7 Myths About Mentoring

Over the past six years, I have been privileged to mentor young women between the ages of 8-21 years old both formally and informally. Many, but not all, of those relationships have been what I would consider successful. My heart and passion for mentorship has only continued to grow. As someone who was mentored throughout high school and well into my adult life, I can attest to the power of healthy and strong mentorship. I’ve heard many misconceptions about mentoring over the years, so I hope to shed some truth on these thoughts.

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“I don’t have anything to offer.”

Each person has been uniquely wired with certain gifts, talents, and life experiences, including you! Everyone has the ability to influence those around them, for better or for worse. Some people use their influence for positive change, while others use theirs for more personal gain. You have a unique life story that can be used to connect with or teach others. Your experiences, skills, and talents are the makeup of who you are and can always be offered to encourage, empathize, or teach.

 
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“I don’t have time.”

Most people feel that they do not have time because we imagine a cookie-cutter way to mentorship. In reality, mentorship can take on many different forms and be molded to fit with any of your life’s demands. Instead of viewing mentorship as an additional thing to add to your plate, consider it being something that you can weave into your norm! Your mentee can accompany you to the grocery store, family outings, church, an errand run, or cooking dinner.

 
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“I’ve never had a mentor, so I can’t be one.”

Although I have had consistent mentors in my life for the past 10+ years, not every other mentor has had that same experience. Instead of disqualifying yourself based on a lack of experience, let’s change the narrative to say, “I can become who I needed when I was younger.” There is a child out there right now wishing they had you in their corner. You have an opportunity to pour into the life of someone else!


 
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“I cannot relate.”

If you ever want to feel old, enter a room of middle or high school students and listen to their conversations. Most of it will go right over your head and make you feel like you have been living under a rock! Many of the young people you will be mentoring were born in a different generation, geographic location, or culture than you. Does that mean that there is no room for connection? Absolutely not! As a mentor you will learn just as much, if not more, from your mentee as they will learn from you. At Mercy Street, we call this “mutual transformation” - both participants in a mentoring relationship experience a shift in worldview, values, and understanding of God and one another.

 
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“I am responsible for all of my mentee’s decisions.”

The truth is that as a mentor you are sharing your wisdom with your mentee, but it is not your responsibility to make them do anything. You are only responsible for stewarding your influence well and walking alongside your mentee through the ebbs and flows of life. You can model behavior or spiritual wisdom, but you cannot make them take a certain path. Only the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts of mentees.

 
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“I don’t have my life together.”

The real question is, who does? It may feel tempting to say, “I’ll do it when I get all my ducks in a row.” Truthfully, what defines having our ducks in a row? Perfection is not a prerequisite to being a mentor. Self-awareness and goal-setting are important, but there is space for a mentee to walk alongside you as you grow and progress.

 
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“I can save them!”

It’s possible to subconsciously adopt a “savior complex”, which is not what mentoring is about. As mentors, we are not here to save anyone. We cannot fix every problem. We are engaging in relationships that have the ability to be mutually-transformative if we embrace the mindset that both parties have something to offer and something to learn.

 

Mentorship has the ability to transform lives but in order to do that effectively, we have to get past the myths we have believed about what mentorship is or should look like. What are some of the things that you have believed about mentorship?