In the past couple of days, I have made great strides in overcoming my “breakup.” I have to say “breakup,” with quotation marks, because this was not a romantic relationship. Rather, I’m referring to my relationship with my former mentor. Even though there was no romantic interest or romance involved, I found the end to this relationship to be even more devastating than the end to any of my previous romantic relationships. Here’s why.
Before, I had talked about how I felt like I didn’t fit into the culture of my old organization, nor did I feel like the business model was right for me. All of this was true. However, even though I felt that way, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the organization because of my mentor.
For the majority of my life, I had prayed to meet someone who would want to listen to me talk about my feelings, thoughts, and ideas all the time. I prayed for someone who would not only eagerly listen to me, but who would then go on to support me, comfort me, and offer me sage advice that I could then use to improve my life.
My mentor was that person for me.
Not only that, but I truly enjoyed his company. We both shared a love of music, writing, and creativity. We both shared the same sense of humor and jokes. We both cared about overcoming, healing, and making a difference in our own lives so that we could go out there and make a difference in the lives of others. We both wanted to do something great with our lives and achieve lasting greatness, legacy, and impact.
But mainly, I enjoyed his spirit. I have never met anyone who was more giving, selfless, and kind. I have never met anyone who was more gentle, caring, and understanding. I have never met anyone whose presence was so calming, soothing, and peaceful. And I have certainly never met anyone with so many great relationships across the board (spouse, children, family, friends, mentors, mentees).
Yet I didn’t want to stay in the organization, and I knew it. But I also knew that if I left, that would change everything about the relationship. Because I was dealing with re-establishing myself in the music scene in MA, growing my music studio and my monthly income, as well as becoming aware of deep trauma that had occurred in my early childhood, at the time I was not prepared to lose the one source of stability that I had in my life.
I had already lost the other source of stability I had in my life – his wife. To be fair, I had tried very hard to become great friends with her. One of my strengths is that I am very skilled at building new relationships with others, but she was always resistant and unreceptive to building a good relationship with me. She didn’t like my method of building relationships, but when I asked her for feedback, she was unable to provide me with a different way. She always discouraged me to share myself with her, didn’t want to share herself back with me, and didn’t want to help me through any of my struggles. Eventually, she told me that she just didn’t want to communicate with me until I had completely resolved my struggles. So she turned out to be a Fair Weather Friend who had abandoned me in my time of need, not a Hard Times Friend who stuck it out, and therefore I lost the motivation to work on our relationship.
Anyway, for many months I struggled through all of the multifarious issues that I faced at the time. I had a lot on my plate, and I was unable to take on any more. I needed to remove something, stat. Yet due to the magnitude and scope of everything I was dealing with, my difficulty managing negative emotions in conflicts, and my propensity towards an aggressive, rather than assertive communication style, much of my anger and overwhelmed feelings were projected onto my mentor. Not only that, but I was constantly being triggered back into scarcity mindset because I feared that leaving the organization meant losing the relationship; also, I was triggered because the submissive style of the mentor/mentee relationship reminded me of the toxic and abusive relationships from my past.
Yet despite my anger, attacks, and demands, most of which I was unaware of doing (in scarcity mindset, that’s a normal way of talking when you’re upset), he did not tell me that I was hurting him and/or draining him of energy every time I was triggered and slipped back into scarcity mindset. Instead, what happened was that I kept calling meetings that were designed to discuss something that would remove an item from my emotional plate and free up my capacity, for example my thoughts about whether or not to leave the organization. Then, he would derail the meeting to try to teach me about handling conflict correctly in relationships, or tell me that it was my responsibility to make a decision to abruptly change my mindset from scarcity back into abundance (It’s not possible to make a decision like that in scarcity – that’s an abundance trait. Changing the mindset back from scarcity to abundance takes a LOT of effort and work). I would become annoyed that my meeting was being derailed and my time wasted, because with his hectic schedule, meetings don’t grow on trees. Then I would have to wait another week or two for another meeting, where the same thing would happen, so I was getting very frustrated and annoyed that no progress was being made over months. This only served to worsen my anxiety about the relationship.
Eventually, I figured out that he kept derailing the meetings because I was hurting him. Once I asked him if this was true, then he started being more forthcoming about how he felt. Yet, as part of the mentor/mentee relationship setup, mentors are discouraged from sharing their emotions and hurt feelings with their mentees. Yet, I would have responded QUITE differently to him if he had just told me the truth. The last thing I wanted was to hurt the person I cared about most, so I would have done anything to make amends and fix it.
After awhile, he got tired of our unproductive meetings, as well. But instead of having an honest conversation with me about it and working with me to fix the problem, he just avoided scheduling any more meetings with me and did not explain to me what was going on. Again, this only served to worsen my anxiety.
Around this time, I had made a decision to leave the organization. I was working on extricating myself from the different forums, events, etc. and had scheduled my membership cancellations. I was starting to research alternative methods of achieving my business goals.
