An Often Overlooked Building Block to Emotional Resilience

Written by on February 22, 2016 in Accountability, Self-Care

Building Block of Resilience

There is a tendency when discussing resilience to define it by a particular characteristic, adaptability for example or the ability to manage change and remain optimistic in the face of adversity. This is correct, as far as it goes.

Emotional resilience is actually a combination of several traits and behaviors that work together to increase your ability to minimize the effects of the stress and strain of ALL life’s challenges.

A key building block very often overlooked is the ability to develop and manage a personal network of people to provide you with practical or emotional support.

While there are many benefits to developing this type of system the most basic is simple peace of mind; knowing that when you find yourself in need of encouragement or assistance there are people you have developed a trusting relationship with available to lend a helping hand.

Call it a clan, a network, a tribe or community, whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~Jane Howard

Defining Resilience Support System Roles

It’s human nature to first think of a support system in terms of close, permanent relationships, but I encourage you to open your mind to a broader definition.

In fact, as we review various roles and the way the puzzle pieces of your system fit together, you may be surprised to find that you already have a pretty good network in place and all that’s missing is a sense of purpose and unity.

Role Models: These are the people who not only show you what’s possible but are often a source of inspiration and valuable information.

People Who Share Common interests: People who share common interests or concerns can be especially important in keeping you motivated and help to avoid feelings of isolation and discouragement.

Helpers: These are people who specialize in particular areas and may either support you through service or by solving particular kinds of problems. They may or may not be someone you would choose to have a close personal relationship.

Challengers: You may not have a close relationship with these people, in fact, you may not even like them because they are so demanding of you, but they help motivate you to explore new ways of doing things, develop new skills, and work toward achieving your full potential.

Now let’s see what an actual support network might look like:

  • Friends
  • Family members
  • Spiritual or religious mentors/groups or community
  • Neighbors
  • Professional peers/colleagues
  • Babysitting and child care providers
  • Social groups; creative or book/hobby groups
  • Health care providers
  • Professional mentors and coaches
  • Business development and networking organizations
  • Therapist, counselors and/or support groups
  • Financial consultants or advisors
  • Online support and networking communities

What to Know About Building Your Support System

The first step in developing your personal support system is to conduct an honest self-assessment of your current situation so that you can identify any gaps. It could be that you just need to cultivate a few existing relationships.

Reach out to someone who has offered help before. Strengthen some of your current professional and peer group relationships, ask a potential mentor to lunch, or join a support group that meets your specific needs.

Try to keep in mind that this isn’t just busy work, but an important step in building your capacity for long-term emotional resilience.

Here are a few more tips:

Everyone’s Support System Will Look Different

There is no one-size-fits-all model, remember this is what you need to feel fully supported at your current life stage so take your time thinking this through.

Do however keep in mind this is not about using people, a support system is a two-way street, so only invite those into your network who you respect and who you will be prepared to support in turn.

The Support System Will Naturally Evolve

Life is always changing and evolving, and so will your needs in a support network depending on your stage in life, current needs and the ages of your children and parents (if you’re involved in their care).

A Support System May or May Not Include Family

Some of us are members of close family units, and others, well not so much. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to find it difficult, even undesirable to enlist their family as part of their support network.

There’s nothing to feel guilty about if this is the case for you, after all not everyone we consider “family” is related by blood.

Know your circle. Make sure everybody in your ‘boat’ is rowing and not drilling holes when you’re not looking. ~Dr. Steve Maraboli

You’ll Have to Occasionally Clean House

Maintaining positive relationships takes effort and time. If a person or company ceases to offer sufficient support or is taking more than they’re giving in terms of positive interaction, then be prepared to remove them from your system.

This does not necessarily involve ending these relationships, especially when it’s family, old friends, or carefully selected networking contacts. It only means that you are choosing to look elsewhere for positive support, professional aid, or personal encouragement.

Don’t Mistake Independence for Not Needing Help

Your ability to identify and be honest about your strengths and limitations, and to know at what point reaching out for help will actually improve your situation, is a key characteristic of emotional resilience.

For some people, this level of sharing and trust comes naturally, but many more find it extremely difficult to communicate their needs or (especially) to ask for help even when they’re struggling to make it through another day.

It may be out of fear of losing control, embarrassment, or it could be they’ve suffered a betrayal and sworn never to trust again.

Does this sound familiar?

