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We’ve all been told at some point in our life to grow up. Theoretically meaning that we needed to become mature and responsible adults. However, it is often a toxic remark. Think about a time you were told to “grow up” and reflect on how it made you feel and what you believed they were referring to.
2 TOXIC EXAMPLES: ADAM & SARAH
Adam is 10 and comes home after playing baseball with his friends because they called him names and made fun of his poor playing. His father tells him to grow up, that he’s not a baby anymore and that life is tough. Adam likely feels his father is justifying the others’ behavior, not empathizing or understanding how Adam feels, and certainly not someone he would want to open up to in the future.
Sarah is 12 and being outwardly grumpy, rude, and pouting because her friends didn’t follow any of her ideas and suggestions for how they spent the day. Her mother tells her to grow up, that she can’t expect to always get her way and that she needs to think about other people. Sarah likely feels her mother is taking sides against her, doesn’t understand her and that she is being judged.
To be nurturing it is important to address the concern without judgment. In the case of Adam one might acknowledge how hurtful it is to be ridiculed and share that even if it’s common, it’s not good or appropriate behavior. It can also be a good space to talk about feelings and how we express them.
In the case of Sarah, acknowledge that it can feel sad or hurtful that our opinions don’t seem to matter or that being ignored is rough. It is a good space to talk about the appropriate expression of feelings, especially feelings of hurt and/or anger.
Have you ever been in a situation where if you speak or do something it will cause you and someone else pain? But if you don’t speak or do that action, it will also cause you and the other pain? And neither choice is even clear as to which might cause less pain or generate greater problems?
Jean Val Jean and Javier
Take Jean Val Jean in Les Miserables as an example. He broke parole and was wanted by the police. He learned an innocent man was captured by the police who believed the man to be him. Speaking up would cause him to be jailed and cause his factory to close and everyone losing their jobs. Staying silent would cause an innocent man to go to jail and Jean Val Jean to be ridden with guilt for the rest of his life.
Not only is it agonizing to be stuck between two painful options, but it’s exhausting. Mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion, and ends up sabotaging all of our other efforts and relationships.
Unfortunately, there may not be an option that you can think of that causes no pain. Or a way of knowing for sure which choice might cause the least pain. However, having a good mentor in your life can often be a way of easing a difficult process. Simply dwelling on a painful choice often leaves us feeling worse with no improved outcomes. Yet we may be unable to talk to family or friends because they are involved, or we don’t want to burden them, or we don’t want to expose ourselves for fear of embarrassment, condemnation, or judgment.
A mentor is someone with whom we have an established relationship. They have already established trust, support without judgment, demonstrated genuine care, and that they see us. Mentors provide a place of safety where we can be open and expressive while knowing the other truly cares and wants what is best for us. They don’t have all the answers or even any of the answers. But sometimes having the freedom to talk things out loud gives us clarity. Our mentors may have insights to share or help us look and process beyond the pain. At a minimum simply be in a better position to support us through whichever painful option we chose.
It’s not always easy, but it is always easier with a mentor.