Role models exposed: Why we must be our own heroes

13 min readJun 19, 2024


by our co-founder Julia Holze

I remember my school days when we once read the biography of Thomas Edison in class. Edison, who filed over a thousand patents and revolutionized the world with his inventions, was portrayed as the ultimate role model. In a moment of excitement, I decided to spend an hour every day learning something new, hoping that I too would invent something great someday. But after a few weeks, my enthusiasm waned. I realized that Edison’s success was not only based on his hard work and knowledge but also on his extraordinary persistence and endurance. His famous statement, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” illustrates his perseverance and his ability to see setbacks as learning opportunities.

Credits: Library of Congress auf Unsplash

In our modern society, role models play a central role. The call for role models nowadays is louder than ever. A standard response to the question of how we can show that change is something positive? Because through their actions and successes, role models inspire us and serve as examples. These role models can come from various fields — be it science, sports, arts, or entrepreneurship. They show us that certain goals are achievable and provide a guide on how we can achieve similar successes. Historical figures like Marie Curie or modern role models like Malala Yousafzai have inspired thousands of people to pursue big dreams and make significant contributions to their communities.

While the importance of role models seems undisputed, the focus of this article is to shed light on an important truth: Role models can inspire us, but real change begins with ourselves. Self-efficacy, the belief in one’s ability to master challenges and bring about change, is the key to sustainable success. This article examines how role models can motivate us and why ultimately it is our own inner strength and determination that truly propel us forward.

When we think of the inspiring stories of role models, we quickly recognize their power. But how often have we tried to imitate their paths, only to realize that simply following them is not enough? This is where understanding self-efficacy comes in, which goes far beyond mere imitation.

Radiant role models and their influence

Role models have a remarkable ability to inspire and motivate people. They show us what is possible and give us the feeling that we can achieve similar successes. These positive influences are evident in various areas of our lives:

1. Motivation and role models
Role models can provide tremendous motivation. When we hear or read the stories of successful individuals, we often feel encouraged to pursue our own goals. An example of this is Malala Yousafzai, who fought for the right to education despite extremely adverse circumstances. Her story inspires countless people worldwide to stand up for their beliefs and never give up.

2. Fostering self-confidence and ambitions
Through role models, we gain confidence in our own abilities. They show us that even great obstacles can be overcome. A student who hears the story of Marie Curie may realize that he or she too can make a significant scientific discovery. Role models set high standards and help us set ambitious goals that we may not have otherwise considered.

3. Broadening Horizons
Role models help us expand our perspectives. They open our eyes to new possibilities and paths that we may not have seen before. For example, astronaut Mae Jemison has inspired many young people, especially girls and minorities, to pursue careers in space exploration and the sciences. She shows that the sky is literally the limit when we believe in ourselves and work hard.

4. Value Transmission and Ethical Orientation
Role models can impart important values and ethical principles to us. Through their actions and decisions, they teach us integrity, perseverance, courage, and compassion. Nelson Mandela is an example of a role model who, through his life and principles, has taught millions of people to fight for justice and peace, even in the face of great personal sacrifice.

These positive influences of role models are undeniably valuable. They serve as beacons that guide us on our journey and encourage us to become our best selves. Yet as inspiring as they may be, real change ultimately begins with ourselves. While role models can show us the way, we must summon the courage and determination to actually walk that path. And this is where self-efficacy comes into play.

When role models alone are not enough

Role models can undoubtedly be immense sources of inspiration and propel us forward on our journey. However, there are limits to their effectiveness. Here are some reasons why role models alone are not sufficient:

1. No Guarantee of Personal Transformation
Admiring and emulating role models can motivate us, but it does not automatically guarantee our success. Every individual is unique and has their own strengths, weaknesses, and circumstances. What worked for a role model may not necessarily yield the same result for us. We must find our own paths and overcome our own challenges.

