We go on and on about support systems – the people who help us stay upright and heal when we would rather lie down in a dark room and disappear from life’s unceasing glare.
But WHO are these people? HOW are we supposed to pick the best for us?
Have you heard that we evolve – change almost completely – every 7 years? Well, obviously our core does not change unless we conciously decide to change it. But imagine yourself at age 7, then compare to age 14, and compare 14 to 21. 21 to 28, 28 to 35. See!
Then imagine you need totally different things and people during each period.
I have found myself looking for support many times through the course of life. Here are 7 things I have learnt about support systems.
1. Should know and seek to understand you
To start with, we should know ourselves so well, we can recognize those who truly like us as we are. Those who respect our boundaries. And those who trust our intentions.
An understanding friend will heal you quicker than a constant judge.
I once knew someone who interpreted all my dysfunctional actions and words in the most un-generous terms. It almost pushed me into a mental breakdown. It eventually triggered me to start working on myself to avoid future misunderstandings. You see, when you grow up or share a home with dysfunction, you become a little ‘weird’. Dysfunctional, to say the least.
Be aware that you will do or say things, that other people will have a difficult time understanding because they do not understand your ‘ways of hiding in plain sight’. Especially those who have not experienced your variation of dysfunction and trauma.
Those who know you, like you, respect you and trust your intentions will understand that you don’t mean harm. Especially when your actions and words can easily be misinterpreted as danger by the ever watchful and fearful amygdala.
If you are unlucky, you will be surrounded by people who use your dysfunctional words and actions to trigger you into more of the same negativity. Tragically, this would make you even more dysfunctional.
2. Should allow you space to grow
You will change, make decisions, and most importantly, you will make mistakes. Find people who allow you to do so without encumbering you with judgement, shame or guilt.
We all have that bestie, BFF from nursery school who loves us to bits and knows everything about us. Or about the person we were during the teenage years? Avoid those besties who say “YOU HAVE CHANGED SOOO MUCH!” as if change was a bad thing. Your support system should be evolving with you. Otherwise, set them free to evolve with someone else. If you don’t, you will be feeling like you used to be a good person and are becoming a bad person as you mature and evolve. Not a good recipe for growth!
3. Should not constantly give you unsolicited advice
Yes, you heard right. As an adult, if you do not ask for advice, it means you do not need it. If you need advice, you ask for it. Simple equations that don’t need Einstein.
You know when you are an adult? And you are blessed with that wonderful mother? Bless her heart, she always knows best what you are supposed to be doing? With whom, at what times? Be wary of that! It can keep you stagnating for the best part of your twenties.
The best support systems trust and believe in your ability to make decisions for yourself. Of course, a good support system will ask you questions. Challenge you to provide scenarios that confirm to yourself that you are thinking right. They will give you tips. Connect you with those who may support your decisions and goals.
All, without hijacking the plan or the process. They support you to figure it out by yourself, while keeping an open-door-policy. For when you will surely need someone to tell you that your heart was in the right place. Even though the result did not turn as expected.
Because acting on our decisions, and failing sometimes, is the only way we learn to trust ourselves and to own our journeys.
4. Should have your best interests in mind and at heart
I wish we all had this friend. The one that searches you out after a particularly bad episode of whatever it is you have done. They sit with you alone. Discreetly. Without informing the whole ‘friends-gang’. The friend who asks you if you may need some help. Because they felt that you were going through a hard time. And they knew where you could get some help. That he/she had already checked, and the help you needed was available.
This is the person you want in your corner – once you forgive them for their audacity.
5. Should already have forgiven you
A support system that has forgiven you for those mistakes you have already made. And for the mistakes you are going to make in future.
Don’t misunderstand me, they hold you accountable. They are up-front when you cross lines. But they are not judging you, and making you live in constant apology and self-defense.
If you find yourself with people to whom you must defend yourself for every little thing. To apologize for every miss-step. You are in trouble because this can consume so much of your energy, it makes you unable to spend energy on the important things in your life. Like healing.
6. Should not be competing with you
They are walking beside you, supporting you on your journey as you support them on theirs. You are happy for each other when things go well. And supportive when things go awry – as they will sometimes do.
The ones competing with you will display jealousy, envy and will be your worst judges and critics. They will parade your mistakes, describing them as your character. Or use your weakest moments against you, to win small battles. They may even use your need for healing in their popularity contests, where they show themselves to be better than someone else. You in this case. And they will do it whichever way they can.
7. Should respect you
Obviously, to be able to respect you, they have to have some respect for themselves. Duh!
If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s
Respect is one of the greatest expressions of love.Miguel Angel Ruiz’s
Where respect is lacking, there can be NO: