In my early twenties I signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters and quickly became a mentor of a young shy 11 year old girl.
As time went on in the mentoring process, I started to second guess myself.
What could I possibly teach this girl? What do I have to offer her?
At the time I was starting off in my career as a freelance writer and designer so money came here and there. It was a struggle to pay my bills. I was still driving the same car that I bought in college–it shook and quivered with age and I felt embarrassed picking her up in it. I could barely afford to buy my young mentee a slice of pizza when we hung out together. I was struggling. I felt like such a failure.
Every time I thought to call my mentee for a visit this question nagged at me: why would she want to grow up and be anything like me?
So eventually my visits with my mentee lessened. When she reached the age of 14 her family decided to move away, so the BBBS relationship expired. I have to admit that while I was sad that I’d probably never see her again I was a little relieved that I no longer had to fight with myself over my significance and impact on her young life.
Years later, I look back and feel a little foolish for allowing those self-defeating thoughts to affect my mentoring relationship. I did have a chance to see her again recently and found that she turned out to be a beautiful, confident and ambitious teenager. She is on her way to great things, and I like to think I played a small role in that.
I am speaking to anyone who is thinking about becoming a mentor or is currently a mentor who doubts your ability to positively influence your mentee. It’s not so much about getting her to admire you or to be just like you. It’s about the attention and love you’re giving the child which she may not be getting enough of at home.
Much like adults, kids just want to feel special, listened to, attended to and understood. If you can give them that, you have done your job as a mentor.
So just because you don’t quite have life figured out yet doesn’t mean that you arent a good candidate for mentorship. Some young person out there needs exactly what you have to offer. Just give her the attention, love and positive guidance that YOU wish you had received more of as a child.
Lynn Gilliard is a writer and transformational blogger. She is the author of a self-help guide entitled Survive, Live or Thrive?and a popular relationship guide entitled Let Him Chase YOU.