Being a Good Supporter

How many times have you been bursting to tell someone that you hit your next goal?  I completed a 5k!  I reached my goal weight!  Any time your hard work pays off, it’s a really great feeling.  And sometimes, there’s a great need inside of you to tell someone about it.  We’re social creates, and our natural instinct urges us to share.  You rush home, or pick up the phone, and tell the person you care about ‘I did it!’

And in return, you get jealousy and contempt.

Being a good supporter is not always an easy task, especially if that someone announcing their accomplishments makes you feel worse about failing to reach yours.  So instead of saying what you should say, ‘well done!’, you say something else.

I’ve recently had a few different reactions to my goals.  My family is usually very supportive, and I’m very lucky to have them.  But when I ran in for the first time feeling extremely pleased with my 1 km non-stop run (first in years), I was hoping for that pat-on-the-back recognition I felt the huge accomplishment in my life deserved.  What I got were two answers…

1.) “My fastest run was under seven minutes”

2.) “My best run was 5 km in 25 minutes.”

That’s it.  No congrats.  No well done.  Instead of recognizing how momentous this was in my life, my usually supportive family belittled it by pointing out how it paled in comparison to their own accomplishments.  Both of their accomplishments took place years ago, and neither of them could come close to matching those times, or my new time, now, and yet still it was used to compare.

I understand where these reactions came from.  They both wished they were still capable of their former glory, and seeing me get closer to my own goals made them realize how far away they are to theirs.  Equally relevant is that my accomplishment shouldn’t need outside validation.  I don’t need other people to tell me what I did was amazing.  I already know.  Still, these reactions were not what I was hoping for, and despite my own excitement, their remarks hurt.

I didn’t say anything.  I just waited until they were done, and left, feeling defeated.  At first I was a little disheartened, and felt justified in my anger at them.  Then I realized how hard being a true supporter is.  To get past your own feelings and give another person what they need and deserve.

I started paying attention to my own reactions.  It’s hard to listen to what’s being said without pulling your own experience into it or letting it remind you of your own faults.  But being a good supporter actually has nothing to do with you.  Another person is asking for your help, and a good supporter truly wants to give them that help.  If you want to be a good supporter, try a few of these…

1.) Ask yourself why the person in your life is sharing this piece of information.  Is it solely about them, or are they actually asking your opinion.  Are they hoping for validation, or honestly have doubts about something.  Understanding what their motivation is in telling you will help you give the best reaction.  If something is digging for a compliment, give it to them.  There’s a reason they need it.

2.) Read Body Language.  How excited are they to tell you?  Reading tone and body language is a skill.  If someone runs in with a huge smile exclaiming ‘I did it!’.  The only proper response is ‘Congratulations!’

3.) Enjoy the moment with them.  If you know someone has been working towards a goal, and despite weeks of silence they’re choosing this moment to share it, it means they’re feeling pretty good about it.  A supportive friend helps them really enjoy this moment, without reminding them of the next goal.  Saying ‘that’s great, but you still have so far to go’, is not helpful at all.  Instead, congratulate them and offer to take them for a coffee, on you, to celebrate this moment and help their momentum keep moving forward.

4.) Ignore how you feel.  We all have complicated feelings of self-doubt or even superiority.  If someone’s accomplishment seems small to you, then maybe you need to adjust you standards a little.  If their accomplishment makes you feel jealous and your self-doubt flares up, that’s your problem, not theirs.  Taking out your own insecurities on others will ensure your friendship doesn’t stay strong.

5.) Let it motivate you.  We feed off of each others energy.  If you’re hoping to make positive changes in your own life, and a friend or family member is succeeding, let their excitement motivate you to hit that goal on your own.  If they can do it, so can you!

Giving is a lot harder than receiving.  Think how much it means to you when someone recognizes your hard work and realize that your friends and family feel the same when you recognize them.

This post is not an advocate from getting self confidence from outside your own mind and body.  Building up your own strength internally is vital, and it will bring you more happiness than counting on external factors.  But just because we should be strong enough to be happy ourselves, doesn’t mean a little love from our friends and family doesn’t brighten our lives a little.

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