In 2004, Donna McAleer, a West Point graduate and former Army Officer, became the coach of the Park City (Utah) High School sophomore girls’ volleyball team. At the team’s first practice, many players showed up wearing spaghetti-strap midriff tank tops, jewelry and skate-inspired tennis shoes. McAleer immediately instituted a strict dress code – no butts, breasts or bellies.
When McAleer realized that the girls not only wanted to dress like the celebrity images they saw in magazines and on TV, but also wanted to “be” like them, she knew she had to do more. “These young women [were] searching for role models [and] weren’t looking beyond what the media sells us,” McAleer explains. ” I felt that if my team could learn about some of the courageous, strong women that I served with, perhaps they would consider pursuing comparable paths of excellence.” The result: “Porcelain on Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line,” a collection of biographies about ordinary women with extraordinary stories.
Each Of Us Has An Extraordinary Story
While I’m looking forward to reading McAleer’s book, I believe that each of us has a story to tell that someone else would consider extraordinary. We tend to negate our courage and strength of character during stressful and challenging times because we’re so aware of our humanity and the feelings of doubt that also occur during those stressful and challenging times. But if we continued on through the difficult times, putting one foot in front of the other despite the self doubts, isn’t that an indicator of courage and strength and an inspiration to others?
Comparison As Self-sabotage
Sometimes we self-sabotage our belief in our value as role models by searching for that someone who did something “bigger” and more dramatic, thereby minimizing our accomplishment. For instance something more dramatic might be found in the stories of the women of West Point on The Long Gray Line. But then the comparison question becomes which of their stories is more dramatic than the other?
The Need For Role Models
While writing her book McAleer learned that, according to research by Dr. Penelope Lockwood, women need role models more than men do, and women benefit more than men do from having same-gender examples of success. That’s why it’s particularly important for women to recognize their accomplishments and share their stories. It will also diminish the need to find role models among celebrities.
A Sampler of Ordinary Women With Extraordinary Stories
There’s Lori Latimer , a paralegal in family law, whose marriage ended at the age of 47. Less than three years later, on her own, Lori started a business where she helps newly single women find their purpose and create lives full of passion, bliss and brilliance. You can meet Lori on her website, read her blog and sign-up for a free audio interview “Newly Single & Sensational: 7 Surefire Ways to Revamp Your Social Life NOW! In other words, she’s rolling and accomplishing something extraordinary. But like the rest of us she can find doing something new scary; at times paralyzing. Some nights Lori can’t sleep as she tosses and turns with doubts and fears she never even knew she had. She’s a balance of ordinary and extraordinary.
There’s Susan who chose, in the early 1980′s, to be an activist for people diagnosed with AIDS. She volunteered to help the men who developed Kaposi’s sarcoma and other terminal diseases that developed as a result of their AIDS-compromised immune systems. She held the hands of those early victims, providing them with much-needed human contact when others were too afraid they might “catch” the disease. What she did and still does for men, women, boys and girls diagnosed with AIDS is extraordinary. But like the rest of us, she also is very ordinary – a sister who picked on her little brother, ratted him out when he broke the garage window and hardly kept in touch with him once she left home - until she learned he was dying of AIDS. Even then there were times she wanted to run away, times she was mad at him and times she was afraid. She’s also a balance of ordinary and extraordinary.
There’s Marta who came to the United States 8 years ago from Ecuador. Since that time she has not seen her 3 children but she knows because of the money she sends home from her job in a factory that their bellies are full and they can go to school. This is an extraordinary act by a mother for her children. But like the rest of us when she lived with her children sometimes she yelled at them when she shouldn’t have; sometimes she was too critical and strict, other times too lax. She also questions whether she took the easy way out by leaving her children with her sister. She feels it is her sister that has done the extraordinary thing.
I think all these ordinary women did extraordinary things based on the circumstances of their lives. I think all of them are role models of what is possible.
What’s your extraordinarily ordinary story? I’ll tell you mine, if you tell me yours.
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