I was at an event last week for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and one of the guests of honour spoke about mentorship. The idea of having a "mentor" in my life has been an important value for me for as long as I can remember. Mentor is kind of a sophisticated word... but basically I'm talking about someone you look up to, or admire.
Why is having a mentor so important? I think for most of us in young adulthood, we get a little lost along the way. So many decisions need to be made about college and careers and relationships. Influences tempt us and our own values may get a little tangled with the values of others.
During my university experience, I was consumed by my eating disorder and anxiety. Forming lasting friendships was difficult because all I wanted to do was study (so I could perform well) and isolate (so I could engage in eating disorder behaviours). Quite honestly, I spent most of my college years alone.
There was one professor, though, that I like to say really "got me through" university. She was the most kind-hearted, down-to-earth, caring, and supportive individual. She truly went above and beyond to ensure that I achieved success. She put in place so many accommodations for me, allowing me to write exams early so that I could leave for treatment, or giving me permission to write quizzes in her office before class so that my test anxiety wouldn't influence my results. She even corrected my exams right away because she knew how stressful it was for me to wait for my grades.
This professor was someone I looked up to beyond measure. She inspired me to devote myself to learning and academics. She taught me to move past diversity and recognize that we, as humans, are all in search of the same basic needs. She reminded me that she would never, ever think less of me should I receive less than an A. And she let me know that it's okay if I couldn't hold it together all the time.
I attribute my success in college to my professor. But what I learned from those couple of years at Concordia University is that I need to surround myself with people that I look up to. The eating disorder is very good at stealing your values and your rational mind, and which can make the whole concept of "living" a difficult landscape to navigate.
We all look up to different people. Fashion bloggers, lifestyle bloggers, athletes, singers, actors/actresses, social media influencers. Or even our parents, siblings, best friends, aunts/uncles, partners. What I suggest to you is to write down a list of your values. It doesn't have to be a long list... maybe just three. And then, think of all of the people in your life who act in line with those values, whether you know these people personally or not. Next, spend time with them. Reach out to them. Send them a message.
The point I'm trying to make here is that my life still gets confusing because of my eating disorder. But I have a few people in my life that I really admire based on what is important to me. And I reach out to them every now and again. I don't want to say: "I want to be just like them", because everyone leads a different life. But these people inspire me to make certain choices and perform certain actions that will ultimately lead my life in the direction I wish for it to go.
Mentorship is such an amazing concept and it can really have a positive effect on your day-to-day living. I encourage you to think about it and see if you can associate yourself with a couple of mentors that will inspire you to lead your best life.
I have to say, too, that a couple of professionals I have met throughout the course of my recovery have acted as mentors. It's a complicated relationship, this patient-professional dynamic. But I can name a HANDFUL of my team members both in Montreal and in New York who have guided me through the most difficult times of my life. Plus, everything about the way they "do things" motivates me, too. Doctors and nurses and social workers and dietitians and mental health professionals who all prioritize CAREER - something I am striving to do in my life.
People wonder why I try and keep in touch with the people I have worked with in treatment, and now you know why. It's not for nothing. Again, it's a complicated relationship. I can't text them or email them or even see them on a regular basis. But I pick up the phone and call every once and awhile. Or I stop by and visit. Those quick little "check ins" mean the world to me because not only have these people saved my life, but I aspire to live my life the way they are living theirs. Talking with them helps ground me and helps keep me focused. Plus, it re-directs me when I'm off track. That's why I keep in touch. That's why I keep them in my life.