Whenever my best friend leans on me, she apologizes saying she wishes she could be more self-sufficient. I’m always surprised, not only because she is a brilliant therapist who knows we all need support, but because she has been my rock and my angel through my various challenges (the deaths of my parents, a serious business crisis, the trials and tribulations of marriage/family, the occasional bad hair day, etc.) It occurred to me that perhaps we’re all guilty of believing on some level that seeking help is a weakness. This notion is absurd.
The truth is, human beings are interdependent. We give and we receive, we teach and we learn, we help and we are helped. We might not receive back exactly what we give to somebody, but that goodness (or lack there of) will come back at us through another source. Also, being of service is often a greater blessing to the giver than the receiver. This is the way of the world.
Studies show people with good social support have better immune functioning, greater longevity, reduced stress and even fewer signs of aging! Therefore, you must tend to your support network like a garden of precious resources. Plant seeds for new relationships, nurture those that foster growth, and weed out the toxic ones that prevent personal and professional blossoming.
In my practice, I see that smart, happy and successful people tap into the resources readily available in their support network. They also “pay it forward”, knowing they can only reap what they sew. They ask for what they need from the people in their network who are capable of providing that resource. (Think of each person in your support network as having a different “menu” of what they are able to provide and “order” accordingly. For example, turning to your shopping pal for deep empathy might be like ordering a filet from a coffee shop–you will end up disappointed.)
1) Assess your life balance by completing the Circle of Life. Make a mark on each spoke which is labeled with an aspect of life. A mark towards the center indicates dissatisfaction with that area of your life and a mark towards the perimeter indicates ultimate happiness with that aspect of your life. Connect your marks to make a circle. Is your circle off balance in certain areas? Is it as big as you would like?
2) Identify your areas of need. The three shortest spokes are the areas of your life in which you are least satisfied and could benefit from support. Start with those.
3) Consider the following sources of support. Who you could ask for what to help you in these areas? How could they help you specifically?
- Mentors, teachers or sponsors
- Healthcare professionals
- Support groups or 12 step meetings
- Neighbors or community
- Organizations (professional, social, religious, charitable)
- Support services (childcare provider, cleaning service, grocery delivery, dog walkers)
- Your Higher Power (God, the Universe, etc.)
4) Now, ask for the support you need and deserve. Act swiftly, be direct and watch your life blossom!