Support Systems: Help them Help You

Let’s say you decide to build a house. You do your research, you gather your supplies, and you design the framework. You then tell all your friends about this plan of yours, and you invite those who have the time and energy to come help out. Everyday you show up, and you are happy to see that people came. They are holding their hammers and hard hats and are ready to pitch in. An amazing sight.

You get to work and you see the fruits of your labor. The house is beginning to look like a house. But one day, a friend shows up to help and in their hand you see a chainsaw. Within a few moments in their efforts to help, they have managed to take down an entire wall. Friends gather round to help repair the damage. The next day that same friend shows up, but this time carrying a blow torch. Off to work they go, and you watch the freshly built roof burn. You turn to your other friends. They shrug and begin pulling back the debris. This pattern continues. At what point, would you ask the friend to stop helping? At what point would you stop calling them a friend?

When we embark on a journey of change we need to surround ourselves with friends who are offering their support. Having someone there showing their love, kindness, and understanding makes a world of difference. But, we do bump into those that look more like the dude with the blowtorch from time to time.

So, what is with the chainsaws and blowtorches? Well, it could be anything, but I normally throw into one of these three categories.

  1. Misguided, Good Intentions – There are times when a person might feel like showing up with tough love is the best way to help you. They truly want to see you get to your goal, but they prefer a drill sergeant approach, and you may not. Or, maybe they go another route. They say that you don’t need to change, because you are perfect the way you are. Sweet, yes. But if your goal is to lose 25 lbs, and they keep bringing you donuts, it’s not really ideal.
  2. Fear of the Unknown – This could be fear that you might outgrow them, fear that you won’t have time for them, fear that you will judge them because they aren’t jumping on the bandwagon with you, or fear of losing touch because they don’t understand your choice. From a very simple perspective, let’s look at the diet. You and your friend go out for beers and burgers every Friday. You go to the same place, and you order the same thing every week. It’s your thing, your routine. Now, you have just announced that you want to go on a diet. Where does that leave them? They don’t want to go on a diet. This is the friend that has the amazing metabolism, so they don’t need to. You know that you want to spend time with them, and you know you can handle eating the grilled chicken and broccoli while they chow down on the burger. But, they might not. Instead of saying any of this though, they launch into a whole diatribe about how this is an awful idea and how you won’t stick to it anyway. I, mean, you did give up on the harmonica lessons after only a week.
  3. Straight up haters – Sometimes people just aren’t supportive because of their own shit that has nothing to do with you. Maybe it’s jealousy or maybe they are miserable in their own situation, I don’t know. There is normally an underlying reason, but you aren’t it. Think of the internet troll, the heckler, or crabby Grandpa Jones (this is a made up name. I don’t know a Grandpa Jones). But, you know the “get off my lawn” or the “why you wasting your time” crowd.

Well, what do you do?

The first thing is to try to understand where they are coming from. Start at the top of my list and work down. Don’t do it while you are angry, because everyone is an asshole when you are triggered and all upset.  Try to give them the benefit of the doubt.

For those well intentioned, misguided souls–be honest. After all they love and support you, they are just maybe showing this in a different way than you need. Tell them gently, yet truthfully the best way they can support you. No one is a mind reader. Give them credit and gratitude for trying.

For those that are afraid of what your change will mean to them, communication is key here as well. Don’t just tell them, show them. If you don’t want beer and burgers, organize something else. It’s not the thing; it’s the connection. Make sure they know they are not going to be left out of this new vision of yourself. But, also make sure not to force your new goals on them–these are yours. We wouldn’t want you to become the misguided fool with good intentions, now would we?  😉

The haters are the toughest nut to crack. I’d say try to see if you can spot the why before you react. You want to double check that they aren’t just afraid of the unknown or very misguided with their good intentions. Sometimes those can appear very hostile if you are already sensitive to the subject. Try to communicate, however, if you realize they are just truly not being supportive and are being hurtful and tearing you down, well, they may need to go in time out. Life is too short to be surrounded by negative forces. Maybe this is temporary, maybe it’s permanent — that’s a personal decision that you must make.

Some people may not buy into what you are trying to do. That’s fine. Not everyone is going to be your cheerleader. The ones to watch out for are those that seem more like they are rooting against you. If you can ignore them, that is probably the best. But if you realize that their words are affecting you, they may need to be told to go and not return until they can handle themselves. They shouldn’t be allowed to be a toxic influence over your life. That shit is contagious. And if you catch it, lord knows who else you might spread it to.

Most importantly, don’t lose sight of your goals and be drug off course by negativity. Sometimes people don’t know how to help but want to, others will be afraid of what this change will mean to them, and sometimes, haters gonna hate. You just keep on loving though. Let your little light of positivity shine. The world needs more of that.


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