Mentor Tip: Self-Development

Send this message to the mentors only.

Subject: Mentoring tips on self-development

The types of online activities for teens that I will be sending out to the whole community include recognized strategies for self-development. Among them are role modeling, affirmations, self-assessment, self-reflection, and visualization. Their meaning and value are summarized below.

Role Modeling

On our life journey it helps to know or learn about people who have personal characteristics, life experiences, or interests similar to our own and who have reached goals of interest to us. We learn vicariously through their experiences and can better visualize ourselves as successful. We can also learn specific strategies for reaching our goals. Unfortunately, young people with disabilities rarely have opportunities to interact with successful adults who have disabilities similar to their own.

In many of the online activities for teens in our program, successful young people and adults with disabilities share their experiences, beliefs, and advice. Readers will find some statements they disagree with; others will reinforce their current beliefs; still others they will embrace for the future. Teens with disabilities can learn from these stories and choose to incorporate attitudes and strategies into their own plans for the future.


Everyone draws conclusions about their circumstances, abilities, and performance. But sometimes, perhaps too often, these statements are negative, such as these:

  • That was a dumb thing to say.
  • I'll never be able to understand math.
  • If I didn't have this disability, I would be popular.

In contrast, affirmations are positive statements. Repeated to ourselves regularly, they can change negative beliefs about ourselves and, ultimately, create a more positive self-image. As we begin to repeat affirmations, we do not need to feel that the statements are completely true for us at the time. Rather, they can be considered goals. Examples include the following:

  • I am not easily discouraged.
  • I can deal with criticism in a positive way.
  • Although Dyslexia makes it difficult for me to read, I am smart.

In some of the email messages in our electronic mentoring community, affirmations of successful people with disabilities are provided as examples. Young people should be encouraged to review the affirmations presented and then develop a few affirmations for themselves. You might encourage them to repeat their affirmations every day, maybe several times a day. They could write them on cards to carry as reminders. By repeating them to themselves, they can slowly replace negative beliefs and thoughts with positive ones.


Sometimes it is useful for us to assess our current strengths and challenges regarding learning styles, communication, conflict resolution, and other skills in order to gain insight into the best strategies for reaching our goals. In the online activities for teens you will find exercises that promote self-assessment, as well as interactive instruments that can be found on the Internet. These topics can provide a great starting point for a rich dialogue between teens and mentors.


We all question why we do things, why things happen to us, and why people treat us in a certain way. However, often these questions are negative and unproductive. Examples include the following:

  • Why did I say that?
  • Why am I always late?
  • Why does the teacher always call on me when I don't know the answer?
  • Why can't my parents be more supportive?

With practice, self-reflective questions can be more productive and lead to greater success in the future. Here are some examples:

  • What can I learn from getting that poor grade that will help me get a better grade next time?
  • How can I respond to a negative comment about my disability next time?
  • What did I accomplish at school this week?
  • What are my major strengths?
  • What can I do now to prepare for college?

Many of the online activities in our electronic community encourage teens to answer questions that help them understand themselves and others more fully and develop success strategies for the future.


Through visualization you can imagine your best self or an ideal situation. You can visualize yourself doing well when taking a test, talking to a teacher, making friends, handling a difficult situation, performing in a job interview. Visualizing a specific situation and practicing various responses can help you feel comfortable in that circumstance and increase the chances for a positive experience.

In some of the online activities in this electronic community, participants are asked to visualize themselves participating in a specific activity or acting in a specific, self-determined way. Sharing the experience with others and role-playing a situation can increase the value of the visualization experience.