2. Dependency on Individual Efforts
Role models can show us the way, but ultimately, we must do the work ourselves. Their successes are the result of hard work, determination, and often luck. We cannot expect a role model to serve success to us on a silver platter. We must be willing to put in the necessary efforts and take responsibility for our own lives.

3. Incomplete Insights
Often, we only see the success stories of role models and not the setbacks and sacrifices they experienced along the way. We tend to idealize their successes and underestimate their challenges. It’s important to recognize that role models also make mistakes and face obstacles. Their stories can encourage us, but they should also remind us that the path to success is rarely straightforward.

4. Limited Applicability
Sometimes, a role model’s experiences and strategies may not directly apply to our situation. An entrepreneur who built their company from scratch may inspire us, but their methods may not be suitable for our industry or our individual goals. We must be able to extrapolate the principles and lessons from role models and adapt them to our own needs.

Recognizing the limitations of role models does not diminish their significance. On the contrary, they continue to serve as shining examples and sources of inspiration. But to be truly effective, we must be willing to go beyond the boundaries of role models and find our own path. It is this ability for self-efficacy that makes the difference between mere admiration and actual success.

Self-Efficacy: The Key to Effectiveness

Self-efficacy, the concept that goes far beyond mere inspiration, plays a crucial role in achieving our goals and overcoming challenges. Coined by the renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, the concept refers to the belief in our ability to influence our lives and successfully cope with challenges. In other words, self-efficacy is the confidence that we can take the necessary actions to achieve our goals, even when obstacles arise.

1. Development through Experiences
Our self-efficacy is shaped by our experiences. When we repeatedly succeed in overcoming challenges, our confidence in our abilities increases. On the other hand, failures or negative experiences can lead to a decrease in our self-belief. However, Bandura emphasized that self-efficacy is not a static trait but can develop over time through experiences and learning.

2. Influence of Modeling and Feedback
In addition to our own experiences, modeling and feedback can also influence our self-efficacy. When we see others succeed and overcome similar challenges, it can strengthen our belief in our own abilities. At the same time, constructive feedback can help improve our self-belief by helping us recognize our strengths and work on our weaknesses.

3. Dealing with Challenges
People with high self-efficacy often see challenges as opportunities for personal development and growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. They are willing to face challenges and believe they have the skills to be successful. Even if they fail, they see it as an opportunity to learn and improve their skills for the future.

The concept of self-efficacy offers an alternative perspective to simply admiring role models. While role models can inspire us, ultimately it is our own self-efficacy that determines whether we are successful or not. By believing in our own abilities and being willing to make the necessary efforts, we can achieve our goals and find our own path to success.

Self-Reflection: The First Step in Strengthening Self-Efficacy

After introducing the concept of self-efficacy, it is important to understand how we can strengthen it in our own lives. Self-reflection and initiative play a crucial role in this process.

Self-reflection is the process of consciously thinking about our thoughts, feelings, actions, and experiences. By better understanding ourselves, we can identify our strengths and weaknesses, clearly define our goals, and develop a plan to achieve them.

1. Importance of Self-Analysis
The first step in strengthening our self-efficacy is to honestly examine and reflect on ourselves. We should ask ourselves what motivates us, what blocks us, and what steps we can take to achieve our goals. This self-reflection allows us to clearly define our goals and develop a realistic plan for their implementation.

2. Developing Personal Goals and Strategies
Based on our self-reflection, we can set specific goals that align with our values, interests, and abilities. It is important for these goals to be challenging yet achievable. We should also be aware of the steps required to achieve these goals and develop strategies to overcome obstacles.

3. Regular Review and Adjustment
Self-reflection is an ongoing process. We should regularly review our progress and be willing to adjust our goals and strategies as needed. If we find that certain approaches are not working, we should be open to change and look for new ways to achieve our goals.

By reflecting on ourselves and clearly defining our goals, we can strengthen our self-efficacy and increase our chances of success. Self-reflection allows us to realistically assess our skills and resources and develop a clear plan for achieving our goals. It is the first step on our journey to effectiveness and fulfillment.