“Why didn’t you ask for some help?”
“Oh, I didn’t want to bother anyone.”

I can’t tell you how often I hear this! In our quest to be independent, self-sufficient, and successful, we often avoid the very thing we most need to do – ask for help.

Closing Thoughts

We can all benefit from social and emotional support from time to time and while it may seem counterintuitive, having strong support system can actually make you better able to cope with problems on your own, by improving your self-esteem and sense of self-empowerment.

Finally, keep in mind that you don’t need a huge support network. Many people find a wealth of encouragement and support with just a handful of well-chosen trusted relationships.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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42 Reader Comments

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  1. Glad you liked the article Mark even though it seems to have sent you into forced introspection. 🙂 Seriously, if anything I’ve written causes you to question and maybe even look at things a little differently, then I’m doing my job right. Always appreciate your thoughtful insights.

  2. Mark says:

    Well congratulations M!

    You have officially caused me to go tho that place of some deep reflection, especially when I had no initial intention of doing so!LOL!

    I love the way you explained, we should not confuse our quest for being independent, with needing help!

    That is such an enlightening distinction and level of understanding to come to!

    And you are also right about the fluidity of our ever changing support network!

    Sometimes, we have be brutally honest and move on, if our or the other party involved, needs are no longer being met!

    As always, you’ve given more than enough to both mentally and emotionally digest!LOL! Thanks!
    Mark recently posted…What Potentially Profitable Marketing Lessons Can Savvy Entrepreneurs Learn From The Music Industry?My Profile

  3. Spot on Marquita, I love this article.
    Sharing this link to my support group ASAP!
    We discuss this topic a few days ago only for you to write about it. Thanks for sharing x
    Chinwe -abstractfriday recently posted…Fairmont Monte CarloMy Profile

  4. I’m so glad you found value in the article Beverley! I can especially relate to your point about flying solo, and I must admit there is nothing I enjoy quite as much as figuring out a challenging problem. But my friends and supporters have repeatedly reminded me through their generosity, that no one has all the answers, and for that I am very grateful. Thanks for your kind words and for contributing to the conversation.

  5. I agree with you about online support Erica, I have a huge online system of friends and supporters as a result of blogging for the past 6+ years. Many of these people I will never meet, but they have been there for me time and again, and hopefully I’ve been able to reciprocate in kind. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  6. Sue Kearney says:

    My support group is dynamic and often changing. That was a hard reality for me until I let go of wanting things to be set in stone and never change.

    More than a few of the wise things you said in this article reminded me of this nugget of 12step wisdom — Don’t keep going to the hardware store for oranges. The lesson: learn to ask for support from a source that’s likely to give it, not one who might judge or tell you what to do.

    Thanks, you inspire me with your words.
    Sue Kearney recently posted…Want more joy in your life? Try these three things…My Profile

  7. Being someone who often loves to fly solo, I have learned as I have gained years and wisdom, that it is necessary to have a strong community or support system to call on. My family has always been there, especially my mother who has had to see me go through some very challenging times relating to my health. Throughout my journey back to health, I have also had an incredible network of people who have supported and encouraged me to trust my intuition and make the choices that ultimately led to me transforming my health issues. Many of these people have also become friends as well. I can’t imagine my own life without a strong network of people who I know care about me and love me and are there to help! Thanks for the very clear way you presented this, Marquita.
    Beverley Golden recently posted…More Women Should Call Themselves “Beautiful”My Profile

  8. Erica says:

    I’ve led a transient life so my support network is changing. Most recently, I created a close group of family-like friends in Los Angeles. However, most of those friends eventually left L.A. and went back to where they were from. My most recent network of support really exists online. I’ve met such great supportive people through being an entrepreneur. So a support network really can come from varied places these days.

  9. I’m so glad you found value in the article Millen, and truly appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts and contribute to the conversation. 🙂

  10. Good point Betty, and I’ve been there myself. It’s not easy sometimes blessing people on their way but personally I believe it’s best for all concerned. Thanks so much for taking the time to contribute to the conversation!

  11. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts with us Teresa, always appreciated!

