In today’s video, I’m going to talk about “anti-role models,” a subject often overlooked in discussions in personal development.

Read or watch below to learn more about a unique anti-role models exercise.

Zachary Stockill: You’ve probably heard of “role models” before. A role model is someone you look up to, someone you feel some connection or kinship with, an example of a life that you want to lead, or at least an example of the kind of life you’re interested in leading.

What I don’t hear people talk about enough and what I think is equally valuable is looking to what I call ‘anti-role models’.

In other words, people you feel some sort of kinship with, whose lives you do not want to emulate.

In today’s video, I’m going to go a little deeper into this idea and share some of my thoughts about anti-role models.

Some people refer to anti-role models as “shadows” or counterexamples, but I like the term anti-role model.

In my life, I’ve met a few men in particular, and I had many things in common with these guys.

Maybe I had similar interests, passions, or demons. But I’d encounter these men, or I’d even read about these men.

Sometimes it wasn’t someone I knew personally. I just hear stories about their life, and I feel a certain connection there.

Maybe we’re similar kinds of people. We’re vulnerable to the same whims and desires.

We want a lot of the same things. I feel some kind of connection to them. And sometimes I found their lives go off in really tragic and unfortunate directions.

Because they let these demons get the best of them, they start making bad choices. They don’t live up to their own ideals.

And they fall victim to many of the same pitfalls that in some alternative universe, or galaxy, If I think about it, I could see myself falling victim to.

I could see myself battling those same demons. I can see myself making those same wrong choices.

To give you some practical examples, I’m not going to give you any names, but I’ll give you some practical examples of what I’m talking about.

As I’ve mentioned on this website several times for my entire life, to some extent I’ve struggled with my weight.

I put on weight very easily. I love food, wine, a lot of the finer things in life.

And unfortunately, when you’re a guy like me when you have a metabolism like me, it’s very easy to put on weight.

I mean, I look at a cheesecake and I gain five pounds. That’s kind of one of the things I’ve had to struggle with in my life.

And there’s a version of me I know somewhere in some alternative universe. That decides to say, you know what, to hell with it.

I’m going to eat that entire cheesecake, drink eight bottles of wine, and go nuts at a burrito stand. Completely lacking any kind of discipline when it comes to what they eat.

Alternative universe Zach is out there somewhere clocking in around 300 pounds. And the reason I know that is because I’ve met some of my anti-role models.

an-overweight-man-sitting-on-the-chair

I’ve met guys who feel the same way that I do about enjoying food, enjoying wine, and they’re built the same way that I’m built. They have a similar metabolism.

They’re around the same size as me. They’re roughly as physically active as I usually am.

So I’ve seen up close and personal through some acquaintances that I’ve met, through some people I’ve just heard about, through some friendships that I’ve had. I’ve seen what can happen if I let my worst impulses take over.

I’ve met some of my anti-role models, and these people have served as a bit of an inspiration for me.

In other words, I’ve looked at these men with whom I share this similar relationship with food, I look at the way their lives are turning out, their weight, the way they look, and I say, I don’t want that.

I don’t want that to be me. And I know that it could be me if I make bad choices.

I’ll give you another example, another very personal example. I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment recently for various reasons relating to my personal life, my business life, and my creative life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole idea of commitment. My relationship with that word, my relationship with that concept in many areas of life.

Over the years, I’ve cultivated several acquaintances, whom we’ll call those who fear commitment. I share many interests and personality traits with these men.

Yet, I’ve observed how their fear of commitment in various areas of life leads to a misery they don’t fully comprehend.

So again, another very specific example is a friend of mine who’s very restless. And I think part of his restlessness could be attributed to the fact that he lacks commitment in just about every area of his life.

So in a certain sense, he is one of my anti-role models. I feel a kinship with this person. We have a lot in common.

But I look at their life and I think:

“If I made certain choices, my life could turn out that way.”

I could fall down some of the same rabbit holes. I could end up on the same path, and I don’t want that.

This can be a very fruitful mental exercise to try later. Consider journaling to get clear on this: who are your anti-role models?

And they don’t have to be people you know. They can be a certain celebrity or even a historical figure who you feel some kind of kinship with. Who are your anti-role models?

How are you potentially vulnerable to the same demons? And what could happen to your life if you made similar choices?

It’s important to have role models in life, I believe.

It’s important to have a North Star and some direction in terms of what you’re aiming at.

But it’s equally important to realize what you’re running away from.

What could happen if you make bad choices, if you give in to some of your weaker impulses?

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Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of RetroactiveJealousy.com, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.