ourselves can be a real impetus for positive change, and when forging our life paths it’s just as helpful to know what things we’d like to avoid as it is knowing where we’d like to end up.

Set up your ideal career path early on

For many of us, this process of figuring out who we want to become stems from a series of trial and error events, and often-painful life lessons. However, having an anti-role model early on can go a long way to helping you avoid having to make some pretty big mistakes. An anti-role model can also equip you with a set of ethical and moral guidelines and boundaries to adhere to as you journey through life and try to be your best self.

Knowing who you don’t want to be can help you figure how who you do want to be. The bottom line is this: if you imagine life as a journey along a path that you set for yourself, knowing the direction you don’t want to move in can be just as helpful as being aware of the right direction for you and can keep you from making a wrong move and getting lost.

So, have we convinced you of the potential benefit of having an anti-role model in your life? If so, and you know someone who may fit the bill in this capacity, then consider using your association with them as a positive force for motivation, direction, and change in your life. Good luck!

About the author

Eric Titner

Eric is a NYC-based editor and writer, with years of experience in career-focused content development across a wide range of industries.