How to Imitate a Person You Admire

Imitation isn't only a great form of flattery. It's also a fantastic way to inhabit someone else's shoes and to grow your own self as a result. Imitating another person whom you admire or treat as a role model is the fastest way to learn anything. As babies it's how we learned about the world and how to speak, walk, and interact with others.

If you treat imitation of admirable people as a learning technique throughout your life, you'll benefit a great deal from other people's experiences and knowledge.


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    Note the difference between imitation and slavish or mindless devotion. This article is firmly about imitating character traits for your personal improvement. In other words, you are not trying to "become" the person you admire and you are not creating a shrine of fan, hero or celebrity worship to this person. The imitation referred to here is about being attracted to qualities that an admirable person has that you'd like to polish up within yourself, admiring in that person what you want to do or be more of yourself. It's likely that you're attracted to your role models precisely because they have qualities that you harbor undernourished within yourself and seeing the prominent display of these qualities in action in another sparks your desire to do the same. Through concentration on the behavior, beliefs, opinions and values of people you admire, you'll gain amazing insights into successful approaches to life, business, studies, work, etc.
    • Imitation is about character building and refinement; you remain essentially you and your own creativity and sense of self derive completely from within––you're simply seeking to improve those elements of your character that you believe important by focusing on how others have developed these aspects of themselves.
    • Do not confuse imitating others with lack of thinking for yourself. To think that would be to misunderstand the purpose of imitating the character traits of a person you admire. Indeed, you demonstrate that you are thinking for yourself by your ability to pick and choose the things you admire and believe in in others rather than simply allowing yourself to be in complete awe or dislike of another person.
    • Bear in mind all the time that this is about hitching your star to proven strategies, traits and approaches revealed through others in the belief that these elements may well work for you too.
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    Study the person you admire. You will only imitate someone successfully if you become their student. People who are too busy judging others and feeling jealousy, annoyance or regret about another person's success and achievements are unable to learn from that person because their own negativity stands in the way. Cease judging the person and start observing their approaches objectively, to identify the things they do, say and think that make such an impact on you (and on the world).
    • If this person is someone well known, read autobiographies, articles that discuss the person's successes and books or articles written by this person about topics they're expert in.
    • If you know the person or you have a chance to view them on-screen or to hear them by audio, observe or listen to them regularly. Spend as much time as needed on this––taking care to pay close attention––until you're sure you've learned enough information about the things you want.
    • Some of the things you might concentrate on include the other person's appearance (for example, how they dress, style their hair, carry themselves, etc); their manner of speaking and interacting (intonation, pauses, listening skills, responding with humor, etc.); typical ways they behave both under pressure (calm, reflectively, etc.) and in general (positive, friendly, caring, trusting, etc.); their posture and body language (typically assertive, powerful and reassuring if you've chosen a role model with great qualities), and so forth.
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    See if it is possible to meet the person if you don't already know them. Perhaps they're giving a seminar, a conference or delivering a speech somewhere. If it's business related, see if there are tour or networking opportunities where you can get to meet them in person. Perhaps it's someone in your workplace or social sphere that you've not yet actually had the chance to meet. In that case, arrange an occasion where you can meet up, over coffee or a chat perhaps. When asking to meet them, don't be afraid to explain to them that you'd like to get to know them better because you admire them for (insert reasons here). This isn't just flattery; it provides them with feedback that they're doing something positive for others and they may even see this as an opportunity to actively involve themselves in helping you to grow.
    • You might also take the chance to stop them when you happen upon them in everyday life. You could be outside the office, cafeteria, classroom, anywhere by chance. Don't let the occasion slip by––smile and say a greeting and ask them if they have a moment.
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    Get to know the person better. If you've got an opportunity to get to know the person you admire better, then seize the chance. Getting to know the person will enable you to learn more about the type of person they are and their style. If you're nervous, push beyond those nerves and say hello, comment on something they've done that has impacted you or ask them a quick question seeking advice. Help them to realize that you're genuinely interested in what they're doing by expressing your admiration for them or for the things they do, perhaps citing one or two examples. Be straight up and tell them that you'd like to get to know them a bit better. For further ideas on how to start a conversation with someone you barely know or feel overwhelmed by, see:
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    Be shameless in your imitation of people you admire. They've got the qualities you aspire to and believe in, so don't be afraid to try on their qualities for fit. You are honoring their living legacy and you're helping yourself by emulating their successes. Use what you've learned to start imitating the other person's traits, style, application, etc. Choose from the traits you most admire (such as business style, clarity in facial expressions, reassuring hand gestures or posture, application to a project, the way they talk, etc.) Start putting these elements you've noted into actual practice in your own life.
    • Start with the traits and approaches that you find easiest to imitate initially and work your way up to harder ones. Don't neglect to push yourself beyond your current boundaries though. Novelty is always scary but it's definitely worth overcoming the fear to see just how far you can change your way of thinking and acting by adapting other people's successful approaches.
    • Avoid feeling that imitation is a cop-out. Douglas Adams once summed up our reticence to learn from others most succinctly: "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." Be open to using this unique talent of ours. By overcoming your foibles about imitating another, you improve your own chances of being more successful.
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    Keep practicing until it works for you. Concentrate hard on the trait, habit or approach that you wish to emulate in this admired person and put it into practice regularly until it is near enough perfect. If you fail to adapt it or put it into practice, keep trying until it falls into place for you.
    • Obviously, you'll be adapting as you're adopting. This is natural and to be expected; you are still you and everything you adopt must be tailored to that reality. And at times, you'll find what it just doesn't work for you. That's okay too––at least you tried.
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    Keep it all in perspective. The idea of imitation in this article has been focused on locking onto the good traits and practices that work for you. The opposite extreme is to hero worship this person and to cease applying your common sense and sense of perspective in your emulation of their traits and actions. Remember that every person you admire is as human as yourself and has the same frailties. Avoid patterning your entire life and beliefs on this person or you risk ending up disappointed, hurt and possibly even devastated when that person fails to live up to your expectations. Since this is pretty much inevitable, be prepared for finding out things that dismay you as much as things that compel you. That's a sign your admired person is as human as you and experiences struggles too.
    • Cherry pick the admirable elements, discard what doesn't propel your own sense of self forward and continue to develop all sides of yourself in a well-rounded and honest way. This is about learning and improving, not about substituting personal responsibility through pretense.


