A mentor of mine recently commented on the style of a mentor/mentee relationship. Mentors enjoy guiding their mentees and showing them the ropes. But long term, they expect their mentees to champion them! Once that have passed on the tricks of the trade; they expect not to be constantly contacted with the same requests, rather to receive messages with news updates! Having been in the privileged position of mentor and mentee, I can see her position. That said, I also understand the anxiousness as a mentee to go out on my own.
When starting on an unfamiliar path or ‘getting to grips’ with a new skill, task, or job, taking the active decision to ‘detach the stabilisers’ can not only be difficult, but can even inspire anxiety or frustration. I personally find that not seeking help even though it may be readily available is a real struggle! But that is when it is imperative that I make my own decisions!
A Trip Down Memory Lane…
When I was learning to cycle, I started in my back garden. I had a pink and silver bike with tassels hanging off it. There was a picture of Barbie on the front. I was four. I needed my stabilisers. My parents were watching from the window the entire time. I was safe, because they would protect me. They wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.
Like I imagine any child would, I started off slow. A few scrapes and bumps later, I mastered the art of cycling round my small garden. I was a pro.
When I was six, I was gifted a new bicycle for my birthday. This one was purple and sparkly. The tassels were pink and silver. It was bigger. I still had stabilisers. Although I had been a world-class cyclist on the Barbie bike, this was a whole new level. I was back to being the small fish in a big pond and as I apparently shrank, my confidence shrank too. I needed my stabilisers.
After a few more bumps and scrapes, I was once again queen over my terrain. An added bonus, I was now old enough to cycle on the street. My father took me cycling. I conquered the hill we lived on. I perfected my round-about ride (small round-about on a deserted street, don’t worry!)
Then tragedy struck. They decided I was old enough to forgo the stabilisers. Stabilisers were babyish. My little sister had them.
I believed I could do it because they said I could. Daddy was watching me. Nothing bad would happen.
Then I crashed.
I collided with a silver Audi. While both vehicles survived, I was showing some wear and tear. I immediately wanted my stabilisers back.
I stood in the street for around 20 minutes, begging for my beloved babyish stabilisers. I was turned down (more than once). I cried that I wanted to walk home. My dad said he would carry me home, but first I had to get back on my bike.
Eventually, I gingerly climbed onto the death-machine, the guilty monstrosity that had purposefully steered me towards the Audi.
I took hold of the handlebars. I didn’t know it then, but I was in control. My confidence was low, but I had been in control all along. In fact, I couldn’t blame anyone but myself for my bumping into the inanimate car. I hadn’t used my breaks.
Once again my father talked me through the pedals, breaks, and steering. I didn’t believe in myself. He did. I leant on him. I wanted to borrow a bit of his confidence in me.
Draw a Line Between ‘Lending a Hand’ and ‘Reliance’
A few years later (16 to be exact), it is still tempting to go back to my parents for advice, guidance, or feedback whenever I may be in doubt. I could be a world-class writer, but I still appreciate having someone read through a blog-post and go ‘that makes sense’. It provides a boost to my self-esteem.
I was a fairly decent cook at home. Soon after I had moved out, I tried to follow a new soup recipe. I carefully selected all the ingredients to ensure they would be perfect. I printed the recipe and followed it to the ‘T’. At best, the outcome could have been considered baby food. In truth, it was downright revolting. I wanted to give up. I bought take out that night and refused to re-enter the kitchen other than to fill up my coffee mug.
Ultimately, I got back on my bicycle. It only took a day or two. The kitchen is fairly unavoidable (it’s where all the yummy stuff lives).
It can be so easy and so natural to lean on and rely on those who have guided us in the past, those who promise to be there and offer useful advice. They genuinely want what is best for us and will often be able to help make it happen.
But if we lean on those individuals too hard, who is holding the handlebars of our lives? They’re busy on their own path. If you don’t take control, nobody else will step in for you.
When we’re in familiar territory, we don’t tend to rely on others much. But if you always stay in the familiar, you will never progress, and life isn’t meant to be stationary. Betting on yourself is the scariest and most important thing you can do in your life. There will be nobody else to blame when things go wrong (and let’s face it: eventually they will because nobody is perfect). But those people who once offered to show you the ropes will be just as eager to help you then as they are now. In fact, they will be more eager, because you have shown you are worth investing in. You are worth it, because you take their investment and make it more than it once was. You do that by believing in yourself.
So go do yourself a favour, go out and cycle today, but leave your stabilisers at home.