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Your Cheerleader Needs a Pep Talk

Your Cheerleader Needs a Pep Talk

Your Cheerleader Needs a Pep Talk

We all know them.  Those people who seem ever cheerful, full of encouragement and good advice.  They seem to have this superhuman ability to stay buoyant when we face a storm.  They lift our spirits and call out the best in us.  We may even, secretly, wish we were a little more like them.

What we are often blind to is that these encouraging friends and confidantes do not live perfect, Pollyanna lives.  In fact, they need our support as much as we need theirs.  Here’s why:

Encouragers get sad…and frustrated and angry.  Contrary to popular belief, encouragers aren’t immune to negative emotions and experiences.  They fight depression and anxiety, have their hearts broken, get frustrated with their bosses, lose loved ones, struggle with self image, and have bad days like the rest of us.  They, too, need cheering on when the road gets bumpy.  But, because we are so used to being reassured by them, we easily (and often) forget that they also need pep talks from us.
–> HOW TO HELP:  It helps to keep in mind that the people who champion you are able to empathize with you because they regularly go through similar trials and challenges of their own.  Keep an eye out for what these friends might not be calling your attention to and fight the assumption that they will be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  If you check in with them regularly, you will be better positioned to offer help when life gets challenging for them.

Encouragers who lift you up can let themselves down.  Encouraging people have usually been through a lot of personal heartache, drama, and sometimes traumatic experiences.  They know what it is like to be pushed around or neglected because of another person’s moods.  So, they are determined to be sensitive to the experiences of others because their own experiences weren’t always recognized and validated.  But, sadly, this can backfire on them.  You see, while encouragers mean well, they can actually minimize their own feelings and experiences by focusing too much on helping others with their issues.
–> HOW TO HELP:  Be sure to ask the encourager in your life how they are doing.  (Note:  If they dodge the question, keep asking until you get it out of them.  Don’t settle for a superficial answer.  You probably surprised them by asking and they might not share until they know you genuinely care to hear their answer.)

Encouragers often over-extend themselves.  Encouraging people are in high demand and for good reason.  Their ability to find the silver lining, speak hope, and brighten spirits can turn bleak situations around and give us the boost we need to keep going.  But, chances are, we aren’t the only ones going to them for help and they can get overwhelmed by the volume of need around them.
–> HOW TO HELP:  Yes, it IS up to the encourager to steward their schedule and set healthy boundaries with people who need their time.  But, we can support these friends by encouraging them to prioritize their self-care, keep their boundaries intact, and cultivate their other talents and gifts.

Encouraging is something everyone can do.  Encouragement is needed every day by everyone and there simply aren’t enough natural-born encouragers to go around.  But, becoming more encouraging is within everyone’s grasp.  With practice, even the Eeyores among us can find ways to bring a smile to the tired faces around us.  We can start by taking small, yet intentional, steps to brighten someone’s day.
–> HOW TO HELP:  Make an effort to cultivate the encourager within YOU by:

1) Intentionally increase your awareness of others around you  – Watch, notice, and observe.  What is their face saying?  What kind of a vibe are they giving off, stressed or peaceful?  Do they look happy, sad, weighed down?
2) Act on what you see with a few moments of genuine kindness – Pause long enough after the customary “How are you?” to actually hear, take in, and respond to the person’s answer.  Sympathize with them.  Give a compliment.  Offer to carry a bag of groceries.

Life’s curveballs come for all of us.  Yes, even those with sunny dispositions.  But, if we make a better effort to look out for one another, the load will be lighter and the journey more enjoyable.  Pom-poms optional.

Katherine Carter

LMFT & Director | Westminster Center

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