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.