A young relative recently had the experience of being cared for by someone who didn’t believe him. He was physically safe at every point, but felt emotionally distressed at regular intervals. When I debriefed with him, I shared one of the simplest pieces that have made all the difference in my own life:
Choose people who believe you.
Granted, we get the relatives we get, and when we’re young we’re stuck with at least some of them. We can enjoy these ones for the good they have to share, and take the opportunity to learn about who we are, how we are similar to and different from others, what our needs are, and so on.
As adults, though, we get to choose. A boyfriend. An accountant. A spouse. A doctor. A close friend. A professor. A therapist. A mentor. A minister. It is critically important that each of these be people who believe us! Anyone whose life has been so sheltered or mainstream that they cannot accept the validity of a different experience cannot support us in any valuable way. Likewise, anyone who is in denial, such that they cannot “hear” another’s real experience is useless to us at best, and quite possibly dangerous for us.
In this crazy world, it is important that we surround ourselves with people who accept and celebrate us. Who listen well, deeply and without distractibility. Who honour our love language, not only their own. Who hear and sense our degree of pain when we finally manage to tell that particular trauma story. Who will advocate for us when we have no voice left. Who believe that we are sensitive to the typical dose of medication, and sort out an appropriate one. Who encourage us to say what is true for us, even when it differs from what is true for them.
Selecting a support person who believes you is the very first step in self-advocacy.
This week, consider: Who are 1-3 people who believe you? Which additional person in the world might also be one?