By: Will Kuenzel, Owner Low Country Strength
Three years ago, I became a father. At first, it’s terrifying. You’re walking around like you’re carrying a live bomb. Either it’s going to poop all over you or break out in one of those horrifying crying fits and you have no idea why. As the confidence starts to build up, it’s less terrifying and much more enjoyable. You get into a rhythm and start to figure it out. They grow a bit and can crawl then walk. Life seems to be getting a little easier as they start to become a bit more independent.
Just as you start to think you’ve got your groove, it suddenly goes terrifying again. It wasn’t until I was feeding our dogs one day that I realized just how much my daughter was watching me. She always wanted to help, so I let her. I would always make the dogs lay down before I would feed them. Both dogs were standing there as my daughter held one bowl. She looked at the biggest one. Buddy is a hundred-pound white German Shepherd drooling a puddle of slobber on the floor in anticipation of his meal. My daughter looks him straight in the eyes and without hesitation and with complete sense of authority, tells him to “down”. She only says it once. He obeys. I never told her to do this. She picked it up. She watches.
My wife and I started to realize more and more just how much she was watching us, listening to us. We were having a conversation in the kitchen one day about lunch, and from another room our daughter chimes in with what she wants. We thought she wasn’t pay any attention. She was playing quietly but definitely playing. Now, I’m sure this is something most parents are already aware of but for us it’s new. It’s shocking. We are slowly becoming more and more aware of our impact on our children.
Actions speak louder than words. I come to fully understand that phrase now. As my daughter comes into that age where she starts asking questions (and the dreaded, “why” phase) it becomes more and more apparent that despite what I might say or tell her, the things I do carry more weight. I’m much more than just a mentor, I’m a role model. She looks up to me… for now. We all know they grow up eventually and parents become embarrassments. While I carry this role, it’s a heavy burden but one I carry with pride and will do my best to provide the best example.
There’s many variations on the saying, “character is who you are when no one is looking.” This holds true but much more so in this current day-in-age. Right now, social media makes it almost impossible to have time when no one is looking. Technology makes it easy to see more into the lives of others than ever before. As a parent, we know what it’s like to be constantly observed. We are aware that we’re never alone. Ever tried going to the bathroom by yourself when you have a toddler? It probably doesn’t happen. Social media is everybody’s toddler. It’s always following. It’s always listening. You can try to delete something but the internet is forever. The internet never forgets.
We are always being watched. We are no longer just being viewed by those personally around us. Social media gives others a huge insight to our own lives, as well as theirs. This insight can be good and bad. This brief snapshot into the lives of other people is often heavily filtered. We can essentially pick and choose the best highlights from the day to show off. In the Kuenzel household at night, we play a game “high/low”. We go around the table at dinner and talk about our highs and lows for the day. Social media is essentially that game but only the highs.
This constant bombardment of highs can be quite enchanting. It’s easy to get caught up in following someone else’s lavish lifestyle or happy life events. This enchantment can lead to the idea that they’re doing something better than us and if they’re mimicked then the rewards are ours to reap. Hence a bit of a role model is born.
Other role models might be celebrities, athletes, or even Instagram celebrities. We can admire what they do, how they act, how they live. They can either have attributes we strive to have or athletic ability we desire. So, we end up following them through social media, hoping to glean an idea of their life that made it happen for them. What is their nutrition like? What is their supplement usage? What is their training regimen? What are the things that they’re doing that we are not?
As a coach or sponsored athlete, we have an obligation to be the best role models we can be. It should be an honor. It should be held in high regard. To help mold another person’s train of thought is a privilege. The words we say and the actions we make echo who we are and resonate with others. When a person is granted an audience, do not lead that audience astray. Young minds are easily swayed. People looking for answers can find them in odd places. Be the answer someone might be looking for.
Every day, I live my life with the question in the back of my mind, “what would my daughters think?” At some point, they’ll be on social media. I’m not so naïve to think that I can shelter them forever. What will they see when they go back and see their old man posting online? Was he helpful or was he hateful? Was I the man I always seemed to be or did I lead two lives?
I’ve been a personal trainer and powerlifting coach for over 10 years. I would like to think that I’ve had some type of positive impact on the people around me. I want to have a positive impact on those around me. Being an inspiration or role model is more than who you are in front of the audience but how you are behind the curtains. Eventually word gets out. Either someone will tell my daughters who I was or my daughters will tell the world who I am. Are they the same person? I hope so. I hope to be the role model, parent, and mentor that I want them to have so that they can be as successful as they can be.