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Ashley Solomon, Psy.D is a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental illness.

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Who Believes in You?: Assembling Your Dream Team

January 8, 2013 3 Comments by Ashley @ Nourishing the Soul

{image via pinterest

We all need someone to believe in us.

It sounds like a line from a sappy ballad, but it makes the sentiment no less true.

Studies of people who overcome difficult circumstances point time and time again to the crucial nature of social support. This means that people who are the most successful at making positive changes and surviving challenges are the ones who can identify a positive support network around them.

It’s true from people dealing with depression to death of a partner to cancer to eating disorders to infertility to divorce. These troubling events and conditions can bring a person to his or her knees, but can be overcome, research tells us, if a person is supported. In fact, we can thrive and grow from these experiences if the right conditions are in place.

What’s so interesting though is that many of these studies are actually looking at a construct called perceived social support. This is distinct from received social support in that the people in the studies are being asked how supported they feel, rather than researchers actually assessing how much support they are getting regularly.This is an important distinction because it turns out the many of the positive effects of social support can be garnered just from believing yourself to be supported, regardless of whether someone is actually wiping away your tears. Maybe an imaginary shoulder is as sturdy to lean on as a real one?

This isn’t to say that we can all live in fantasy land and forgo our efforts at building a tangible support network. But it does suggest that creating a feeling of support around us could potentially be within our control – even when it seems other people aren’t.

One way of doing this is to — and don’t laugh — build your dream team of social support. And I mean DREAM!

In a recent article in O Magazine, life coach Martha Beck mentioned that when she needed positive voices to infuse all the negative chatter in your brain, she first turned to famous people she admired, like a 2500-year-old Chinese philospopher. Eventually, she was able to identify people she knew personally; in the meantime, however, her old philosopher helped to defeat her inner critic.

In the same way, we can create start with our own fictional – but no less real, in terms of benefit – support group. Mine would include people like Maya Angelou, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Ellen DeGeneres. When we’re feeling hopeless, helpless, and insecure, we can take a virtual trip to our support group and garner what we need. Maybe it’s inspiration, maybe it’s information, or maybe it’s a good laugh. Think about what you need from others when you’re struggling. Who do you admire that can give that to you even when no one’s around.

If I’m having trouble visualizing how my imaginary support group might respond to my situation, I might need to bring them to life – whether that’s through their books, movies, or interviews, or it’s by doing something to connect with their wisdom, like writing a letter.

It might sound silly, but the ultimate goal of support systems – real or imagined – is to internalize the sense of confidence that they inspire. Whether this comes from Oscar the Grouch or your friend Sheryl might not matter.

Who would you elect to your dream team support group and why?

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3 Comments

  1. PTC
    2 years ago

    Hmm, this does seem a bit far fetched. I’ll have to ponder this some more.
    PTC recently posted..Never quite sure…

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  2. Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit
    2 years ago

    I actually really like the idea and find the concept of “perceived social support” quite interesting. In a sense, I think we all tend to do this naturally by reading certain books, listening to particular songs and artists, and watching certain movies and shows that speak to us at particular moments in our lives. I know that for me, there are certain musical artists that I associate with various defined periods throughout my life. All of these artists in some way helped me grow despite never knowing them personally. :)
    Ali @ WHOLEistically Fit recently posted..Confessions of a Healthy Cheapskate

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  3. Nicole
    2 years ago

    It doesn’t sound silly at all! In addition to creating your support group you should also cut loose those that try to tear you down. I’ve done that this year and let me tell you, my attitude and life has improved ten fold. Thanks for the info!
    Nicole recently posted..Benefits of Liquid Vitamins

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