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The Opposite of the Goal of Mentoring

Life. It happens.

I am just going to take my opportunity to state the obvious here.

Life is going to throw us some surprises.

We are going to feel disappointed, confused, hurt, clueless, hopeless, furious.

And sometimes when we are feeling any or all of those things, no one else will be around to talk to about it.

Over the years, I have watched myself struggle through these times, and later on I watched my mentees struggle as well.

I will never forget the night that one of my mentees, in the middle of just such a time as this, spent her precious sleep hours calling my fax line over and over and over again, hoping I would pick up.

This is not the goal of mentoring.

Rather, the goal of any mentor is to instill in their mentee a sense that, even if no single other soul is reachable during a time of stress or crisis, that mentee is able to be their own mentor, holding their own hand throughout, and staying by their own side until help can be found.

Or until help is no longer needed, because the mentee has resolved the crisis themselves.

This is when the true joy of serving as a mentor, or being mentored, really shines through.

We can make it - one tree-rung at a time - supporting ourselves as we go

In Beating Ana, I write about this process and how amazing it is:

Trust does not grow on trees—trust is grown on the tree of my life as I take small, daily steps out of my comfort zone,
holding my own hand for reassurance and support.

I didn’t learn how to do this in a vacuum. My mentor taught me how to do this, and reminded me over and over again that even though I could still recollect all those years when I truly had been alone, with no one by my side who could understand what I was going through or help me through it, I was not in that situation now.

She reminded me again and again that, while she might not always be immediately available to me in the very moment I thought I needed her, she was always with me, and would respond to my requests for support when she next became available.

And until then, she had absolute faith and trust that I was stronger than I thought I was, knew more than I thought I knew, and could get through whatever it was with far more ease and resilience than I thought I could.

Just hearing these messages, from my mentor whom I so trusted and admired, they became true for me too.

I believed this about myself because she believed this about me.

In time, I also was able to believe this about myself because I believed this about me for myself.

Today’s Takeaway: Where have you been using your sources of support as crisis management resources rather than steadying tools as you take one step, then another, out of your comfort zone, learning all the while how to hold your own hand for reassurance and support?

The Opposite of the Goal of Mentoring

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2010). The Opposite of the Goal of Mentoring. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 6 Dec 2010
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