Are you looking for a new support in your life, or do you really need to be scaffolded for a little while? Let’s start with some definitions because I like clarity when I’m talking about a new concept.
Support /səˈpôrt/ verb 1. bear all or part of the weight of; hold up. 2. give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act.
Scaffold /ˈskafəld/ noun 1. a temporary platform used to elevate and support workers and materials during the construction, repair, or cleaning of a structure.
The people in my life who support me are the ones I want there for the longevity. They are family (like my parents) and friends (like my best mate) and professionals (like a General Practitioner Doctor) who support me over the years of my life. They may support my emotional, physical or mental health, they may support me financially, or even enable me to function if I have a disability. If I’m lucky, I’ll have many good supports in my network.
Their support is not something I want to go away. Yes, doctors retire, friends move on, and family passes away. We are likely to have many changes in our supports over our lives, but usually they are somewhat static for long periods of time, and if they go, we will typically fill their role with someone new.
When I am in a time of change in my life, though I might call out to one or more of these supports, they are not necessarily trained to assist me in the specific situation where I need more help. This is where Mentorship can fill a gap in the system. If I am looking for a career change, or a spiritual guide, or a relationship guide, or any number of new prospects, having a Mentor work with me can help alleviate anxiety and keep me focused on my goals.
However, I do not like to use the word “support” to describe what a Mentor does for you. Instead I use the term “scaffold”. The problem being, they are likely here for a much shorter time in my life than my support network. If I pulled away all my supports, I imagine I would fall down! But by it’s very nature, scaffolding is erected around something under construction as a temporary measure while the work is going on, and once it is time to pull away and let the building/person stand on their own, scaffolding is packed up and moved to the next job.
Mentorship is usually a short-term position. If I treated my Mentor as my support, when she left I would certainly feel a little lost or be quick to refill her position. But a Mentor is working with you to encourage you to stand on your own in whatever situation you have worked on together. Although it may take many months or longer, part of the initial plan is knowing that your Mentor will pull away once you are ready.
The concept works a little bit like this. You are the building. Your supports keep you standing tall. When you find yourself feeling a little outdated or in general need of repair, you seek out a good construction company (your Mentor) and they build their scaffolding around you (holding space for you). This allows them to interact with you and assist in whatever means the rebuild (situation) calls for, while you as the building take on your new shape or colour. When you are ready, the construction team packs up their scaffolding and leaves. If you need them for another job, they can come back and do a similar process all over again, or if you really valued their work, you can recommend them to friends and family. But the act of removing the scaffolding did not cause you to fall, in fact, it just made you able to shine all that brighter on your own!
While supports are foundational, scaffolding allows you to reach heights that you otherwise could not reach. Isn’t that what we all want from our Mentors? Find me on casstastrophe.com and let me know what you think of this switch in terminology.