Shades of Mentoring


It’s common wisdom that mentoring can make a difference in our lives whether we are mentor or mentee. And mentors can take many forms in my opinion. But I wonder how important is that our mentors look like us? Or share similar life experiences?

I recently had a very brief conversation about whether or not our mentors need to look like us and if they don’t look like us can they fully understand our experiences in the world or mentor us adequately. I have been thinking about the conversation for a bit and  in some ways this approach feels narrow when we think about mentors needing to be like us to help us. It makes me think about my training as a counselor and the idea that I think new addiction counselors often experience. The experience of feeling inadequate to help those struggling with addiction because they themselves are not struggling with addiction. I am sure there are other examples but essentially, we don’t need to suffer in the same ways to help each other.

Although, mentoring typically is not about helping each other through struggles, per se, but mentoring in any capacity will include some help with struggles because struggles are apart of all our lives in some form. Mentors who have experienced the world in ways that are different from our own can expose us to a rich tapestry of experiences which we can in turn share with others. So, instead of having mentors like us we should intentionally seek out mentors and seek to mentor others that don’t look like us.

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