Who are you surrounding yourself with these days?
You have probably heard that old expression, “the company you keep.” Well, whoever said it first certainly knew what they were talking about. Most likely, he or she learned it from experiences, some good and some not so good. As most of us have.
If you are facing a health challenge, it’s really important to have as many supportive people as possible in your life. Facing a chronic condition is a day-to-day journey. Nobody should have to walk that road alone.
Here is a question for you. What does your support network look like? Maybe the best way to answer that is: How do you feel after you spend time with the people in your life? Do you feel cared for? Listened to? Understood? Accepted for who you are? Confident that you have somebody to rely on if you need them? Basically, be there for you. If so, then you have some solid support behind you. And are there also people in your life who leave you feeling judged, ignored, criticized, misunderstood? How many people in the plus column and the minus column?
Not feeling so supported right now? If you want to figure out why, the starting place might be to think about what kind of people you most need in your life. So here’s another question to ask yourself: What the word “supportive” mean to you? And what do you most value in the people you surround yourself with?
To help you answer that question, here are some of the qualities of a supportive friend or family member:
Listens without judging you
Offers advice when you ask for it but does not tell you what to do
Gives you a helping hand when you need it, and lets you do the same for them
Defends you when other people criticize you
Lets you be the real you, and is real with you in return
Has an optimistic attitude toward life and encourages you to be optimistic
Let’s you express how you’re feeling, without cutting you off and telling you to “think positive” or “get over it”
Asks you questions about what it is like to deal with your diagnosis instead of making assumptions or pretending everything is fine
Doesn’t share with othes what you have said without your permission
Treats you with respect, when you are together and in front of other people
Stays with you during those times when you aren’t at your best
Now, keep in mind that these are some pretty tall requirements. Unless your friend or family member’s middle name is God, expecting one person to have all of these qualities is a whole lot to ask, and probably too much to ask. After all, like us, the people in our lives are human. They have good days and bad days, strengths and weaknesses, and their own challenges to deal with.
Try to avoid expecting one person to be everything you need, to be the perfect supporter. That’s a lot to ask.
You might find that some people in your life can offer some of what you need, and you for them. Maybe they are good listeners, for example, but for reasons of their own can’t give you a helping hand when you need it. Or maybe you have a friend that you check in with once in awhile if you need to hear some “tough love” when you’re having trouble with staying compliant, or some practical advice. Most likely, your friends and family look to you for certain kinds of support and not other kinds.
Let people be who they are, accept them with their strengths and their limitations, and ask them to do the same for you. That’s what support is all about. And remember that there is more than one person in a support network, that’s why it’s called a network.
You might find that you have people in your life who want to be supportive but don’t know how to. They may need a little advice, a gentle push, some “patient” education. Sitting down with a friend or family member and letting them know how their behavior affects you, and how they could be more supportive, might help to turn the relationship around.
Is it time to take some action to make positive changes in your support network? People in your life who can’t or won’t be supportive? Drama makers? They may need to be deleted from your guest list.
You may not be able to completely control who you have and don’t have in your life. Your family members, your room-mate, your co-workers… they probably aren’t going anywhere. But you can learn ways to live with them without being brought down by their negativity or lack of support. Remind yourself that if they can’t be supportive, it is their own limitation and not because something is wrong with you. Accept what you can’t change and focus on what’s working in your life. Mix things up by surrounding yourself with as many supportive people as possible.
Here’s another way to look at the list. What kind of a support are you to the people in your life? Don’t forget, this is a two-way street. You could also say that the best way to have the support that you need is to also be supportive toward other people. It’s a matter of putting out the energy that you most want to attract.
Still hanging out with that same old crowd?
It might be time to use some crowd control. Bring people into your life that can team up with you to bring out the best in each other. Support is power!
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