I have no doubt (and science now fully backs this up) that inviting support is one of the most essential, vital elements to blossoming and thriving in health and life. And yet, sadly, it can be quite elusive for many of us.
We as humans are relational creatures, and we need each other. And yet, if there’s one belief I’ve observed over and over among people I know (and was certainly present for me in the early part of my healing journey), it’s this: When it comes to my self-care, I’m on my own.
As I’ve explored what’s behind that sentiment, I have seen a lot of fear, shame, and embarrassment. I think a lot of us fear reaching out for support because we equate it with being weak, or we are scared about giving over our power to another, particularly a professional.
Turning to others for support is not about handing over authority.
In my experience it is the opposite. When we find those who we trust to bring onto our team of support (see my article: Who’s On Your Team of Support) — whether professionally or in our friend and family network, we access a new strength—one that we can find only in the vulnerability of being transparent, being seen in our wholeness, revealing the parts of ourselves that we may be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
One of the keys to maintaining a sense of strength and confidence in relationships with those with whom we seek support comes from truly owning that we each are our own best health guide.
When we are in charge of ourselves in this way, we can filter others’ reflections, knowledge, and expertise—we can feel what resonates and what doesn’t. We can take in what supports us and let the rest go.
Being our own best health guide is relevant whether you are reaching out for peer support (see my article: Why You Need a Vitality Buddy) or professional support. And having professionals on your team of support is critical.
They not only offer you the expertise of often many years of training, but they also bring the experience of practicing their healing art every day, with a diversity of different people. Thus, they will have skills, perspectives, and a depth of experience that your peer, partner, or family simply can’t offer.
Recognizing that you need this kind of support and then asking for that is a huge and empowering step. Yet, given the dynamics that can be at play so often these days in our healthcare system, it is important that we all remember, no matter who we are, what our training is, or who we are consulting with:
YOU are in charge of your health journey.
When you go to a healthcare professional, you are hiring them to support you. They are your consultant—you are paying them to do a treatment or therapy for you. This is true regardless of whether insurance is involved or not. This can help you to stay autonomous and not forget that you are actually your own best health guide.
Nobody else but you is living with you 24/7 and receiving all of the feedback and symptoms. Only you can discern what brings you alive and what doesn’t.
As you develop these self-care capacities, you will have more confidence with your healthcare practitioners. You will more easily be able to ask them their opinions and receive treatments without letting go of your power, because you recognize that you are in charge.
Be the boss. Seek out the answers you need. Make sure that no one deflects your questions—if they do they are probably not the best person to have on your team of support.
This brings me to one of the most important aspects of maintaining your authority in relationship to your support system — to have discernment and self-respect about who you share your vulnerabilities with and who you invite onto your team of support.
As Brené Brown cautions,
“If we share our shame story with the wrong person, they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.”[i]
However, she also writes,
“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”[ii]
Choose people to be on your team, whether professionals, peers, or family, who have the capacity to hold all of who you are—your darkness and your light—and to embrace the complexity, nuance, and ups and downs of the journey with you, while practicing love, gentleness, and compassion.
They are not there to fix you, but to be of support to you. They understand that you are in charge of your own journey. However, they also understand that sharing the journey with you will make the road easier for you and for them, while moving you both toward greater health and vitality.
- How might you more fully maintain your own authority as you reach out for support?
- Given what was evoked for you in this article, who might you want to invite to be part of your support team?
- Is there anyone who you might want to let go of as part of your primary support team?
[i] Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, (Hazelden Publishing, 2010), Kindle Edition, 10.
[ii] Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. (Penguin Publishing Group, 2012). Kindle Edition, 75.