  • If anyone spots that you're imitating a mentor and seeks to insult you for it, treat it like water off a duck's back. If they're unable to understand the purpose behind learning through imitation, it's not something you should be derailed by. Think how your role model or mentor would respond and do the same!
  • Imitate good people, not bad people.
  • If the person you want to imitate happens to be a celebrity, a "personality" (the term used prior to the creation of "celebrities") or someone famous in a particular field of endeavor, you might find it helpful to check out any books or documentaries about (or by) them. Fan/personal websites, television interviews or movies (if the person happens to be an actor or actress) can also be good places to start. For ideas on how to go about contacting or meeting a celebrity check out the following:
  • If you start changing the essence of yourself, such as dressing completely like the person you admire every day, mimicking all the phrases and words they say and acting like this other person rather than fostering your own uniqueness and responding to life as yourself, you risk losing your sense of self and instead allow yourself to "become" the other person (in effect, what is sometimes referred to as a "poseur"). This is a harmful form of imitation that simply results in a clone and avoids a thoughtful and meaningful exercise in character building.
  • Did you know? We subconsciously imitate the speech of conversation partners in an endeavor to "empathize" with those we talk to.[1] Indeed, we're so attuned to imitating each other, that we will imitate other people's speech patterns, inflections, talking speed, speaking time, mannerisms, postures and facial expressions. So, some of your imitating ability is already innate!


  • Not everyone will appreciate or perhaps even understand the desire to model yourself on them. It's a good idea to be open about your admiration but to be subtle about your imitation. If the person is someone you actually get to meet or, even better, can have as a mentor, they should have no difficulty in offering you at least offer a few words of advice.
  • If you have a fixation on a person and all you can do is think about them, collect news items and fan items to do with them and they have become a central figure in your life or you believe you have a special connection to them even though you don't know them, this is dysfunctional and may even be a signal of underlying psychological issues. In this case, see your doctor for advice.

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