Through Action and Learning to Strengthen Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is not just a passive belief in our abilities; it also requires active engagement and continuous learning. Through active learning and adaptation, we can further strengthen our self-efficacy and enhance our effectiveness in life.

1. Learning through Experience
One of the most effective methods for strengthening self-efficacy is learning through direct experience. When we face challenges and successfully overcome them, our confidence in our abilities increases. These experiences help us develop a sense of competence and solidify our beliefs about our capabilities.

2. Viewing Mistakes as Learning Opportunities
Mistakes and failures are inevitable on the path to self-efficacy. Instead of viewing them as setbacks, we should see them as opportunities for learning. By learning from our mistakes and adjusting our strategies, we can improve our skills and increase our chances of future success.

3. Flexibility and Adaptability
Self-efficacious individuals are flexible and adaptable. They recognize that circumstances are constantly changing and that they need to adjust their strategies accordingly. By being open to change and willing to explore new avenues, they can successfully respond to challenges and achieve their goals.

4. Continuous Development
Self-efficacy is a dynamic process that requires continuous development. We must be willing to constantly learn and evolve to achieve our goals and be successful. This requires an open attitude towards new experiences and a willingness to learn from our experiences.

By actively learning and adapting, we can further strengthen our self-efficacy and improve our effectiveness in life. By facing challenges, learning from our experiences, and adjusting our strategies, we can boost our confidence in our abilities and maximize our chances of success.

The Importance of Determination and Perseverance

While adaptability and openness to change are important aspects of self-efficacy, the ability to consistently take action and persevere is also crucial for our success.

1. Determination and Goal Orientation
Self-efficacious individuals are characterized by their determination and goal orientation. They have clear goals in mind and are determined to achieve them, regardless of the obstacles they may face. This determination drives them to work hard and stay focused on their goals, even when the going gets tough.

2. Dealing with Setbacks and Frustration
The path to success is rarely straightforward, and self-efficacious individuals are aware of this. They know that setbacks and frustrations are inevitable, but they do not let them discourage them. Instead, they see these challenges as opportunities for growth and further development of their skills. They remain flexible and adapt their strategies to deal with changes and stay on course.

3. Perseverance and Endurance
Perseverance is one of the most important qualities of self-efficacious individuals. They do not give up when the going gets tough; instead, they persist in their efforts with endurance. Even when the road is long and arduous, they remain focused and keep their eyes on the prize. Their unwavering commitment often pays off when they finally achieve their goals and celebrate successes.

4. Self-Reward and Self-Motivation
Self-efficacious individuals reward themselves for their successes, thereby strengthening their motivation and self-worth. They acknowledge their progress and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small they may be. This positive reinforcement helps them to continue working hard and giving their best, even when the challenges are daunting.

Implementation and perseverance are crucial for the success of self-efficacious individuals. By steadfastly adhering to their goals, dealing with setbacks, and demonstrating endurance, they can strengthen their self-efficacy and maximize their chances of long-term success.

Role Models as Guides: Inspiring Stories and Clear Goals

After examining the synergistic connection between role models and self-efficacy, it is exciting to explore examples and success stories of well-known personalities that demonstrate how the combination of external inspiration and inner conviction can bring about transformative change.

1. Oprah Winfrey: From Childhood Trauma to Icon of Success
Oprah Winfrey is an outstanding example of the transformative power of self-efficacy and role models. Despite a difficult childhood and numerous challenges, she managed to become one of the most influential personalities in the world. Oprah drew inspiration from figures like Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks and found motivation in her own inner strength to pursue her goals. She used her platform to encourage others and show that it is possible to succeed even in the most difficult circumstances.

2. Nelson Mandela: From Prisoner to Peacemaker
Nelson Mandela is another impressive example of the transformative power of self-efficacy and role models. Despite 27 years in prison and years of oppression by the apartheid regime in South Africa, Mandela not only freed himself but also became a symbol of peace and reconciliation. Mandela drew inspiration from figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and found in his own inner conviction the strength to fight for the freedom and justice of his people. His story shows that even the most adverse circumstances can be overcome when one believes in their own abilities and is guided by inspiring role models.

