How to foster a meaningful support systemFeb 17, 2022
Last night, our HealedLovedFed community discussed what it means to have a support system. They said it means to be surrounded by people they trust enough to share what’s going on in their lives, to have people in their lives whom they can check in with and who checks in with them. Having someone who will listen to them, who they know cares about them, and vice versa.
Having this can seem allusive. After all, so many people these days feel alone and isolated. Even when we know we need to surround ourselves with others, we tend to keep to ourselves. When asked why, they share that they don’t want to be a burden on others, that they don’t feel like it’s worth it to put forth energy only to find that others aren’t unavailable, or to have to get performative. They don’t think that they’re worth it. Or, they feel like others are living their lives while they suffer or feel stuck, and they don’t want to be contrasted against that.
Creating a healthy support system takes work, but so does everything worthwhile. Of all things, I can’t think of anything more important than this. Having connection and intimacy is how we thrive and find true healing and joy in our lives. This is built into our human coding. And we can’t expect this to be fulfilled from just one other human - it’s a lot to ask. The good news is, it doesn’t take many. Having just a few trusted friends, and then a tribe of like-minded, intentional people that you regularly plug into can be the difference between continually experiencing one micro-trauma after another, wearing down your immune and nervous systems, versus healing, joy, and increased trust and courage.
Intentional or not - we are constantly growing and learning to be better with each other, and with ourselves. In the process, we lose and we gain new friendships. Here are some ways to make more supportive, meaningful connections:
- I often hear people saying that they don’t ask questions that they think might be “too personal.” They run on an assumption that their friend will share what they need to if and when they’re ready. The irony is, it’s often these same people who don't share because they think sharing would be a burden, and they’re so grateful when others ask. So…. ask the questions! If they don’t want to share, let them tell you that. Err on the side of caring about them enough to ask.
- Share what’s going on with you. You’ll learn to discern who you can trust to share what with. Have the courage to make mistakes.
- Don’t limit your sharing to the celebrations and the gloss. You know how depressing it is to go on social media to see all the perfectly beautiful lives on your feed that aren’t real. No one needs that, including in real life. That’s a wall, not a connection, and it doesn’t let people in.
- Once or twice a week, I schedule a walk, or invite friend(s) to come over for tea or a meal. “Having to” do this makes me think about who the powerful women (and men) are in my life that I want to keep close. They could be one on one or a group of several, but they’re never parties where you can’t talk to any one person for long enough. They’re meetings where intimate conversations happen, where we can see and hear each other. Where if a friend needs to hash something out, she can, and I (or we) listen. And if we’re just together to play a game and share funny stories, that’s great too. You’ll find that when you do this, and the environment is authentic where you can let your guard down instead of being performative, you won’t feel isolated again. When you don’t feel isolated, your head won’t start playing tricks on you and make you feel worthless. It’s incredibly healing for your soul. And you still have plenty of time to yourself. All the stuff you need to get done? They become much more palatable, and even fun. And boundaries naturally become easier.
Support systems are indeed the people we surround ourselves with. But there’s another support system that I’ll cover next week - our internal one, our physiology - the one that helps surround us with the support we need in our lives. In the meanwhile, if any of the above speak to you as something you can work on, try them out this week, and let me know how it goes.