Sports psychology researchers often look to understand the impact of various elements on how well an athlete is able to perform. It could be traits such as levels of confidence or optimism, skills used such as imagery or resilience or environmental factors like the type of coach or the support mechanisms they rely upon. One of the key environmental factors found to impact on a range of elements such as injury levels, the ability to deal with stress (literally acting as a stress buffer) and levels of satisfaction is ‘Social Support’. The people in your life who, in times of trouble or stress, can get you back on track and make life a little bit easier and more inspiring. Not in a ‘take you out drinking’ kind of way (though that is always welcomed!) but in a ‘you can be all that you want to be’ kind of way. Here are the four that I think everyone needs in their armoury.
The mentor – often this is a former manager or a sports coach you really bonded with. They trust in your abilities, let you fly out independently, but are always there when you need to wave a white flag and ask for help. Advising you when your personality gets the better of your professionalism but nevertheless constantly being your champion.
The cheerleader – they will remind you not how far you have to go, but how far you have come. And they will celebrate that for you, on your behalf. Not because they steal the limelight but because they want your star to shine brighter. People who tell you out loud that you are amazing and that they are proud of you are gold dust. Find one and grab hold tight. And be that someone for someone else.
The one who has it all. We all know someone who is amazing. They have it all. Great job, lovely partner, gorgeous kids and they are fit and healthy. And usually annoying good looking too! They have the life you’d love. And then they trust you enough to admit that life isn’t as perfect as it seems. That they haven’t slept in weeks, that sometimes it all feels like a massive struggle. Refreshing, relieving and lovely to know you can help out rather than being surplus to requirements. The saying ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about it’ is apt here. So rather than being jealous of the one who has it all, listen to them and maybe they’ll be generous enough to trust you with their reality and it will give you a little more perspective.
The other perspective. The one who never says what you expect them to. They are nothing like you. They can drive you crazy. Their logic is an entirely different logic to yours! But they have an incredibly helpful way of making you think of things differently. Their views put you in another’s shoes and you are far richer in knowledge and life because of it.
So who is your support? And who do you help support?