Role Models Are The New Mentors


I saw a meme the other day about mentors. The quote was from the always fierce Dianna Ross. Ms. Ross said that mentors are important, but most importantly you need to believe in yourself. It made me think about Sheryl Sandberg and how she talks about not going around asking people to be your mentor, but doing the best job you can and those who are in a position to help you further your career will find you.

So, I had to stop and consider what I really thought about mentors. I think everyone wants someone to help mold them and lead them on the path to greatness. I think most of us even have a vision of what that person looks like in their head. Maybe a slightly older and wiser reflection of ourselves. Someone who quickly takes a liking to us, knowing that we are destined for greater things.

The truth is none of my mentors ever presented themselves in the form that I had hoped for. They were never an older and wiser version of myself. Some were even male, but I learned that finding someone who believes in you has nothing to do with the vision that you have in your head. Sheryl is right. Mentors find you because they see something in you worth mentoring. But looking up to someone who is doing something you admire isn’t about seeking out a mentor, those people are actually role models and those are great to have too.

I remember seeing one of my role models at a speaking engagement. The late great Maya Angelou spoke at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, VA a few years ago.  The place was packed.  Everyone sat on the edge of their seat hanging on to her every word. I remember feeling so honored to be in the same space with this super successful author, poet and single mother,  but what I really wanted was for it to be just her and me. In my vision I would be sitting at her feet in that chair she sat in on stage and she would stroke my hair and tell that I am doing a great job at life. I am sure there is something weird and Freudian about that image but the truth is mentors don’t just tell you how great you already are. In fact mentors should challenge you and push you to see areas in which you could improve.  If you build it, those people will come, but role models are there along the way to give you inspiration and hope.

When I first became a newly divorced single mom, I met another very cool single mom. She and I were coworkers and very quickly became friends. She seemed to manage motherhood and a social life seamlessly. She also had a beautifully decorated apartment, cool car and she always looked amazing.  I didn’t really know many other single moms at the time. Everyone in my family was married and my close friends were too. I was charting unknown waters and she was this cool yacht in the water as I paddled feverishly on my row boat, which seemed to be gaining water. Meeting her made me realize that I too could be a hip, fashionable, goal oriented single mom. It made it easier for me to patch my row boat and eventually trade it in for something sleeker.

Having role models fuels your fire. It gives you something to reach for and aspire to. Sometimes you need to see it, in order to know that it’s there. The whole reason I wrote Single Mom Chic was to hopefully inspire someone to say “I can do this” and “I can do it with style and grace.” Knowing something is possible makes it a whole lot easier to believe in yourself. Believing in myself made it a whole lot easier for the mentors to find me.

So while you are waiting for your mentor to appear here are three things you should do

Figure out who your role models are-some of my role models have been close to home like my single mom friend, my own mother and countless other women I have met along the way. I also have celebrity role models too. In Single Mom Chic I talk about  both Steve Jobs and Oprah being role models for me in different ways. Take some time to figure out what it is that you want to do well. Find someone who is doing it well and emulate them.  Keep in mind that they are human and aren’t going to be perfect. Take from them the parts you like but remember not to put them on a pedestal.

Bloom where you are planted-instead of sitting around waiting to be discovered so you can showcase your real talent. Find ways to use that talent wherever you are. No matter how mundane you find your current job there is some way you can shine. Look for ways to showcase your abilities or assist others in showcasing theirs. Sometimes in order to get you must first give.

Be open to possibilities-Erase the perfect mentor picture from your head-your mentor might not look the way you envisioned. You also might discover  role models in unexpected places. I wasn’t looking for a single mom mentor when mine presented herself. Keep your eyes open for those who you might be able to learn from.


Wishing you luck in your journey to be the best possible version of yourself!


Until Next Post,

Lips Signature

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Tonya Parker is a counselor, author and certified life coach who believes in helping women look and feel their best! Ambassador for O, The Oprah Magazine and author of Single Mom Chic

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