  12. I agree with you about the power of our online relationships Roslyn! It’s funny sometimes how you even overlook where everyone lives, for example I was reminded just the other day that a fellow blogger lives in India and that sense of connection around the world is probably one of the things I enjoy most about blogging. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  13. Millen says:

    Thank you for this reminder,Marquita, about the importance of having a support system regardless how strong and capable you perceive yourself to be. I am so used to be a rock for other people that it rarely comes to mind to reach out to others when I myself need support. Today happened to be one of those days…

  14. Betty Eitner says:

    A support system is truly a necessity and needs to work for all parties. I have found, at times, that a link in that system may have been negative or too draining and, unfortunately, had to made a break with that link. Ensuring equilibrium in what is being given and what is coming back from the support group’s members is very important for balance.

  15. Teresa Salhi says:

    Yes, so much agree. Women need support and to allow ourselves to receive it. It may or may not come from those closest to us too and that is ok and sometimes better. Thanks for sharing.
    Teresa Salhi recently posted…Fearless Women Do 7 Things DifferentlyMy Profile

  16. Roslyn Tanner Evans says:

    I would not have survived if I didn’t have a great support system from different communities at all stages of my life. It always seemed so natural to me to be there for others and seek same, I didn’t know we had a name- support system. I’m grateful I have some in my inner circle that have been with me 50+ years.
    I think of many virtual friends as my support team.

  17. It’s wonderful that you had such a strong support system to rely on during such a difficult time in your life Jeannette. There is definitely something to be said for a close family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation.

  18. Congratulations Dana, it sounds like you have a wonderful support system in place. I’m happy you enjoyed the article, and really appreciate your taking the time to contribute to the conversation.

  19. I’m so glad you found value in it RoseMary! Just from what I’ve learned about your family from your blog it sounds like you have a wonderful support system firmly in place. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and contributing to the conversation!

  20. You are right Lea, I have heard people dispute the need for a support system. Just going by the gut reactions from people when I’ve written about trust issues, I’d say that at least a part of that has to do with past disappointments. And I agree with you that it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the Challengers in our lives but, just speaking from my own experience, when I look back at some of the most annoying people I’ve know there always seems to be a valuable lesson that same from the experience. Does take a while to figure what it is sometimes, though! 🙂

  21. Jeannette Paladino says:

    I’ve always relied on my support groups, which I feel are indispensable. How wonderful if was when one of my dearest friends and her husband, without my asking, sat by my side during my husband’s last two days in the hospital. They joined my brother and his wife and my sister-in-law. How comforting to be wrapped in that cocoon.

    You’re right about having different people play different roles. My nephews “look after” me with phone calls and visits that I treasure so much. I have a small circle of friends and we feel free to call each other at any time to schmooze or discuss a problem. I am so lucky to have these support systems.

  22. Such a good post to remind us to be willing to ask for help when we need it. I feel blessed to have a small group of family and friends I know I can call on at any time for anything. My husband is my biggest supporter. I hope I can be the kind of person my friends would call on at 2 a.m. and know that I would be there for them no matter what.
    Dana Lynn Thompson recently posted…What we need is a comprehensive barns plan!My Profile

  23. Great post, Marquita, and as soon as I’m done, I’m sending it off to a few of my most important support people.
    I love the Marboli quote about the boat/rowing/hole pokers! I learned a long time ago to purge the people who were giving me bad advice for their own ends. I’m very glad I learned how to spot that early in my life…at least most of the time.
    I completely agree that the support people can/cannot be family members. While my family would save each other from burning buildings, we also don’t always “get” each other. So, look elsewhere and find those right people.
    You’re spot on!
    RoseMary Griffith recently posted…Is Your Life Justified?My Profile

  24. Lea Bullen says:

    Hi Marquita,

    I have to agree with you that is commonly overlooked. People may even think that it’s not necessary.

    I know I’ve tried to go it alone and it worked for a bit but it’s so much easier and helpful when you have a supportive team. And it doesn’t even have to be a large number of people, just key supportive, authentic ones.

    That’s a nice perspective on Challengers. Even though they can make the road rough, the whole situation does open your eyes to new and different methods, where otherwise you would have stayed comfortable and closed in.

    Lea Bullen recently posted…5 Excuses That Are Keeping You from Being SuccessfulMy Profile

  25. That is wonderful news Doreen, thank you so much for taking the time to share! Forty-eight years equals a lot of shared history so I hope it all works out for the best for both of you.

