When things turned upside down in my life last year, I relied on a few close friends and my self-love coach. Entirely. For months.
I was a nightmare when I first began. Scared, awkward, I didn’t understand what “support” meant. I struggled so much, where to begin? I read books, asked friends who seemed like they knew what they were doing, asked my coach, made mistakes.
Ohhh the mistakes… :)
But we’re human and we muddle through it, don’t we?
I practiced, ended up being good at something foreign to me but sometimes I still feel like a newbie.
One thing’s for sure: we could all use more help than we’re asking for.
So here’s how I got ready to get support, because wanting it just isn’t enough. You can’t go into it blind. Before you make requests of people you love or people you hope to trust, do your homework.
Self-care is a sport. It needs training, not just desire.
People ask, “Is it possible for me to even do that with all the self doubt I feel?”
The truth is, I don’t know. I asked the same thing when I first started, but the only way out for me was testing and trying. Experiment with your own capacity – it’s the best way to find out what’s possible for YOU specifically. Because the alternative, feeling alone, isn’t attractive. It’s the only way to know if you’re *really* up to the task or if you need lots more practice.
Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking: How I learned to stop worrying and let people help helped. I read it in Thailand and underlined literally every page. I kept it by my bedside so that when I woke up and went to sleep, her notion of giving and receiving could seep into me.
Here’s a list of how to prepare for support. Mindset always comes first before involving others.
# 1. Practice gratitude. All the time. Before you ask anyone anything, first shift your energy about what’s happening.
Going through a tough time? Feel like it will last forever? I get it. I don’t want you to forget what’s going on. Gratitude gets a bad rap because people think they need to willy nilly dig for things to smile about or find the “lesson.” No. Sometimes there are no lessons and life is just hard. I was so confused when people told me “be grateful” when stuff hit the fan because it didn’t feel real.
What IS real, and what cleared up my confusion, was when I made gratitude my own. I couldn’t fake the funk. But I made an honest attempt to look at what was already good in the middle of a hard time. Like when I went through burnout but was still grateful for my best friend’s baby. Talking to her always made me laugh (partly because she’s ONE and knows how to raise her eyebrows like a car salesman!) But I knew many people didn’t have that in their lives. You better believe her name is in my gratitude journal 1000 times. Other days I could only be grateful for socks or a chirping bird. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that it’s true for you, gives you hope, helps you go on, makes you laugh. THAT is gratitude.
You don’t have to manufacture it, just look around. You can genuinely need help and be grateful at the same time.
The greatest benefit of this is that when your internal state changes (you’re grateful), other people FEEL it. It’s easier for them to help because they see your requests as reasonable, within their capacity. No matter how big your problem is, they know you don’t want them to make it disappear or take away your pain. You come from an honest place and when you’re grateful, you take care of all the drama and emotion around what it means to “help.” Why? Because you have perspective. When you ask from that place, there’s no heaviness or obligation because you come into it from the getgo with acceptance and a managed point of you. You also feel more worthy to receive, because you feel overall more worthy of your life and the goodness in it. Gotta love a double whammy, who’s with me!
People forget that they need to take the time to balance themselves first. So when they ask instead of it feeling simple, it’s urgent and intense. People don’t have a shot to show up properly if they feel they have to solve ALL your problems or manage things they don’t know how to manage. They’ll just say NO or won’t even say anything, they’ll just slink away. I had to learn this the hard way but once I did, I could dump and talk all I wanted because people FELT that I’d already taken care of the internal stuff.
#2. Start being the support you want to receive.
When I first wanted support, my intuition pulled me to become someone who supported others better. I don’t know why, she’s just strong like that. All of a sudden I made a list of people I wanted to be close to (or wanted support from) and brainstormed what they may need. It wasn’t tit for tat, I don’t believe in that. But I genuinely didn’t understand what support was or how to give or receive. I knew what I wanted: to speak transparently at a high level (both intuitively and intelligently), no fixing or judging, real discernment. People who had humor and depth, who empowered, not criticized. People who had a positive, spiritual outlook grounded in practicality. I wanted truth, laughter, reliability, wisdom. It took time to understand all this and boy did I spend the time. I looked at these people and their essence, their goals, and brainstormed how I could support them. It took lots of drafts and many ideas for each person.
Let me clarify: this is NOT transactional. I wasn’t doing this to get better support from them. People feel that energy. I did this because I really needed to understand the very idea of support, and to give in a way that was specific and personal and intentional. Once I did that, yes I knew I’d receive support, but that wasn’t the entire goal. I realized that even though my friends had GREAT lives, there was always a way for me to add more joy, substance, or delight. It was powerful to swim in support and taste what it felt like at a deep level.
#3. Learn how to receive.
Before you ask people to help, your energy has to be something they can say YES to. That requires knowing how to receive. Like a champ. Because getting support isn’t about them, it’s about YOU. Are you ready to allow people in and be there for you? Do you feel worthy enough to receive – or will you feel insecure? Will you feel guilty and want to give back right away? The only way to ultimately get meaningful support is to ask these questions so that you don’t crash when you put yourself out there and people actually say YES.
Wanting support and receiving it are different.
Hold off on making requests before you’re ready. If you don’t know how to receive, practice until you feel more confident. It WILL feel messy, probably for a while, but don’t let that stop you. I felt messy and needy when I first reached out, but I kept going. I promise it gets easier. Now I have relationships that are deep, transparent, and genuinely beneficial to both people (thanks Ruthibelle for that lovely phrase!)
So if this scares you and makes you uncomfortable, that’s a good sign. Welcome to the next beautiful phase of life where you reclaim your power and become a vessel to give and get support.
To soldiering (and muddling) together,