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My Mentor Doesn’t Support Me

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From France: I work as a teaching assistant at the university. I have a mentor who I assist and who also should be my dissertation mentor. Because nothing I did was ever good enough we decided together that I should seek for a new mentor. I had immediate success and my thesis was confirmed very quickly, even praised by an eminent scholar.

I’ve been assisting this mentor for almost 5 years now and not once did she ever praised anything I did. I’m all about hearing fair critique and I know one can not make progress without it. It’s not that she criticizes me all the time, but she never hesitates to point to my flaws, while she never ever validates my work with students or my approach to the content of the courses. She does thank me for being so reliable and prompt, but whenever it comes to the content or my relationship with the students she either says anything or she finds something that is not good enough. I want to add that I usually score high on students surveys and I also get good feedback form other collegues.

She is a perfectionist, never satisfied with anything, always on a mission to fix unbroken things. While she admits her own flaws (like being a puzzled type of person who resists very structured work), she uses them as excuses for her way of doing things. I feel this constant doubt from her side, like I’m incapable for this job. Ever since we started working together she’s fixated on this assumption that I can’t really make contact with people, which I find absurd, and that I’m too superficial when it comes to content work. She’s like this stringent professor, who looks down to me like I’m some kind of an inexperienced youngster, even though I’m 41 and not a rookie anymore. But on other occasions, when she needs someone to complain to (regarding the demands of our work), she treats me like a colleague. I just can’t find a way, how to navigate between these two roles she puts me in.

I’m overcoming long term anxiety and depression, so it’s not easy to just “take it as it is” or “not care”. It’s like she has some kind of a transfer and she can’t see it. She probably won’t admit it either.

What should I do? Thank you!!

My Mentor Doesn’t Support Me

Answered by on -

A.

I’m afraid you need to do exactly what you say you can’t, which is to just take it as it is and finish your degree so you can move away from this relationship and into a job where you are appreciated.

Not everyone who takes on mentoring others has the personality or the skills for the job. Sometimes supervising professors are competitive with their own students. Sometimes people who were miserable during their own¬†academic path somehow conclude that they need to make their students just as miserable as they were. Sometimes the personalities of the two just don’t mesh. Whatever the reason, you and your mentor are not a good “fit” for each other and the situation is unlikely to change.

Please remember that you are not pursuing your degree to please your professor. You are pursuing your degree to advance your field and to get yourself a professional position. Hopefully, you have learned from your experience what not to do when mentoring your own students some day.

Your focus needs to be on your work. You are not going to change your mentor. By all means, be grateful for any useful feedback she gives you and appreciative of any opportunities she makes possible. But don’t look for a different kind of relationship. If you do, you will only annoy her and frustrate yourself.

If you find this too difficult, please get back into therapy to do further work on your anxiety and depression and to get the support from your counselor that you aren’t getting from your mentor.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

My Mentor Doesn’t Support Me

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). My Mentor Doesn’t Support Me. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 26, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/05/27/my-mentor-doesnt-support-me/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 25 May 2019
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 25 May 2019
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.