What is a personal support system and how to build it?
The need for a support system is not only to have a soft place to fall or who to ask for help but also, being connected to other people is giving us the opportunity to be useful, to put our skills and knowledge to good use, to bring out the best in us.
Did you know that low self-esteem is caused, among other things, by feeling lonely and unsafe? And both, loneliness and feeling unsafe can originate from not having a support system? More than that, one of the secrets to a happy life is to be connected to other people, to build around yourself a supportive environment.
And yes, building a support system for yourself is a skill, it doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Plus, leaving things to chance will bring you random results.
A few benefits of building a support system for yourself, to get and be connected:
- Getting back to your usual self after facing a difficult situation, trauma, distress or illness.
- Learning new skills and competencies. Isn’t it easier to learn new things from people that you admire and respect? People, that know how to challenge you, how to support your endeavors, how to be a role model for you, to offer you uplifting emotional support when you lose your confidence?
- Reaching a higher level of success by collaborating with your support group.
- Maintaining your success level.
- Having the right audience for your knowledge and hobbies, sharing common interests.
- Receiving positive and useful feedback.
- Being surrounded by people that appreciate you, care for you, love you and accept you as you are; therefore, you don’t fall into feeling lonely and unsafe.
- Asking for help with ease because you know you have around yourself people willing to offer you assistance and help.
- Having people, that can intervene for you or serve you as a middle person.
- Find motivation and drive from people that respect you enough to challenge you in your best interest.
- People that you are connected with have a deeper understanding of your challenges and limitations.
They are tolerant of your shortcomings.
They are willing to make compromises for you.
When they have to do for you doesn’t feel like an inconvenience but an opportunity to be useful to you.
- Better health, longer and happier life.
- Sharing your success with people that are happy for you.
- It is less probably to get overwhelmed by your problems or situations.
- Having a different perspective on things and situations not only your own.
- You know where you belong; therefore, it is easier to find the meaning and the purposes of your life.
- Increased self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.
How to build your support system and then maintain it:
- Make the effort to know on a personal level your co-workers, neighbors and other people you have to deal with on regular basis; become a person for them not just a name with a face.
- Build a different audience for each of your interests. Your best of friends may not be interested in your pleasure to [crochet], for example.
- Get involved in groups that you have a common goal or cause.
- Find relaxing activities (for fun, sports, parties) that allow you to keep in touch with people important to you.
- Teach your brain to observe, notice and emphasize the positive part of people and things, so you are attracting positive people and things into your life.
- Free yourself from judgment; start your interactions with other people from the premise that people are good and intend good.
- Increase your level of tolerance and flexibility in your relationships and instead of getting annoyed with other people’s shortcomings, get curious: what could make them do things as they are doing them?
- Show your interest in people’s skills, hobbies and lives.
- Keep in touch with people, stay connected using any means you have at your disposal. We get to know so many people these days that if you don’t keep in touch with people that are important to you, they forget you exist, or they move on to build relationships with other people.
- Rearrange your priority list when it comes to people that you are spending your time, energy, love and money. If you believe you love and value your mother, for example, but you don’t spend with her any of the four things mentioned above, your love and value are just wishful thinking because your mother doesn’t feel nor loved nor valued by you.
- Give your help when you are asked, and when you are not asked but you believe you could be useful, offer your help in ways that don’t make people feel powerless, useless or incapable of solving their problems on their own.
A few ways to volunteer your help in a gentle way:
- Acknowledge people’s feelings and treat them with compassion.
- Ask questions.
- Share stories about other people that had a similar problem and how they dealt with it. (Make sure the subject is not YOU!)
- Leave your door open to people: “When you believe I can be any assistance to you, I’m here for you.”
- Welcome the help of others even if you might not need it. There is almost nothing more rewarding in life other than feeling useful to other people.
- Avoid being needy. It is a different thing to ask for help from time to time and a different thing to ask for help constantly.
- Leave room for people to evolve and grow alongside you or ahead of you.
- Allow people to change and acknowledge the changes they are making even when it comes hard to you to readjust your behavior towards them.
- Prepare people for the changes you are making about yourself or your life. Give them time to readjust their behavior towards you.
- Initiate meetings and gatherings.
- Live in the present moment and give people the chance to redeem themselves when they are less than exemplary towards you.
- Learn how to influence people and strive for a win-win type of outcome.
- Surround yourself with people that appreciate you, love you, understand you, have compassion for you, are tolerant of your shortcomings and are willing to accept you, exactly as you are.
- Be ready to offer back whatever is that you’re asking from other people.
- Make people feel important to you.
- Pay more attention to your behaviors towards those closest to you rather than to strangers.
It sounds so obvious, but the sad reality is that, as we allow ourselves to be mean to oneself, we often allow ourselves to be mean to the people we love. We are doing and saying things to them that we would probably never do or say to a stranger. Is it not? We are acting and behaving as if they have an obligation to take and tolerate everything from us just because we love them. Lead your relationships with your loved ones with a mindful mind (just because they love you, doesn’t mean they can’t get hurt by you).
Don’t take people for granted.
They will be part of your life as long as they feel good about themselves around you.
Plus, take advantage of their skills and knowledge before going elsewhere. (Just because you’ve seen someone in diapers as a baby doesn’t mean that this person didn’t grow up to be an excellent doctor, for example – don’t disregard people’s ability to change and to become something greater than what they were in the past.)
- Build trust with people: both ways!
- Be clear about what you want, expect, need from people.
- Learn how to receive a gift.
- Show and tell people about your appreciation and love for them. Leave your vanity or fear aside. When people are doing great things for you, make sure they know you are appreciative and grateful.
- Learn to give up on those people and things that have a negative influence on your life.
Remember that not everything that you lose in life is a loss. You are much better off some people no matter how much you love them or how great you feel around them for brief moments.
Accept people as they are.
If you feel the need to change people to fit your life, I want you to know that you are losing this battle from the start. People are who they are and even if they are willing to change for you, nothing is guaranteeing that they will not change again in the future; therefore, it’s wiser to surround yourself with those people that will like as they are from the start.