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A Practical Guide to Building Your Support Group

Who do you have in your life that offers you unconditional support? Truly unconditional. People who you are comfortable telling anything and everything to, the good, the bad AND the ugly.


group of friends sitting on the beach laughing, having fun

This type of friend can be hard to come by, but whether you are tied by blood, law or choice, these people are so very necessary in our lives. These people are your support system through good and bad times, and you are the same to them. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to build a group of people who I consider to be my family more than my friends. We can truly tell each other everything without fear of judgment. These friends have carried me through several highs and lows, and I would not be the person I am today without them. So if you are missing people like this in your life this is the article for you, A Practical Guide to Building your Support Group! 


So what is a support group? A support group is a gathering of people who share a common concern, condition, or experience and come together to provide emotional support, information, and encouragement to one another. The primary purpose of a support group is to create a safe and non-judgmental space where individuals can express their feelings, share experiences, and learn from one another. Participating in a support group can offer numerous benefits, including a sense of community, the opportunity to gain insights and coping strategies, and the emotional support that comes from connecting with others who understand similar challenges. 


For all of these reasons, building your support group may look different from how I built mine, however there are some practical steps you can take to put yourself in the right scenarios to meet people who align with your lifestyle and values. 


The first and most important step to building a support group is: Identify who you are as a person. 

I understand that this probably sounds elementary, but it is very important to be true to yourself. It may help to make a physical list of things you like about yourself, or things that root your personality. One way to think about this is to think back to when you were a child. Were you the athlete, the animal lover, the brainiac, the reader, the artsy one? As you grew up, what pieces of your personality became the pinnacles of who you are as a person today? Knowing who you are as a person and staying true to yourself is the only way to begin a friendship rooted in honesty and trust. 


Second: Identify who you want to be or what you can do to improve or enhance your life in a practical way.

Again, it may help to be working on a physical list. Think of these as concrete and achievable items. What are things that bring you joy? What is something that you did once and loved, but haven’t continued doing? What are your goals in the next year or several years? What environments do you thrive in? For example, say you went to a spin class a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. One way to enhance your life could be to take a spin class once a week. Maybe you love being a part of something bigger than yourself, can you join a sports team, a volunteer organization or start attending a local church? 


Third: Find where you can go or what you can do.

Look back at step one and two:  who you are and who you want to be. 

Combine the two and do some research on where you can use your skills or express your interests locally. Depending on where you live and what is around you, there are probably many outlets. You may be able to find lists of activity groups at your local YMCA, library, cafe, church, community center, or community college. Additionally, there are numerous ways to find resources online. MeetUp.com is a good resource for people looking to meet with others with similar interests. Facebook also has many local groups, just type an activity then your city to find groups!


Fourth: Commit to doing. 

Much of life seems to revolve around consumable media, and digital relationships are becoming more and more mainstream, but if you are looking to build a support group like the one I described in the beginning of this article, more than likely you will want to know these people beyond the screen. This is where that begins. Pick a couple of things from step three and GO! Participate, meet people, talk, share interests, maybe you have more in common then the reason you are there. You don’t owe anyone your life’s history the first day you meet them, but trust your gut. You may be drawn to certain people, and when the time is right, allow yourself to be vulnerable with new people. Sharing your own challenges is one of the best ways to create bonds with people, because more than likely they have experienced something similar.


Fifth and Final: Take those relationships further. 

After attending some activities for a few weeks or months, hopefully you have chatted with a few people who share other similar interests. Plan something outside of the activity and have the courage to invite a few people to something else. Figure out where you all live in relationship to each other and where else you can meet, or maybe one of you loves to host in their home. Plan a dinner or a bowling night, some activities are cheesy and may seem childish, but that’s ok! The point is getting to know each other and finding people who share similar values, hopes and dreams! 


Let’s be honest, no matter what age you are, making friends can be awkward, but I promise you that building those relationships is very important to your long term support group. Be honest with yourself about what you are giving and taking in every relationship, and remember that ebb and flow over time is normal! I like the phrase, 


“People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

 

Not everyone you meet or become friends with is someone you will have forever, and that is ok. Be sure to nurture the relationships that fit who you are and who you want to be, and over time you will build a support system of friends who know who you truly are and support you in any circumstance. 

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