There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the Light of God pass through them. 

Shams, The Forty Rules of Love

Note to self: anyone is a mentor in some way. You have bad ones and good ones. The bad ones barely teach you anything, and the good ones teach you naturally. The bad ones don’t care about your improvements, the good ones know how important it is for you.

In a nutshell, bad = bad. Good = good. But how do you tell the difference?

Here’s what I noticed for the time being:

Bad mentors remind you of your weaknesses and leave you at that

We are already aware of our weaknesses, and even if we don’t, life gives us ways to discover them.

If you have a mentor however, one of the responsibilities they have is the discovery part: allowing you to become aware of your weaknesses.

This is when the bad part comes in: highlighting your weaknesses is key to breaking them at first, but bad mentors have a tendency to highlight these weaknesses over and over again, without providing any value back to the person in question. Doing this breaks the confidence of anyone, and with no way to recover or improve oneself after experiencing such a thing, what would they learn?

Bad mentors do not put effort in guiding you to be a better version of yourself

Adding onto the above, if they don’t find ways to guide you, giving you advice on the road to self-improvement, they are not mentoring at all: they only serve to waste your time. These kinds of mentors only serve as lessons for you to choose better ones instead. The faster you realize this, the faster you can move on.

Bad mentors try to sell you something all the time

Do they have books? Courses? Programs? Great. Maybe they are really successful, that’s a great sign of a valuable mentor. Remember, this could even be opinions or thoughts.

But how do they deliver these to you? Do they suggest it, merely talk about it, or do they aggressively sell it to you? Do they make it seem like their program is the ‘only’ solution to your issue?

Be careful with these mentors: they don’t take you in as students, but customers.

You can have good mentors with long-lasting products, that’s normal. The bad ones can be pushy all the time. If you take the time to analyze how people talk to you, some just don’t communicate properly.

Not to degrade anyone, but the words we choose can sometimes be misheard as imposing of opinions: it may not be our intent, but we might deliver it in that way. This happens in mentorship too. Make sure to choose your words with intent, because every conversation consists of you selling your (good) impression.

Bad mentors limit your growth

There are mentors who want to limit or control your growth – for reasons why, I don’t know. But you can find the symptoms:

  • None of their solutions encourage you to express the best version of yourself.
  • None of their solutions encourage you to take risk: only to further learn in comfortable situations.
  • None of their solutions encourage you to learn from other mentors, or people who could introduce new perspectives to you.

We’re in charge of our own lives. That means we have the responsibility to figure out what will improve us later on.

Where will they take you to after they mentored you? What is the value traded at the end?

This may sound pragmatic but it is one of the ways to look at the truth from a realistic point of view:

Good mentors guide you to appreciate and admire yourself

If they can figure out your weaknesses, it’s for a good reason.

Once they show you the areas you can improve on, they can provide the support you need to do so. There is nothing better than knowing someone is there to help you become a better person. You would learn to admire yourself: that’s what we need.

We have a constant need to feel good, and the feeling of becoming empowered/improved after some time is one of the best ones. Find one that makes you feel that way.

Good mentors are transparent and honest

They’re like glass: they share with you everything they know. They all know knowledge isn’t enough, it needs to be paired with hard work. It’s always hard work.

Mentors have a duty to recognize the value that you have in yourself, from an understanding point of view: rather than encourage dependence on their words, but for them to encourage independence within yourself, the potential that you already have….

Good mentors are flawed

The best mentors have weaknesses of their own, and by sharing these weaknesses they create a sense of relatability for you, the student, to understand where they are coming from.

If a mentor shows their struggles for the sake of you learning them than it is good value, because it’s very hard to share wants experiences. It’s not the same as downloading once memories and injecting them into somebody else.

Mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You have the power to choose your own: take the time to do that for your own sake. It’ll help in the long run.