How to build a support system

 I remember my father telling me a quote growing up that went like this: 

‘When all is said and done… if you can count all of your true friends on one hand, you are a lucky man.’ 

The last 2 months have been particularly difficult for me. I have dealt with some personal stuff that feels like one of the hardest things I have ever had to face. It affected my mood, my ability to work, and even my ability to function. 

This is a pretty big deal as I am a self-proclaimed work-alcoholic and I also run my own businesses. So if I am not working, I am not able to pay my bills. However, while it was challenging, I was able to persevere. I still have a long way to go but nonetheless, I have made it to the other side. However, I may have never made it had it not been for the incredible individuals I have in my life. That brings me to what I wanted to talk to you about today. 

That is your support system

Now there are multiple components to your support system. There is family, friends, healthcare professionals, work colleagues, acquaintances, spiritual entities, etc. Now each individual or team provides support to you in varying capacities. Some are the people who you can tell the nitty-gritty details too – they may know aspects of your life that no one else is privileged to. Or they may be more on the periphery and be someone who you can vent to about a project or issue at work. Regardless, each one you allocate some level of trust and willingness to be vulnerable to based on the relationship you have. 

Your support system is vital to your health and survival. Humans are tribal animals. We seek connection. We seek to belong and to be loved. To quote Brene Brown, 

‘As members of a social species, we derive strength not from our rugged individualism but from our collective ability to plan, communicate, and work together.’ 

We need people in our lives to overcome the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis, but also the people we share our successes and accomplishments with. In today’s disconnected world, and this ‘You vs. Me’, it may seem challenging to cultivate worthwhile relationships, and I don’t disagree. 

Reflecting over the last 2 months, I have come to realize that I have 6 incredible individuals in my life who are part of my support system – 6 people who I would trust with my life. I am beyond lucky, words can’t describe how grateful I am for each one of these people. Now I am not telling you this to brag or to act like I have some magical formula for cultivating relationships. I simply wanted to share what I believe were some of the steps I took in my life to cultivate these relationships short of it being purely due to luck. 

I hope these steps will help you to be able to facilitate stronger, deeper and more meaningful connections with the individuals in your life. The stronger your support system is, the more successful you will be in your weight-loss journey, your career success, or whatever it is you are working towards. 

1. Vulnerability

I have let myself be seen. I have shared my hurt, my pain, and some of my darkest secrets. This was probably one of the hardest and most uncomfortable things to do, but it is one of the most important. When you allow yourself to be seen you allow others to realize they are not alone. We all have our stories and telling yours provides others the same to share theirs. Vulnerability breeds connection. 

2. Take a Risk
We run away from connection because we are scared of getting hurt. We want to minimize that pain so we close ourselves off and avoid taking risks. Unfortunately, if you want to connect with others you have to take that risk. The risk that they MIGHT hurt you. They may not accept you, but it is a risk you have to be willing to take. I can promise you the benefit far outweighs the potential risk. 

3. Love Yourself
Most of us are terrible at this. We are our own worst critics. We will cut ourselves down to size in a heartbeat but we wouldn’t dare say the horrible things we say to ourselves to others. This is challenging, but we need to learn to show ourselves compassion and understanding. To realize we are only human. Stop hurting ourselves and start loving ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves, how can we possibly have the capacity to love others? 

Now I can fully appreciate this topic may be triggering for some individuals. I have worked with enough patients to know that many of us lack a proper support system. The reasons as to why that is are endless. For some of my patients, I am their support system – their connection to the outside world. That is another reason why I know the above can work. Those patients take a risk, are vulnerable and start to show themselves some compassion as we work together. They can begin to cultivate other relationships outside of my counseling room. 

By no means is any of this easy, but all of it is necessary. Want to start today? Reach out to a friend, colleague, or someone in your life who you appreciate or are grateful for and tell them exactly how grateful you are to have them in your life, then watch the rest unfold.  

– Dr. Dan


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