Often times through social media or through conversation, I hear of people who have problems with their family and friends because they are not supportive of them and their goals.

Statements like…

“Are you going to weigh your water?”

“Do you have to go to the gym tonight, you did yard work all day doesn’t that count?”

The worst yet

“How long are you going to keep this new fitness thing up for, its not like your ever going to stick with it after the fact”….

Umm what?

Firstly, don’t feel bad if your friends and family are unsupportive of your goals. While the situation is not ideal, it’s definitely not indicative of the value of your goals. Just because others don’t support your goals doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile. If anything, they are probably more worthy than anything you’ve ever wanted to achieve, and hence your desire to pursue them.

Secondly, one tends to face resistance from others when he/she pursues goals worth pursuing. This is especially so if you are surrounded by people who tend to be more fear-based. Examples are people who tend to seek affirmation about everything they do, people who don’t think much about what they want to do in life, people who are quick to dismiss than accept changes, etc.

Having said that, it is probably useful to understand what exactly you define as “unsupportive”. What do you perceive as an unsupportive person? Is it a person who (a) discourages you from pursuing your goals, perhaps actively so? Or it it someone who (b) is neutral, perhaps slightly nonchalant about what you are doing, and doesn’t actively render help to you?

When Friends and Family Don’t Provide *Active* Support

I found that for some people, (b) may be seen as a big sign of being unsupportive, even though that may not be their intention.

For example, say Betty Sue has an idea to start a photography business. This is her first time starting a business and she is extremely excited about it. She talks about it to her boyfriend, John, who listens but doesn’t provide any help. Dejected, she concludes that he is an unsupportive boyfriend.

Notice that the boyfriend provided a listening ear, which is support in a way—moral support. Betty Sue felt that her boyfriend was unsupportive because he did not actively try to offer help, such as in the setting up of her business. He also did not share any suggestions on how she could build her business.

But it’s possible that he didn’t do that because she didn’t ask. It’s also possible that he didn’t know anything about photography or business management and hence decided not to offer any suggestions, lest they turned out unhelpful.

Uncertainty Leads to Reliance on Others:

Sometimes, when we pursue things that really matter to us, or things which are brand new to us, we may feel more sensitive and vulnerable than usual, since we’re in an unknown area – which causes us to seek more validation and support from the others around us than we usually do. We become more reliant on our existing relationships to provide that.

And when the people around us don’t provide enough validation and support, we write them off as being unsupportive.

However, as I’ve illustrated with the example above, this may not be the case. Our friends and families may not be trying to be unsupportive – they may simply be behaving the way they are. There could also be other reasons too. It could be that they are busy with other things in their life at the moment and hence are unable to give you the level of support you seek. It may also be that they are unaware you are actually seeking support from them.

3 Problems with Expecting Constant, Full Support From Others

The first thing is to recognize that it may not be reasonable to expect full, open-ended support from your friends and family all the time, for every single goal you pursue.

That’s because these people have other things, possibly even problems, going on in their life. This means they may not have the capacity to give you the support you need, such as time. Here’s another way of looking at it: Would you like it if your friends and family members continuously complained to you about how you were not showing enough support to them for their goals (regardless of whether you were doing so or not)? You might probably wonder why they were being so needy, demanding, and high maintenance.

Personally, I am very grateful to my friends for always being accepting of the help that I can give (or not give), never trying to pressurize me to give them more support in their goals. At the same time, I give whatever I can to the people I know I can assist.

The second thing is it puts too much pressure on your relationships with them, because you are too reliant on them to support you. If it bothers you that your friends and family don’t give you active support each time you work on your goals, you may be expecting more from them than they’re capable of giving you (at this moment). This already suggests a lopsided relationship dynamic which should be looked into.

The third thing is it may well not be within their ability to help you, especially if the kinds of support you’re looking for are intellectual (ideas) and resource-related (contacts, money). They may not have the knowledge of the goal to advise you on it. They may not have the resources you need for this particular goal you’re working on.

What You Can Do: Redirect Your Support Needs

In light of the problems of expecting constant support from others, I’d actually suggest you reduce the pressure you’re putting on your relationships by redirecting your support needs elsewhere, be it internally (yourself) or externally (other people). If I may say this, this is a great opportunity for you to practice being more self-sufficient.

1) Identify Your Support Needs

Here’s what you can do. First, identify the kind of support you’re looking for by understanding what exactly is the support you’re missing from people around you. Is it…

  1. Moral support (support in terms of spirit)?
  2. Physical support (spending time with you, physical presence)?
  3. Emotional support (listening to you, understanding your problems, encouraging you on)?
  4. Intellectual support (ideas, recommendations, analysis)?
  5. Resource support (sharing contacts, loaning money, providing valid resources, etc)?

Take a piece of paper and write down the category of support, as well as the specific details of the kind of support you need, in relation to your goals. Feel free to write down more than one category. List as many details as you want per category.

2) Identify How You Can Redirect these Needs… and Start Working on Them

After you are done, work out how you can redirect these support needs, assuming that your friends and family can’t provide them for you.

Say you need resource support in the form of connections (like in my example above about seeking relevant contacts), how can you get the contacts yourself then? (e.g., going to related networking events, sourcing via social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, looking up websites)

Or say you need intellectual support in the form of business ideas. Can you borrow some books on business management from the librar, do some self-reading, and in the process build your skill in this area? Can you seek out new contacts in the business world and approach them for help instead? Would you want to seek out a business coach as well to aid you in your business goal?

Or, maybe you are looking for emotional support. Can you connect with like-minded folks doing the same thing as you are now, perhaps in online forums, reading related online blogs, and/or joining related interest groups in real life? These people may be in a better position to empathize with your situation.

For example, if I’m working on losing weight, I reckon I’d get more support and empathy from people working on the same goal as I am, as opposed to a friend who has never had weight problems and has no interest in weight loss as a subject.

Identify these steps, then start working on them.

3) Have a Heart-to-Heart with Those Whose Support Really Matter

For the people whom you really want to show active support (for example, from your partner, your best friend, your parents) but who aren’t giving you that, a heart-to-heart talk is in place.

Let them know that this goal you’re working on now is something that’s very important to you. Because of that, you want to share it with the people who are most important to you, which would be them. Let them know you are currently in a crucial place in your goal (such as if you’re in the beginning phases), and their support would mean the world to you in helping you succeed.

While you’re doing this, let them know specifically the kind of support you would like to get from them. This should be support which only they can give you, and no one else can. As per my suggestion above, it’s not realistic to expect your friends and family to be the sole providers of all the support you need for your goal – your support requests should reflect the absolute kind of support you need from them.

At the same time, take the lead by recognizing the goals they are working on now and giving them support in those goals. For example, asking them how they are doing in those goals (emotional support), visiting and patronizing their businesses (physical, moral support), providing them books you think may help them in the area (resource support), and so on. This lets them know you care; this also gives them an example on the joy of having support from loved ones in the goals that matter.

With love from the Trench Kitchen,