Mentoring Basics: Making Peace with Not Knowing
It is always such a joy and a privilege to welcome new mentors to our volunteer ranks inside of MentorCONNECT, the global eating disorders mentoring community I co-lead alongside a team of wonderful colleagues and friends.
When a new mentor starts to volunteer, often one of the biggest concerns they have is, “How will I know I am making a difference in my mentee’s life?”
They have such a strong, beautiful desire to give.
And for this reason, answering this question is also one of the toughest tasks our leadership team faces, because the truthful answer is, “You may never know if you have made a difference.”
We may never know if we make any difference at all. And even if we do make a difference, our mentees may not yet be in a place where they are comfortable enough in connecting with their own feelings to be able to find the words to tell us that we matter.
Our mentees may also not yet be in a mental or physical state of health such that they realize that having a mentor matters until much later, when they look back and see how support freely offered was a catalyst in their willingness to do the hard work of recovery.
This is why part of the preparation for becoming a mentor is to have achieved a sustained period of recovery (for MentorCONNECT, we require 12 consecutive months, but each organization might do it slightly differently), and another part of the preparation is to come into the role with an emotional life outside of our mentoring service.
If we become a mentor because we need to know that our struggles mattered, we may ask our mentees for more than they are willing or able to give. If we become a mentor because we need to know we can help others, our mentees may flee from the pressure we place on them to heal.
If, however, we become a mentor because we simply have gratitude for the support we have first received, and we wish to pay it forward for the joy of serving rather than the need to reap the fruits of that service, we may just find that we give our mentees wings to fly.
Whether we ever see them take flight or not.
Today’s Takeaway: Where in your own life can you detect mixed motives for helping others, and how can you use that knowledge to better meet your own needs so you are in a position to more freely give of your wisdom in service without needing something in return?
Cutts, S. (2011). Mentoring Basics: Making Peace with Not Knowing. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2011/06/mentoring-basics-making-peace-with-not-knowing/