Recently, I was hurt and unpleasantly surprised by the selfishness of some of the people closest to me. I needed their support, and instead, faced judgement and unsolicited advice. I was profoundly disappointed, and I began to question what support means.
One is the loneliest number
I've noticed a trend among some people who are trying to make a life change. When I've asked them who in their lives supported them in their journey, many people were quick to say, "I did it myself. I don't depend on anyone." Honestly, after the past few weeks, I can see where they're coming from. You want your achievements to be your own, and by relying on others, you risk having them take credit for your success or worse - putting you down or berating you during setbacks. I too reacted by shutting other people out, worried about getting too close. By being vulnerable and relying on other people, you may get hurt. When others disappoint you, it makes you never want to trust another person again. It seems the safe route is to shut people out forever and to just keep it all inside. Who needs 'em, right?
Getting hurt by someone close to you can be the loneliest feeling in the world. You may begin to question the entire relationship, and face truths that maybe that person wasn't who you thought they were. When you try explaining the situation to others, it's an emotional marathon. You may worry that no one will understand.
I recognize these feelings, but even so, I have come to realize that the best place to go when people let you down is, ironically...other people.
"Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." - Bernard Baruch
Instead of focusing on the people who hurt me and giving them the power over my emotions, I turned towards the people who bring me joy. I was reminded that people can surprise you in both good and bad ways. For every selfish act, there is a equal and opposite one.
My friends and coworkers reminded me of my own values and worth. It has led me to redefine what family truly is. People whose love is truly unconditional. I realized that the opinions of people who no longer share my values don't matter. The people who matter to me don't evaluate me on the achievements I made or the way I look, but instead, they accept me for person I am.
I found support in places I expected the least. Even a simple act of kindness from a stranger made me realize that the criticisms of those who hurt me were powerless. I am so grateful for the little things.
That's why I believe in the power of social support, and thus, Supporti. Someone out there is probably feeling lonely right now. Just a small word of encouragement, a connection and sign of compassion from another person, can make a world of difference.
Things you can control
It sounds obvious, but I always need to remind myself: you can't control what others do, you can only control what you do. So if you've been hurt by someone's selfish actions, here are suggestions on how to cope:
1. Fight the tendency to sink inward and shut everyone out.
Instead, open yourself up to people who bring positive light into your life. It's okay to depend on people. Ask for help. Not everyone will be as supportive as you need, but the others will make up for the deficit in spades. There are even free online communities, like 7 Cups of Tea, full of volunteers via anonymous chat when you need someone to listen.
2. Be the light in someone else's life.
Having been hurt by someone teaches you empathy. Now you can go forth and be the supportive entity for another person. Giving support makes you feel just as good as receiving it.
3. Change your expectations.
Maya Angelou famously said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." When someone hurts you profoundly, accept the reality that this is who they are. Actions speak louder than words, and you have a choice in whether or not to continue letting them hurt you.
4. Immerse yourself into a new project.
This is a more practical, near-term solution, but sometimes you need a distraction and this worked for me. I've spent nearly every waking hour that I'm not working trying to learn computer programming language Swift and Xcode to develop the Supporti app. It's a true challenge, but I embrace it. I'm continuing to improve myself and no one can take that away.
5. Find the joy.
I recently attended an inspiring talk by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant on their new book, Option B: Building resilience in the face of adversity. Seeing Sandberg get up on a stage and talk about coping with the unexpected death of her husband gave me perspective on what really matters. One of the coping strategies she used was writing down three good things that happened each day. This way, no matter how bad things are, you go to bed thinking about the good stuff. You'll live each day looking out for the moments of joy that you'll write down that night.
6. Prioritize your emotional wellness
Get your head right. The impact of emotional distress can be devastating, both physically and mentally. If you're feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, it's time to set some boundaries. Take some time for yourself, and consider seeking professional help. Check out these strategies for emotional wellness and try some of them.
At one point or another, we'll encounter people who let us down. But have hope. There are people who will accept you for you who are. There are people who are eager to pick you back up. You just have to let them in.
If you'd like moral support and positive encouragement from a buddy, sign up for Supporti.