Since I started doing my podcast, the biggest feedback I’ve gotten from listeners is that it is giving them the courage to get out the door, build their communities, and find connections of their own. It really makes me happy to hear that other women are looking for the right group of support to help them succeed.
A supportive community is essential to achieving your goals. While you might be lucky and already have a great support system that understands your goals and can help you achieve them, many of us don’t. We might not have anyone who quite understands our business vision, or our family might not like the activism we’ve chosen to get involved in. If you aren’t receiving the support you need, it is definitely time to find like-minded individuals who can help you.
However, it’s scary to put yourself out there without being sure what you’ll get back in return. Rejection is the main reason many of us sit on the sidelines, afraid to reach out. The first step is always the hardest, of course. Once you start putting in the effort to become part of a community, you’ll find the right support system will start to come together around you.
Here are some simple steps to help get you started:
1. Show Up
The first step is truly sometimes the hardest.
Nobody will know who you are or what you need if you never show up. Put on an outfit that makes you feel confident. Practice taking deep breaths. Reach your hand out to a stranger at an event, and introduce yourself. Remember, everyone goes to events to meet people. A warm smile and a handshake can go a long way in forming a connection.
After the monumental act of actually showing up, you have to find ways to participate in groups you like.
This especially holds true for on-line groups. Participate in the conversation, ask questions, give advice, share information with the group. On-line, you can’t passively participate in a group and expect people to get to know you. Think about the names of people you recognize in on-line groups you participate in. Who are the members that stand out? Those who post and are involved in discussions, of course!
If you get involved in face-to-face groups, find out from organizers where the group needs extra support. Those are the areas where you can volunteer more of your time if you can. Become a member, do other activities the group has going on. Get to know other members by asking them out for one-on-ones.
3. Lift Others Up
You can’t just take from your community, you have to support its members too. Make yourself unforgettable by helping others in your community. Share their posts on social media, show up to their events, offer words of support to them and their project. Creating something is difficult, and anyone who is creating something – whether it’s art, an event, or their own business – is putting pieces of themselves into it. Receiving positive feedback is important motivation to keep going. Think about your own projects: If you think nobody cares or likes what you are doing, whatever it is, it might be difficult to continue to pursue it.
Don’t support people you don’t believe in, though. Find people who truly inspire you, whom you respect.
For three months now, I have been interviewing amazing women in Orlando who are making an impact in their community. One theme that keeps coming up again and again in our conversations is that you need to surround yourself with the people you trust who will support you no matter what. These are the people who will believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself. They will offer you real advice and support on what you are doing and lift you up when you are feeling down and lonely.
Give your time, advice, support, and encouragement to others. Help support them as individuals and their goals. In turn, you’ll find those who will do the same for you. Those are the people you need to surround yourself with. The more others feel like you are a real, genuine person, the more they’ll respond and care about your needs.
4. Ask for Help
I want to lay this out there right now for you–it is OK to ask for things you want or need. If you are showing up and being an active part of the community you are creating by helping others and lifting them up, then asking for the same from them should not be a big deal. People want to help, they want to know how they can support you, and if you have found the right community for you, they will do what they can to help. Of course, not everyone can do everything, and that’s OK. Just know that if you need something, you should be able to rely on the community you have built to help in some way. However, if you are giving but getting nothing back in return from the community you have built around you, and you find this is a constant problem, then you should look into who you consider important and worth keeping around.