You probably know how overwhelming it feels to try to be everything for someone. You maybe even know what it feels like to be disappointed when a friend was not there for you in the way you had hoped .
Many of us who tend toward people-pleasing focus a lot of our energy on supporting others. We want to make sure we’re meeting their needs so they want to keep us around. This can be a heavy burden.
We all need support in our lives—even if being on the receiving end can feel quite vulnerable.
One of the key ingredients for getting that support is being clear on what we need and who is best suited to provide it.
Think about what types of things you need from the important people in your life. Your list may include supporters such as:
…someone who will listen without judgment.
…someone you can trust to confide in.
…someone to encourage you.
…someone who will be there during the tough times.
…someone who will celebrate with you.
…someone to give honest feedback.
…someone to have fun with.
…someone who will pitch in to get the work done.
…someone who has been there before and can offer guidance.
…someone to brainstorm possibilities with.
…someone who can connect you with people and resources.
…someone who will discourage you (if you’re looking for an excuse to avoid something.)
Let’s take a moment to get clear on what we need and who we can turn to.
First, choose your categories of support. You can choose from the list above or brainstorm your own. (Feel free to come up with catchier names if you want.)
Then, list the people who fall in each category for you. Remember, this is going to be most helpful if you name people for the kind of support they can truly give you, not for the kind of support you wish they could provide.
(I’ve created a worksheet to help you try this exercise. Sign up below to get your worksheet and gain access to the resource library.)
Some people might fit in a lot of categories, others may fit into only one. Either way is just fine, but it’s good to know. Notice where you have an abundance and celebrate. Note also where your list is a little thin. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; rather, it’s an invitation to expand your network of support.
The people who make up our personal support network can come from a lot of different places. We can be supported by family members, friends, neighbors, colleagues, leaders, helping professionals, and so on.
Support is not limited by location or even by closeness. Of course, some kinds of support can only be given by those who know us well and care about us deeply, but our network is often broader than we realize.
Cultivating more local friendships is one of the areas where I would like to deepen my support. I want more opportunities to get together in person. I want real hugs. I was making plans for ways to get out into my community and meet more local people.
At the time I’m writing this, however, we are under Safer at Home orders and many of the options I had planned on for expanding my local support are not possibilities at the moment.
At the same time, I’m more grateful than ever for the long-distance relationships I have with people in different states and different countries. Support doesn’t only happen face-to-face. While this doesn’t mean that virtual connection can fully replace in-person connection, there are so many ways to get the support we need and to support others.
We may even be able to find a level of support from people we’ve never met who publicly share resources, knowledge, encouragement, etc. While these relationships tend to be one-sided and are not a replacement for mutual relationships , they can still add value to our network of support.
We don’t need any one person to be everything we need. We can appreciate each friend more for who they are when we know we have others to turn to for the kind of support they aren’t as suited to give.
When we’re looking for support, it helps to get clear on what we need, consider who can actually offer it and ask as specifically as possible. What do you notice when you look at your own network of support?