At this point, I felt that the relationship with my mentor was in serious jeopardy, but he blew off every single request I made for a meeting. Not only that, but he responded to my messages way less frequently, as well as reneged on his promise to help me with my anxiety and emotional struggles. He started classifying my mindset every time I spoke to him and put me into an “abundance” bucket vs “scarcity” bucket; from there, he would refuse to take me seriously whenever I was in scarcity. He started saying, just like his wife had, that it wasn’t his role to help me with transitioning my scarcity mindset back into abundance mindset and that I needed to go to therapy before we could have a good relationship. Yet whenever I called him out that he was also abandoning me in my time of emotional need, just like his wife had, then he would get defensive and say that I was being “unfair,” and that that was not what was happening.
For awhile, we were trying to repurpose our relationship from mentor/mentee into friend/friend. However, we were advised from multiple people who had tried to help us that it would never work. I wanted friendship, equality, and emotional support, and he wanted to push me hard to overcome my past and become successful to share my story onstage. Even though I had told him that I was leaving the organization and had no plans to return, he thought I just “didn’t understand” his perspective and that I would “change my mind” later on. Yet I did understand, and he didn’t accept or acknowledge that.
Finally, a few weeks ago, he stopped responding to my messages completely. Like his wife, he had made the decision to become a Fair Weather Friend. Unlike his wife, he had not made his position clear. For someone who had always told me that my communication was not very good, his was quite lacking as well. At least I made an effort to clearly state what I needed and where I was at with the relationship, which he did not.
For weeks (months), I have been mourning what I knew was the inevitable loss of this relationship. I have been eating chocolate, buying the huge cookies at Barnes and Noble, watching romantic comedies, and singing/playing breakup songs. But yesterday something dawned on me that would completely change my focus:
I deserve better.
That’s right! I deserve better. Even though my former mentor is a wonderful person who did so much to help me, and who wanted so badly to see me succeed, I deserve to be treated with love and respect ALL of the time, not just some of the time.
This is what I deserve:
1. I deserve to be treated as an equal in a relationship.
I am not a fan of the mentor/mentee submissive type of relationship, and I never will be. I deserve equality. I deserve to be involved in making decisions about the relationship, not kept in the dark about decisions that he made by himself that affect me. Not only that, but my opinions and ideas should not be rejected merely because I lack the exact same 20 years of experience in the field. Everyone’s opinions and ideas deserve respect, because not everyone knows everything and people have different skill sets, talents, and perspectives that they bring to the table. Finally, my healing journey is my business and mine alone. I don’t have to take anyone’s suggestions that I go to therapy, because I have my own healing method that I prefer (and which works better for me than therapy).
2. I deserve to be loved and accepted for where I’m at.
It is inappropriate, not to mention unrealistic, to expect that you can just “hand someone over” to a therapist and immediately have a mindset problem “fixed.” Healing takes time, and therapy is not for everyone. With this attitude, he and his wife made me feel like there was something eternally wrong with me, that I was damaged goods, and that I was unworthy of associating with them. They made me feel like I had to “fix myself” before I would be worthy of their relationship.
Not only that, but they completely disregarded and did not recognize any of the growth or progress that I made in overcoming negative emotions and handling conflict. They kept telling me to change, work on, and improve those things, but then they didn’t even notice when I did.
3. I deserve to be respected for where I’m at.
Even if I slip back into scarcity mindset temporarily, I still deserve respect. People should not be classifying me into a “scarcity” vs “abundance” buckets and then deciding whether or not to take me, and the things I say, seriously.
4. I deserve Hard Times Friends, not Fair Weather Friends.
Part of friendship means helping people when they are not strong, not abandoning them until they are “fixed” or “healed.”
5. I deserve someone who wold prioritize an important phone call in their busy schedule when our relationship is in jeopardy.
6. I deserve someone who would take responsibility and ownership for the things that he did to contribute to the problem, instead of completely blaming the problem on me, my shortcomings, and my circumstances.
I tried many times to explain to him the things that he did that caused me anxiety, but he didn’t take me seriously and accused me of blaming him for my anxiety. The things that he did included, but were not limited to: sparse and inconsistent responses to my messages, taking a long time (or refusing) to set up meetings, derailing my meetings, not taking action to solve our relationship problems, not treating me like an equal, not respecting me while in scarcity mindset, and not being honest with me about his feelings.
I deserve a relationship where the other person is equally invested in fixing the problems. Someone who would understand and see his part of the problem, think of solutions, and work to compromise and correct the issue. Someone who would apologize for what he did wrong and then work to make amends with me.
7. I deserve someone who is able to be vulnerable enough to tell me that I’ve hurt him, or that I’ve drained him of energy, and tells me directly what he needs from me.
I’m not a mind reader. I can get pretty close to mind-reading when I talk to someone on the phone or in person, but it is damned near impossible via text or online. I constantly felt like he expected me to read his mind and understand what he was thinking and feeling, instead of doing the work himself, being vulnerable, and sharing his heart. Instead of just simply sharing his point of view, I always felt like I had to complete a full-on scavenger hunt through his messages for clues, and then spend hours piecing it all together into a point of view that I didn’t even know whether or not would be accurate. This was not something I even had the ability to do when I was in the depths of limited capacity and scarcity mindset.
So that’s it! I deserve better, and I am looking forward to finding better in the future.