Have you ever served as someone’s mentor?
If so, why did you do it?
If you have ever thought about becoming a mentor, for eating disorders recovery or any other reason, but didn’t follow through, what held you back?
Being a mentor can feel like a daunting task. It can feel like a lot of responsibility. Different mentoring programs are structured differently with different types of application processes. Some programs are very structured and other programs are not so structured.
If you are mentoring someone informally, there may be no structure at all beyond what you and your mentee decide in terms of when, where, and how often to meet, and what to talk about.
Mentorship relationships, like all other relationships, happen for reasons, seasons, or lifetimes. I have had many mentors throughout the years, but out of all of those relationships, only my current mentor is likely to be a mentor-for-a-lifetime partnership.
Each type of mentoring partnership is perfect in its own way. Each lends something to our journey whether we are the mentor, the mentee, or (as often happens) both!
The reasons why we may choose to mentor someone, or not mentor someone, are numerous.
Some relate to pride, some to fear, some to ego. On MentorCONNECT, where we accept a fair number of mentorship applications each month, I find it very interesting to see our applicants’ reasons for wanting to serve as a mentor.
Most are so inspiring too! They write that they want to serve because they want to give support to others. They want to stay strong in their own recovery by passing along what they have learned. They want to make the journey a little bit easier for those who are still struggling. They want others to have more support than they had when they first began recovering.
What I generally see is some degree of initial hesitation – maybe a fear that they won’t “do it right” or be “good enough” as a mentor (these of course are just vestiges of the perfectionistic eating disorder mentality – which oddly is something that serving as a mentor is ideally suited to burning away!)
But eventually, if they take the challenge on, and match with their first mentee, they find it is the most warm and wonderfully rewarding service. Their mentees are grateful. They discover that they know more than they thought they knew and are stronger in their recovery than they even realized.
And new nurturing bonds are formed that enable both participants to make continued progress in their recovery journeys…this time, side by side.
Why do we mentor? Because we are grateful. Because we crave meaning in life, and mentoring offers a tangible experience of it. Because we never want to go back to the eating disorder (one of our mentors even called mentoring an “insurance policy against relapse” – I love that description!)
Because we care, and because we were supported when we needed it most, and the human heart is programmed to “pay it forward” one life at a time.