• Cynthia Dimon, LCSW

A problem shared is a problem halved. A joy shared is a joy doubled.

Updated: Jan 29

The title of this post comes from a proverb that tells us what many of us know instinctively, we need to share our troubles and joys with others in our lives. The people in our lives who care for us can help us maintain a balanced perspective and see ourselves holistically. However, in my work with many wonderful clients, I often hear from them that asking for support or sharing successes is not easy. In general, we receive mixed messages about seeking help from others. While we are told to reach out if we need help, we are simultaneously told to ‘be strong,’ but the latter suggestion is ill-defined. A common understanding of ‘being strong’ means not relying on others, and not sharing feelings (positive or negative) or vulnerabilities. Because of this sentiment, when we do venture out to seek help, we may also have worry thoughts such as “What if people think I’m weak?”, “What if the person acts as if they don’t care?”, “What if the support is not helpful?”, “What if they say no?”, and lastly and most frequently, “I should be able to handle this on my own.” As human beings, we are biologically, psychologically, and emotionally wired to need help with various challenges in life. In fact, emerging research is asking the question of how social support may decrease the negative impacts of stressful life situations.

It is also true that it can also be frustrating or even discouraging when we reach out for help and we do not feel heard, are blamed for our challenges, or feel misunderstood. Although we cannot control or predict how others respond to us, we can seek support from people in our lives according to the type of support they are good at providing, or their support talent(s). Based on much of the research I have come across throughout the years, I now use the concept of support talents when speaking with clients about seeking help from loved ones. Support talents are divided into four categories: activity support talent; advice support talent; emotional support talent; and practical support talent (see figure below). One suggestion for using the concept of support talents is to think about the people in your life and where their talents shine when you have sought their help in the past. Were they good at planning and doing activities with you? Did they give great advice that is relevant? Did you feel heard and validated when you expressed your feelings? Were they great at helping you get tasks done? When we go to people for the right type of support, we encourage them to use their gifts to enhance our lives, and we in turn can do the same.

Whomever you reach out to for support, it is important to note that supportive relationships are healthy relationships that encourage you to live your dreams. What if we redefined 'being strong' as asking for and offering help to others, sharing our experiences, seeking and giving loving validation, and recognizing that as human beings we all have vulnerabilities? I wonder how redefining human strength in this way could impact our lives for the better?