Mentorship and I have never mixed well.
The idea of being a mentor to someone else sends my anxious brain into a tailspin. It took years of motherhood before I was comfortable being a parent which is the ultimate mentorship. (And frankly, sometimes I still feel completely clueless — most parents do). I can’t imagine mentoring someone else for a shorter duration and convincing myself I wasn’t fucking them up.
Being mentored by someone else feels strange, too. There’s an element of you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do (yes, I know, mentors guide more than tell). I recognize the irony of being a submissive woman who’s happy to let John Brownstone lead, guide, and direct — but who doesn’t want anyone else to do it.
Bigger irony — I’ve been mentored before, and quite well, by a former boss and very close friend. Of course, she says she didn’t really teach me much. She always says she “found” me this way — strong work ethic, desire to succeed, and a willingness to shut up and pay attention. But I learned a lot from her — including how to give fewer fucks. (Too bad that lesson didn’t stick long-term.)
And I give advice for a living which makes me something (to anyone willing to listen to me, that is).
So what am I, and how do I reconcile my visceral recoil at the idea “mentorship” with my burning desire to share what I know and to help people, to see them succeed and find their own way? I legitimately get a kind of high when I talk to people and share what I know — through a blog post, podcast, video, and yes, when I speak at events like Eroticon. I fucking love it.
Mentorship conjures up too much responsibility in my mind. My imposter syndrome won’t let me call myself that. If I am a “mentor” to anyone else, I’ll let them decide, but please don’t call me a mentor. My brain might explode from the self-induced pressure.
I’m not a guru (that’s an awful word). Expert doesn’t fit. I’m barely an expert on myself, and I live with me every moment of the day. I’m uncomfortable calling myself an educator, but I have. Although hat’s only because someone I admire and respect who is a legit educator called me one first.
I’m a helper, I think.
I offer up what I know for anyone who wants the information. You can do with it what you will — reject it, accept it, act on it, ignore it.
Can I guide or lead people? I don’t know. When I have, it’s been quite by accident.
I’m a sharer. Maybe that’s a better word. I share my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and knowledge. My point-of-view and methods aren’t the only options. They’re just one course of action in a series of infinite possibilities. But I often frame my writing in ways that make it clear I think people should consider the options I’m presenting.
I believe in finding our own path, rejecting the status quo, and doing what feels right for ourselves as individuals. Which is hilarious because my anxious brain desperately wants me to conform and fit in, so that I never feel like an “other” in the world — while also finding the “right” answer because perfectionism is a thing. But every success (a subjective word that isn’t just about money or notoriety) I’ve had came from being true to myself and walking my own path.
So how the hell could I guide someone down their own path when they have to fight their own battles and figure out their own way? Fuck if I know.
Basically, I don’t like the word “mentor” because it makes me anxious and brings up feelings of unworthiness, responsibility, and pressure. But I want to do what mentors do.
I don’t know how to reconcile those two facts.
Maybe it goes back to finding my own path. Rejecting a title but focusing on action. Doing things in a way that seem right for me. Sharing what I know with those interested in hearing it.
And if that’s a way to define mentorship, I think it’s important to remember that any of us can be a mentor to anyone else. In fact, many of us are, even if we don’t realize it.
Also, calling myself a “mentor” feels pretentious, but maybe that’s my anxiety and imposter syndrome talking.
Welcome to Wicked Wednesday, where you’ve just read through a weird stream of consciousness about why the word “mentor” bothers me. I’ve solved no problems here or even figured out what I really think about mentorship. I’m terrified of fucking it all up (and by all, I mean literally everything I do) but something deep inside compels me to keep doing what I’m doing — sharing and helping. If you find meaning in that, you’re doing better than I am right now. For something sexier or just more concise, click the button below.
Between listening to all (I think) your podcasts and reading plenty of your work, I have definitely witnessed your skills in leadership, mentorship, and education. So while you may not feel comfortable embracing the title of mentor, perhaps something like Cautious Guide would be easier. It comes across, for me at least, that you consider your role before offering any direct advice on how to do anything and are always quick to remind all that the things are just what is right for you. Not claiming expertise makes you more genuine and authentic…IMHO.
That being said, I’m glad I’m not the only one that struggles with the confidence I associate with some labels.
Hugs right back. And thank you. That’s exactly what I’m trying to convey and I weigh my words VERY carefully before I share them. I also love talking about these kinds of things with people — I was in my element at Eroticon, and I really want to do live events with Loving BDSM as well as some other things online with Smutlancer. But I definitely need a different title for all of it.
Just give me plenty of lead time, definitely wouldn’t want to miss y’all!
I think I like the words ‘helper’ and ‘sharer’ a lot better than ‘mentor’ and ‘coach’. I would never refer to myself using the last two words, and if someone would tell me that they see me like that, I would feel the panic in my head, because that’s just not who I am. I totally understand your feelings on this, and actually share your opinion entirely! <3
I’m so glad I’m not alone in that one. I am contemplating doing some of the work that a “mentor” might do, but I definitely need another title for it.
While you may not see yourself as a mentor after sitting in on your session at Eroticon you do have a lot to give others. Maybe “influencer” would be a good word for you.
“Influencer” in its former definition, maybe. What it’s become today? Maybe not. But I think it’s better to let other people decide that for themselves.
It is a loaded word. And it comes with a lot of pressure and expectation. Though I know lots of people do see you as a mentor. Maybe we should just say “fuck labels” and go about our business. I’ll just call you Kayla.
I’m good with “fuck labels” and I always answer to Kayla. 😀
I understand what you mean – I think you are an educator – I learn so much from your different sites
I am so glad that you do!
Yes, ‘helper’ and ‘sharer’ are terms I’m more happy to adopt for myself. The idea of being a mentor, especially in D/s terms, is very uncomfortable for a submissive. I’ve had to consciously avoid being cast as a mentor – I guess I really hate the idea of being responsible for what someone else thinks and expects.
Spot on: “So how the hell could I guide someone down their own path when they have to fight their own battles and figure out their own way? Fuck if I know.”
I wonder if it’s part of my submissive self, too — the dislike of mentorship as a label. Which is hilarious because sometimes I really love telling people what I think they should, lol. People are complicated (including me).
I like Brigit’s approach to this. “Fuck labels”. You’re very much a helper though. Problem solver or a force as I deem most of the scorpios in my life.
Scorpios definitely make themselves known, lol. And yeah, I’m thinking “fuck labels.”