Can We Idealize Our Mentors?
It’s easy to think that everything our mentors tell us and do as being ‘perfect’. But are they as perfect as many of us believe them to be?
The reality is that many of these people we look up to are also flawed. We must realise that however smart, successful or intelligent someone is that they are still a human being. And humans have flaws. Even in the writings of Shakespeare, he plays with the idea of ‘character flaws’. So what is it about mentors that make us categorise them as ‘super-human’?
When you look to someone for advice and guidance whether that be in your personal or professional life, you assume that their guidance is perfect. We trust that this person understands our struggles because common interests or goals have brought you together in the first place. The mentor, typically being older and more experienced than you, has probably gone through a similar situation earlier in their life and this is why you are seeking guidance from them. To not repeat mistakes that can easily be avoided. Their advice might feel like it’s the only right path to follow, even if it doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. So what do you do?
Know yourself and stay true to yourself. Only take on the parts that are necessary and relevant to you. Of course, be objective when reviewing their advice and acknowledge, and thank them for it. Then explain your decision. If this person is a good coach they will respect that you have accepted their suggestions, and really thought about the situation you were seeking guidance about and make up your own mind. If you can get more than one opinion, do so! Especially if this is an important and big decision.
But at the end of the day, the choices you make need to make you happy and contribute to your life in a positive way. Of course, take caution and listen to ‘red flags’ as sometimes when we are emotionally invested in something it’s hard to detach and analyse a situation without the emotions. And that’s why mentors are great! They don’t sugar-coat things, they tell it to you how it is.
With all advice, we must remember that mentors have their personal bias based on their past experiences, good and bad, and can give us advice based on these biases. So when you think of this ‘perfect’ person, remember that they too have imperfections and not everything they do and say is ‘god-like’. When looking to our coaches wisdom we can devalue our own knowledge. Yes, you may be younger and have less experience but you also have a different type of understanding and knowledge in topics and situations that your mentor has not explored or experiences. So give yourself credit when credit is due.
Idealising our mentors is normal. But remember to remove the rose-tinted glasses and apply a critical lens when necessary. Having people in your life who genuinely want to see you succeed and be happy is a blessing and one we should be thankful for every day. But only you can know what the best path for you is and if that means making mistakes that you can learn from, then that’s your journey to pursue.