Recently, I was reading an article focused on building supportive relationships... it said something along the lines of, "be the friend you want to have" in order to receive that type of friendship, partnership or consideration in return.
While I understand the sentiment, this advice is flawed.
Yes, treat people the way you want to be treated, as the golden rule states... but settle for nothing less than that treatment in return. Nothing. Less.
Just because you're nice, supportive, loving, considerate and an amazing friend, doesn't mean that everyone will treat you the same way. Some people just take, without giving anything in return. And if you just continue to be that super awesome friend to them, you'll end up feeling resentful, taken for granted and exhausted. No bueno.
Now, this isn't about only giving if you get something in return. Giving, supporting and loving simply for the purpose of generosity is amazing. Give freely. Give fully. But, don't continue to give to someone who simply takes, takes, takes and expects more. Don't stay in relationships that don't support you in return.
Relationships should be an equal exchange of energy.
Whether you're giving your time and talent in exchange for compensation or you're giving love and support to a friend, it's all energy. Sometimes an equal exchange is simply the thanks, gratitude and recognition from a friend for the support you gave her. Sometimes it's about receiving the same unconditional support and attentive ear from your significant other that you give to him. Sometimes it's about the other party reciprocating the time and talent you gave in a barter situation.
Regardless, for everyone to feel supported, taken care of and happy, there needs to be an equal exchange.
How to Be the Friend You Want to Have
Without Completely Giving Yourself Away
1) Look after yourself first.
You can't give energy if you don't have it and if you're not putting yourself first, you will never have anything to share. Always take care of you first, never expect that anyone will do the same unless you set that standard for yourself.
You deserve time off, a massage, to say no to something you don't want to do and a night of nothing in front of the TV. If you don't demand that level of respect and attention for yourself, yet you're constantly giving, giving, giving, you'll find yourself burnt out with no one to support you.
You set the expectations that others have. So set the expectation of mutual respect, honoring of time and deserving of care.
2) Stop giving so much.
I love giving and I love supporting others. Love it. There's a very good chance that you do too, and that's amazing. If everyone had the capacity to give, the world would be a better place.
Unfortunately, us givers tend to over do it. We give and give until there's nothing left. Until we find ourselves totally broken down and overwhelmed... and with no one there to pick up the pieces.
It is not your job to help, support or save any other grown person.
You do not have to say yes to every request. You don't have to help your friends with every pickle they find themselves in. You don't have to work for free because it's family.
This is your life and your well of energy, choose wisely who you support and how much you give. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying no. Not today. Not ever. Enough is enough. Give what you can, that is enough. Sometimes the best thing for a taker is to stop supporting them, let them figure things out for themselves... and if you lose that "relationship" because you're no longer willing to give endlessly to it, it wasn't one that was serving you anyways.
3) Stop wasting time in unsupportive "relationships."
Just don't do it.
If someone you're constantly supporting can't find the time and space to support you, this relationship is going nowhere fast. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who can't think about you, for even one second, when there's something happening with them (and believe me, there will always be something happening with them)?
Watch for the red flags... do you listen intently and give them your undivided attention for every upset in their lives, but they can't seem to do the same for you? Do you try to ask for support or vent your frustrations, only to have them turn the conversation towards themselves?
Do they expect you to drop everything and come to their side (physically or metaphorically), yet are "too busy" or self consumed to come to yours?
If someone can't reciprocate the energy you're putting out, this relationship is going to become toxic and draining fast. Don't waste your time.
You deserve so much better, and I promise you, there are people out there who are more than ready and willing to show you. Make space for them to come into your life by releasing those that aren't serving you.
Take Action Now
Take an honest look at the relationships in your life... where are you giving too much of yourself? Who is supporting you in return and who isn't? Which people lift you up and which ones suck your energy? Once you're clear, pick one relationship to further nurture (one that lifts you up in return) and one relationship to step away from (one that drains you).
Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique. Through her Mastery program, she merges the worlds of personal development and branding to help men and women build passion-based lives and businesses they love. Click here to access her free Foundations for Unshakable Joy™ video training series and learn the unexpected trick to transforming your life with one single question!
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