Originally You! by Michael Owens
Have you ever wondered why you do the things you do? What makes you buy the clothes you wear? What makes you style your hair a certain way?
What kind of image do you project? When people look at you, how do they “read” you? What type of statements are you consciously or subconsciously making?
Television, radio, magazines and billboards continually bombard our senses with images. All of these images affect the way we think and feel. You may not realize it, but someone or something influences everything we do and say.
Another source of influence that has a huge impact on our lives are our families. Many of our likes and dislikes are picked up from our parents. For example, I prefer Pepsi® over Coca-Cola®. Why? When I was growing up, my mother only drank Pepsi®. As a result of her only buying this soft drink, Pepsi® is what I also choose to drink.
I love to watch people. Sometimes while my wife is shopping, I’ll sit on a bench in a mall and just watch the people. I like to observe the way they dress and how they act. Whether we realize it or not, someone is always watching us. Whether it’s our siblings, friends or complete strangers, somebody is paying attention to how we dress, what we say and how we treat others.
Young people watch other people to find out how they should carry themselves. Take for example a young boy. Usually his first impression of masculinity comes from his father or whoever the male role model is in his life. The same goes for a young lady. She learns how to be a woman from her mother or from someone she admires.
Role models can affect us in positive and negative ways. If our role models have a positive influence on us, the result will be a healthy self-image. Negative role models lead us astray. Their influence may lead us to think that we are acting “cool,” but in reality we end up doing stupid things that only lead to a self-destructive lifestyle.
For example, you may not think there is anything wrong with drinking, taking drugs or having sex before marriage, especially since this is what your “role model” does. However, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and addictions aren’t fun. What you may not realize is that instead of graduating from college and getting a good-paying job, your role model’s life is messed up. He or she may be in a rehabilitation program or struggling to make ends meet as a single parent.
Who Are You Following?
Over the past 12 years, I have met all kinds of young people. There have been several times when I met individuals and wondered who they had as their role models. Why? These students had bad attitudes, used foul language, were either barely clothed or had their clothes hanging off their bodies and so on. Many times the guys were trying to imitate their favorite rap artist or rock band leader while the girls were trying to imitate some half-dressed TV personality.
When I was a teenager, my image underwent several changes. At one point I wanted to be like an artist named Kwamé. I cut my hair like his and then dyed it with a blonde streak down the middle. Another time I wanted to be like MC Hammer, so I invested in the same style of parachute pants that he wore. When I got on the dance floor, however, I only succeeded in tripping over my feet!
I have many stories that I could tell you. I went through a lot trying to find my own style and self-image. I came to the conclusion, though, that it’s not good to be a cheap copy of a great original. I’d rather be a great original.
What’s In An Image?
The Word says that we have been created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). The word image means “a representation of the form and features of someone or something.” The word likeness means, “to resemble or copy.”
Is the person you allow to influence your life a good representation or copy of our Father in heaven? If not, then maybe you need to reconsider some of the relationships that you are involved in.
We must be mindful about who we allow to influence who we are. A lot of times we choose to follow a popular person or the latest fad just to be accepted. If you would stop and think about it for a moment and then take a good look at yourself, you would realize that you have just as much to offer as that other person does. In looking back, I’ve come to the conclusion that many times a popular person is not always the best person to follow.
It is critical that you use wisdom when choosing whom you allow to become a part of your social circle. There is an old saying that says, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Did you ever notice that eagles don’t hang around pigeons? Pigeons are dirty birds. They eat trash, make a mess everywhere they go and fly in packs. They are nuisances.
Do your friends remind you of pigeons? Do they have questionable characters? If you hang around them long enough, their dirt will begin to rub off on you.
Flying Above the Crowd
An eagle, on the other hand, is a majestic bird. It soars high in the atmosphere. It stands alone and is beautiful. The eagle’s reputation is that of courage and is often said to be the “king of the skies.”
This is the type of image that you should seek after. Why hang around with pigeons when you can soar like an eagle?
As you develop your self-image, you should invest more in your character and less in your reputation. Your reputation is who people say you are; your character is who you really are. In other words, character is who you are when nobody is looking. It’s always doing what’s right because it’s right.
The Word of God instructs us to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). If the people who are influencing your thinking have even an ounce of an appearance of evil, get as far away from them as you can. Allow the Lord to define who you are.
First Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no man despise thy youth [or make little of you because you are young, (The Bible in Basic English)] but be thou an example of the believers, [see that they look up to you because you are an example to them, (J. B. Phillips)] in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity, [by your conversation, your conduct, your love, your faith, and your purity (Twentieth Century New Testament)].”
To put it plainly, walk in the image and likeness of God, and you will never go wrong. He accepts you for who you are, and He ultimately knows who you will become. Imitate Christ, not others. Remember, don’t be a cheap copy of a great original. Just be a great original!