As an entrepreneur and small business owner, I find it invaluable opening up and being vulnerable with an inner circle of advisors and mentors I trust. When I think of my professional inner circle, three words come to mind: Supportive. Protective. Inspiring. Beyond being brilliant, they each allow me the space and encouragement to learn, self-discover and grow.
Interestingly, there is one advisor who has been different. She has been a go-to for me for many years. When our mentor/mentee relationship began, she was very much supportive, protective and inspiring. I felt nothing short of honored that she took an interest in me and gave me the gift of her time and wisdom.
Somewhere along the way, things changed. Around the time I was gearing up to leave my corporate job to form Solstice, her communication style morphed into more of a "tough coach" versus encouraging supporter. My creative blue-sky expressions were met with criticism. The advice that used to be eloquent became harsher in tone. I can vividly recall a particularly painful one-on-one session last summer when I did all I could not to cry right there in the middle of a New York City restaurant. She was challenging everything I said. She felt to me, in a word, mean.
I convinced myself that because of her wild business success and the many pearls of wisdom she shared over the years, I should toughen up and take in her expert advice. I should take the elements of her experience that made sense to me, and leave behind the rest. That got me this far... until now.
I scheduled a check-in call with her today. Always balancing humility with confidence, I explained a particular business challenge and asked for her perspective. Predictably, she doled out advice in a way that left me feeling bloodied and battered in a short 30-minutes. If a third party overheard the conversation, perhaps they would tell me "Yes, she was being supportive, protective and inspiring in her own way". Whether she was or wasn't, at this point, is irrelevant to me.
In my line of work, it is not about being right only. When you are a mentor or coach, how you leave a person feeling matters. I would liken it to a brilliant doctor with a poor bedside manner. They have there place and should be respected for their vast knowledge, but you ultimately have a choice about who you allow to care for you and how they leave you feeling.
When our call ended today, I replayed the last few years of our conversations in my mind. I thought about how I felt coming out of every talk with her versus my other mentors. I also thought about my clients, and how it is a core value of mine that I create a safe space for them to open up and be vulnerable, and leave feeling empowered if not enlightened. Clearly, there was a disconnect for me here. Why would I keep a mentor in my life, or anyone for that matter, who leaves me feeling bruised? There was a clear misalignment here that was too big to be ignored.
Rather than dive into a deep self-assessment on why I feel this way, I decided to skip to the end and focus on the outcome I want both for myself and my clients: Peace, Harmony, and the Courage to be your authentic self without fear of rejection or failure. The bottom line is when you are ready to live your life that way, some people in your life will continue on the journey with you while others will fall away.
While I could tell myself, "toughen up and take her advice", I instead decided to let this mentor fall away. "Today was the last conversation I will have with her," said the thought bubble above my head. While I am grateful for what she has taught me up until this point, I am most grateful that she shined a spotlight on the importance of how you leave a person feeling, especially when someone shows a vulnerability to you.
Who you surround yourself with and let in is your choice. As we learn and grow, we may outgrow people personally and professionally. It happens. As I share this story, I ask you to consider: Is there someone in your life you need to release who no longer serves your highest and greatest good for who you are today? Is there someone in your life that consistently makes you feel bad? Is it time for that someone to fall away?
The more aware we become about who we are and what we value, the easier it is to see who fits us and who does not. And as with anything in life, the ending of something is the beginning of something new. That said, embrace you exactly the way you are today. Surround yourself with those who love and support all of you, and let the rest fall away. You will lighten your load mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and make room for the new YOU supporters who are right around the corner.