I don’t know about you, but I used to have a tough time asking for help. I thought I needed to know all the answers if I wanted others to see me as someone who was competent and smart.
Fortunately, early on in my career a mentor figured out what was going on and assured me that it was not only okay to ask for help, no one who ever managed to achieve any level of success did so without a support system.
Call it a clan, a network, a tribe or community, whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard
The Nature of a Support System
A support system is simply a network of people who provide you with practical or emotional support.
While there are many benefits to developing this type of network the most basic is knowing that when you find yourself in need of encouragement or assistance there are people you have developed a trusting relationship with ready to lend a helping hand.
It’s human nature to first think of a support system in terms of close, permanent relationships, but I encourage you to open your mind to a broader definition.
In fact, as we review various roles and nature of a support system, you may be surprised to find that you already have a pretty good network in place and all that’s missing is a sense of purpose and unity.
Defining Support Roles
Support systems will look different for everyone depending upon your circumstances but there are a few roles that will be beneficial to each network.
Role Models: These are the people who not only show you what’s possible but are often a source of inspiration and valuable information.
People Who Share Common interests: People who share common interests or concerns can be especially important in keeping you motivated and help to avoid feelings of isolation and discouragement.
Helpers: These are people who specialize in particular areas and may either support you through service or by solving particular kinds of problems. They may or may not be someone you would choose to have a close personal relationship.
Challengers: You may not have a close relationship with these people, in fact, you may not even like them because they are so demanding of you, but they help motivate you to explore new ways of doing things, develop new skills, and work toward achieving your full potential.
Building Your Support System
The first step in developing your support system is to conduct an honest self-assessment of your current situation so that you can identify any gaps. It could be that you just need to cultivate a few existing relationships.
Reach out to someone who has offered help before. Strengthen some of your current professional and peer group relationships, ask a potential mentor to lunch, or join a support group that meets your specific needs.
Try to keep in mind that this isn’t just busy work, but an important step in building your capacity for long-term emotional resilience.
A few more tips to keep in mind …
Everyone’s Support System Will Look Different
There is no one-size-fits-all model, remember this is what you need to feel fully supported at your current life stage so take your time thinking this through.
Do however keep in mind this is not about using people, a support system is a two-way street, so only invite those into your network who you respect and who you will be prepared to support in turn.
Your Support System Will Naturally Evolve
Life is always changing and evolving, and so will your needs in a support network depending on your stage in life, current personal and professional needs and the ages of your children and parents (if you’re involved in their care).
Your Support System May or May Not Include Family
Some of us are members of close family units, and others, well not so much. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to find it difficult, even undesirable to enlist their family as part of their support network.
There’s nothing to feel guilty about if this is the case for you, after all not everyone we consider “family” is related by blood.
Surround yourself with people who add value to your life, who challenge you to be greater than you were yesterday. Life isn’t meant to be done alone. Find your tribe, and journey freely and loyally together. ~Alex Elle
You Will Have to Occasionally Clean House
Maintaining positive relationships takes effort and time. If a person or company ceases to offer sufficient support or is taking more than they’re giving in terms of positive interaction, then be prepared to remove them from your system.
Just to be clear, this does not necessarily mean ending these relationships, especially when it’s family, old friends, or carefully selected networking contacts.
To remove an individual from a support system means only to choose to look elsewhere for positive support, professional aid, or personal encouragement.
We can all benefit from social and emotional support from time to time and while it may seem counterintuitive, having a strong support system can actually make you better able to cope with problems on your own, by improving your self-esteem and sense of self-empowerment.
Keep in mind that you don’t need a huge support network. Many people find a wealth of encouragement and support with just a handful of well-chosen trusted relationships.
P.S. Thanks for taking the time to read my article! If you found it worthwhile please take a moment to comment, like and share.