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Everyone needs a mentor

Everyone needs a mentor

Hurting people hurt people. The worst part is, they don’t know they’re hurting and they probably don’t know they’re hurting other people. When you’re in a leadership position and suffering from hurt, it’s hard to detect and can manifest itself in several ways.

“You can’t tell you’re hurting, you just know something doesn’t feel good,” Warwick Cooper, a counsellor and life coach with over 30 years of experience working with people who suffer from everything from depression through narcissism says. “You end up finding another way to cope with that feeling and start self-medicating to make yourself feel good. Over-eating, sex, or anything that makes us feel good.”

What’s at the root of the problem?

Imagine someone in a leadership position who’s condescending. It’s a pure jerk way to be but most likely they are acting this way to make themselves feel better due to some other hurt in their life. So the question remains: how do you fix that hurt so you can stop hurting others?

Cooper and others point to mentorship. But not just one person. The common strategy is to have five people in your life you can trust to be honest with you and it’s important at least one – and ideally more – are older than you.

Find a mentor who’s older than you

“It’s hard to take advice from people who are younger than you,” Cooper says. “ Why would you listen to them? They haven’t lived the life you have.”

Having mentors who are able to provide meaningful insight into your life without having to worry about hurting your pride or ruining a friendship is essential. Erika Andersen, a leadership coach and contributor to Forbes Magazine outlines the following qualities you should look for in a mentor

What else to look for in a mentor

  • Self-reflection: someone you want to share their wisdom with you should have spent some time thinking about their experiences
  • Discretion: if honesty is going to be key in this relationship then you need someone who can keep your confidence
  • Honesty: asking for advice knowing it might hurt is a hard choice to make and if you’re going to do it you want someone who is brave enough to be honest with you
  • Curiosity: your mentor needs to be curious about you just as much as you’re curious about being better
  • Generosity of spirit: Andersen says this is key because a great mentor wants you to succeed and a great mentor will pour themselves into you without feeling envious or threatened by your growth

Photo by Gabriela Stevens

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