3. Steve Jobs: From Setback to Technology Visionary
Steve Jobs provides a fascinating example of how self-efficacy and inspiration from role models can lead to impressive transformation. After dropping out of college at a young age and later even being ousted from his own company, Apple, Jobs could have easily lost courage. However, he drew inspiration from role models like Bauhaus design and the concept of “Zen,” which ultimately led to his return to Apple and the development of revolutionary products like the iPhone. His story demonstrates that self-efficacy and the ability to draw inspiration from others, even from the greatest setbacks, can lead to success.

These case studies and success stories vividly illustrate the transformative power of self-efficacy and role models. By believing in their own abilities and being guided by inspiring role models, these individuals were able to experience outstanding transformations and realize their dreams. Their stories serve as an inspiring example that anyone, regardless of circumstances, has the potential to achieve greatness if they believe in themselves and work hard towards their goals.

Inspiration in Everyday Life: Personal Stories of Founders

However, we believe it is much more important to appreciate the stories of everyday heroes, particularly in the context of founders and entrepreneurs. These personal stories demonstrate how, even on a smaller scale, the combination of role models and self-efficacy can bring about transformative change.

1. The Single Mother Founder Who Achieves Her Dreams
A single mother founder, who despite numerous obstacles and the responsibility of her family, pursues her entrepreneurial dreams, can show other mothers how to successfully balance family life and starting a business. She juggles the daily challenges of life as a single mother and still takes the necessary steps to build her business. Her story is an inspiring example of determination, organizational skills, and the ability to overcome obstacles.

2. The Student Who Starts a Successful Startup Against All Odds
A student who, despite adverse circumstances and many prejudices due to lack of industry experience among other factors, wants to start a successful startup, can seek role models in various fields to strengthen his self-efficacy. He can draw inspiration not only from successful entrepreneurs but also from people in other fields who have been successful against all odds. This wide range of role models shows him that self-efficacy and success are not limited to a specific context but require universal principles and a certain mindset that apply in different areas of life.

3. The Elderly Person Who Starts a Business in Retirement
An elderly person who, despite their age and the associated challenges in retirement, decides to start a business, illustrates that self-efficacy knows no age limits and that it is never too late to realize the dream of owning a company. This person proves that life experience and wisdom can be valuable resources for starting and running a business. Their story is an inspiring example of courage, determination, and the belief that it is never too late to take new paths and realize one’s dreams. Role models can help her recognize that self-efficacy is an inner conviction that can be strengthened at any time in life.

These personal stories of founders demonstrate how the power of role models and self-efficacy can bring about transformative change in the entrepreneurial context. They are examples of determination, perseverance, and the belief that through personal strength and conviction, one can achieve their goals regardless of external circumstances. Their stories are proof that self-efficacy is not only relevant for famous personalities but also for the everyday lives of founders and their path to success.

Conclusion: Self-Efficacy in Action

The stories of everyday heroes illustrate that self-efficacy is not just an abstract theory but a practical reality that is effective in every life context. By believing in our own abilities and drawing inspiration from various role models, we can overcome obstacles and achieve our goals.

The diversity of experiences shows us that self-efficacy does not depend on external circumstances but is an inner attitude that everyone can develop. Whether single parents, students, or retirees — everyone can realize their dreams if they believe in themselves and work hard towards their goals.

In conclusion, we should remember that self-efficacy is not a passive trait but must be actively cultivated. We are not just spectators in our own lives but creators of our own reality. Therefore, we should have the courage to change ourselves, step out of our comfort zone, and pursue our dreams.

Let us use the inspiration from the stories of everyday heroes to fully realize our own potential and positively influence the world around us. Let us collectively believe in a future where self-efficacy is not just a possibility but a reality for each and every one of us.




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