Practice What Your Preach. Follow Your Own Advice

Trying to be a mentor for myself

These inner dialogs I have with myself (and who doesn’t? we surely talk to each other several times a day. wait, we’re supposed to be one person now, typing these lines) — you see the point… Why not try putting them to greater use?

Most of the time, I’m good with giving advice. My friends often turn for me for various sorts of opinion on life; and because they remain my friends, and sometimes come back for more advice, I think I’m not too shabby with it. The one person I’m terrible advising is myself. Things are much clearer from the outside; you recognize patterns instantly, and the conclusions are easy to come to. With self-advising, though, I mostly run in circles, sometimes hitting the same walls over and over again, seemingly without any lessons learned. So then, why not turning that voice inside your head into a mentor? Living human mentors are hard to find for various reasons, while I’m always here for me.

For sure, I’m not delusional: I realize that it’s not easy to get out of my head, and there’s a reason for soliciting second opinion. Whereas these multiple personalities live inside your head, it can hardly be considered ‘second opinion’ per se. But in most life scenarios, I know what to do, and I’m perfectly capable of providing sensible advice; the only (yeah, really minor, as if) trick is to follow it.

Why not treat my ‘other self’ as an external mentor, and hold myself accountable for following my own advice?

One thing to do is provide yourself with structure. Allocate some time, at least once a week, for a ‘mentor session’. Grab a cuppa, and talk to yourself about the situation. Take a step back, abstract yourself from your own fears and busyness, and try to see a pattern behind it all. Simplify the case as if it were not you, but a generic someone you’re talking about. Then, again, get inside your head, and also inside your heart: look closely at what you really want. What are your own ambitions, desires and, essentially, goals? Goals come from somewhere. Make sure yours come from your heart and soul. Then make an action plan. It’s different for different people. If you’re trying to create a habit, start small and achievable, and next time talk to yourself about your progress. If it’s something that you’ve been postponing every time for the past few weeks (whoa, months already!), ask yourself why this is happening. Should you grin and bear, and get through this rough patch, or can you simply drop the issue completely? And so on. Advise, listen, do, repeat.

Get on the other side of things. Be a mentor to yourself. Like with friends, when advising yourself, don’t always push. We are usually harder on ourselves than we are on others. Know when to be gentle, and when a good kick in the butt is the best recipe. Don’t kick yourself too hard and too often. Treat yourself well. Become a good friend to yourself. Evaluate not from the inside, but (as if) from the outside. Get rid of the impostor syndrome if you have one. I found that it truly helps. I see all the things that I don’t do, while everyone else only sees what I do. This makes all the difference. From the inside, I can easily become a bad mother, lazy slob, you name it. From the outside, I can be living a glorified carefree problem-less life. With yes, the easiest, cutest, best baby ever. Etc.

Creating a perfect picture on the outside is easy. Just look at that: I’m sitting on a bench in a park (Berlin Zoo), spring is in full bloom, actually, there’s a blossoming tree right where I sit. The baby is sound asleep in her stroller (or not sleeping, but playing cheerfully with her toys), I’m typing these words on my MacBook, listening to her cooing and to the birds; the day ahead is nothing but promising. After dinner, when we put our baby to sleep, my husband and I will share some wine and talk about our vacation plans for this year… Could also be: I hardly slept the other night, and sometimes all I do all day is wait for my baby to go to sleep, I’m so tired. Both are true, it’s just an angle that you take. So yes, taking a stance of an external mentor for yourself can help you find that switch and see better parts of yourself and of your day if you’re stuck in the low. Or find the way out when you actually do hit rock bottom. Assuming the point of view of an outsider (a wiser one, to boot) means that you can evaluate the whole of the situation, not a particular emotional state you’re in at the moment. And the overall is usually much lighter and simpler than what you are feeling right now. In the moment, we tend to obsess over minot stuff, whereas the wiser you can tell you that the things that cause you sleepless nights are probably not going to matter, or even be remembered in six months, let alone the years to come.

There is a wiser person in each of us. Take the time to listen to that person. They tend to advise well.