Great mentors affirm others and in doing so, illuminate new possibilities for that individual.
My Nana and many others affirmed me so authentically that I achieved many of my own “beliefs in myself” throughout my life. This is what I call a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s easy to affirm someone when they’re already succeeding and/or making it easy for you to do so because they are in general positive and in action. It’s easy to affirm someone who has built trust with you.
AFFIRMATION CHECK: It’s easy to affirm someone who deserves it.
What about affirming someone who you believes doesn’t deserve to be affirmed? Is mentorship reserved only for those who are already succeeding?
Someone very close to me betrayed my trust once as a young man and later when I was in my early 40’s. It was a deep betrayal which made me feel like I didn’t want to be around this person anymore. For a time, I would work things out so I didn’t see this individual too often, yet I found that I was holding on to stress because of the lack of contact. Internally I blamed this person for our lack of relationship. Certainly, the last thing I was thinking about was “How can I affirm this person?” Are you kidding me? No way, I wasn’t ready for that and I thought that might never be a possibility.
AFFIRMATION CHECK: The idea of affirming someone who had betrayed me seemed ridiculous.
I was preparing a keynote and one of the subtopics was persistence. I thought about where I had learned to be so persistent and I thought of this person who had betrayed me. They had taught me persistence by modeling it over many years, in positive ways. I felt a small bit of relief and joy for the first time in a long time, related to this human being. Soon after that I made a decision to affirm them for having modeled persistence. It felt authentic and the first time I did this was at a keynote of mine in front of about 600 people. It felt really good. The next step was affirming this individual face to face...and I did.
The result? Over a period of about 2 - 3 years, my relationship with this person is completely healed, and it began with me affirming them. How did I pull that off authentically? I found something for which I could authentically affirm them. In this case, persistence.
AFFIRMATION CHECK: Don’t wait until someone deserves to be affirmed. Find something you can affirm them for. This releases tension and sets the stage for any relationship to evolve.
Think about the people in your life who matter to you and think about any of them who have hurt you in some way. Find something you can authentically affirm. Open the door to positive self-fulfilling prophecies for them, and in return, more inner peace for you.
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