  26. Hi Marty. Just wanted to let you know that out of the blue, the friend I was speaking about called me after about 6 months, and we had a pleasant conversation. So I think just ‘talking’ about it here must have opened the lines of communication, and we will hopefully be able to preserve a 48-year friendship – likely under revised terms.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…hot on the trail of the best Nanaimo Bar experienceMy Profile

  27. Back at ya Dave. 🙂 I like your point about how the relationships in our network can (and should) be mutually beneficial. In fact, I referenced in the article that this isn’t about “using” people and that is a very important distinction when considering who to invite into our inner circles. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, always value your thoughtful insights!

  28. Thanks for letting me know you found value in the article Lenie, and especially that it prompted you to give some thought to your own network!

  29. Good for you Phoenicia, sounds like you have a healthy support network in place. I also tend to be reluctant to ask for help, but sometimes that’s just what we need most. Thanks for sharing and contributing to the conversation.

  30. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and contribute to the conversation Catarina. 🙂

  31. Good for you Jeri, sounds like you’ve got your support system firmly in place.

  32. That’s great news Sabrina! So glad the article helped and maybe provided some useful tips on growing your support network!

  33. I hear you Doreen. I could list any number of reasons why forgiveness is about you and not your friend, but the reality is most of us have an invisible line and when someone crosses it then it can be especially difficult, if not impossible to allow them back into our inner circle. Glad the article at least gave you some food for thought.

  34. Thanks for sharing Donna, I’m so glad my article prompted you to give some thought to your own support network. 🙂

  35. Dave says:

    Great perspective, as always, Marty. I think that my support network is constantly morphing and evolving and I like how you have offered advice to not feel “guilty” about including someone inside our support network just because of some “de facto” role they have in our lives.

    I also think that if it is in the right capacity, serving inside another’s person’s support network can have as many benefits for yourself as it does for them. It’s certainly a mutually beneficial relationship when you connect with the people who propel you forward towards your dreams.

    Thanks, as always, my friend, and valued member of my support network 🙂
    Dave recently posted…Sweet SerendipityMy Profile

  36. lenie says:

    This made me think about my support network and find that although it isn’t large – by choice – I know it’s genuine. I can call any of the people on my list and receive help – in return they know they can expect the same from me.
    In my case, maintaining a large network would require more energy than I have to give. You do always make me think and that’s wonderful.
    lenie recently posted…Vegetable Gardens for Small Space GardenersMy Profile

  37. Phoenicia says:

    You write on such a deep level which encourages me to “check” myself. My support network consists of my spouse, immediate family (mum, siblings) and friends in and outside of church. I feel very much supported and know people are there should I need them.

    I have a tendency to feel I can go things alone or that I do not want to burden others. My husband is like my best friend in many ways and I am thankful for this.
    Phoenicia recently posted…How much do you value your time?My Profile

  38. Catarina says:

    Yes a support system is important. But to be determined and persevere are the two most important thing in life when it comes to resilience and succeeding. Without those two qualities you are unlikely to overcome the challenges you face.
    Catarina recently posted…Have you ever gone straight from success to failure?My Profile

  39. Jeri says:

    My support network largely doesn’t include my family, but I’ve learned to be okay with that and seek support from other people in various roles instead. I tend to be okay with asking for help and am proof a support network doesn’t need to be very big, though I’m grateful to my therapist for keeping me as a pro bono case once my insurance got cancelled because of the divorce.
    Jeri recently posted…#WriteTip: How to Write a Book BlurbMy Profile

  40. This is great, Marquita. I needed this today. My goal this year is to have a more supportive group of people around me, helping each other get to where we want to me. Thank you.
    Sabrina Quairoli recently posted…Philly Home Show Highlights From A Professional OrganizerMy Profile

  41. Interesting post, Marty. I like how you define that just because someone isn’t making it as one of our support network, it doesn’t mean that we should strike them off our friend list. I had a close friend let me down last summer and I’ve been struggling since then to determine whether there is anything to salvage in the relationship. There may be, if we redefine it as a simple friendship vs being a really close support-giving friendship. Although I’m not sure if that will work. I’ll leave it on the back burner for now.
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted…five things you should know about TequilaMy Profile

  42. Donna Janke says:

    This post has got me thinking about my support network. I have a strong and varied support network, although I admit to being one of those people who doesn’t easily reach out for help. But I know there are a number of people who are there for me. And I agree with the comment that support systems change over time, both because what we need changes and the ability of some people to provide support can change too. I also agree the network needn’t be large.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Snowbirds in Pedasi – We are Not in Arizona AnymoreMy Profile