Defining Resilience: Step 2 – Seek Out and Nurture Supportive Relationships

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Defining Resilience

Step 2: Seek Out and Nurture Supportive Relationships

Before diving into step 2, a reminder about resilience: it is defined as the ability to overcome adverse conditions; with healthy bonding relationships, guidance, support, and compassion as the catalysts. Basically, it entails having the capacity to bounce back from stressful or overwhelming experiences.

What are some steps we can take to ensure we are building resilience in our lives?

  1. Focus on the positives
  2. Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.
  3. Utilize self-care strategies. 
  4. Take action steps to create positive change.
  5. Work on healthy habit formation. 
  6. Find a guiding hand to hold.
  7. Learn to become our own hero. 
  8. Be gentle with ourselves.

Today we will cover Step 2: Seek out and nurture supportive relationships.

The day my therapist said to me, in reference to my then-BFF, “Teri, you need to put some healthy boundaries in place,” I just stared at her befuddled. I truly had no idea what a “healthy boundary” looked like. Growing up in a co-dependent relationship with my alcoholic mother, I had spent my youth playing the part of the peace-keeper and “good girl” in order to create some sense of calm within the chaos. My sister and I have discussed, on many occasions, the impact physical abuse and emotional abandonment had on our future relationships. We agreed we had no concept how to even go about putting healthy boundaries in place and why that was critical for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, friendships, and partnerships.

Here are five “healthy boundary” suggestions followed by five relationship-nurturing ideas to incorporate into your own life:

  • You are allowed to say “no”: Practice doing it. It may be difficult, at first, but you will soon reap the benefits of more time, less resentment, and empowerment within your own life and decisions. If you do not want to do something, then don’t do it. And if someone is upset by that then you know that relationship needs some boundary work!
  • Expand your circle: One of the first indications that I was in an unhealthy friendship with poor boundaries was when I was criticized by that friend for becoming more involved in my daughter’s school activities and developing new friendships. Broadening my circle and developing a tribe of supportive souls not only shined a light on the unhealthy patterns, but helped me create new healthier habits within those friendships.
  • Notice any unhealthy habits: I had a tendency to latch on with a death-grip, almost to the point of obsession, to those who loved me even after knowing all of my deep, dark secrets. I had such a deep-seated fear of abandonment that I would spend more time trying to keep the peace and play along, even when I disagreed with something, that I lost myself in the process. Once I started to become aware of my unhealthy habits, I was able to re-direct myself toward healthy boundaries.
  • Be honest: I kept quiet for far too many years because I was afraid that speaking up would result in being left. Once I realized that I was entitled to have not only my opinion but a voice to speak it, and that the reactions of others, whether they sent me packing or not, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with where they were on their own journey, I found solace. There is a release that happens in accepting “abandonment”. Knowing others might walk away when you put healthy boundaries in place is an indication that they still have work to do in their own lives. However, many will stick with you as you learn to speak your truth, and even more will gravitate toward you.
  • Know your worth: Knowing your worth on every level and protecting it are critical to maintaining supportive and healthy relationships. Your healthy boundaries include physical (no one should touch you in a harmful way), emotional (being ridiculed is unacceptable behavior from others), spiritual (you are most assuredly entitled to your beliefs), cognitive (mind-games can be a controlling aspect in particular relationships, especially those involving narcissists). Be sure to utilize positive affirmations and practice them daily (“I am worthy”, “I am kind”, “I am lovable”, etc.).
As you move away from toxic relationships, you will notice a shift occurring as those healthier habits attract more positivity into your life. Use this as an opportunity to create new friendships. Reach out to others in support and notice as they return the gesture. Some ideas to consider:
  1. Join groups that spark your passion or pique your interest – such as volunteering at an animal shelter, a rock-climbing club, your church choir, a car enthusiasts group, a small business association, etc.
  2. Reach out to those who allow you your boundaries – notice new people who come across your path and respect those boundaries.
  3. Engage in support groups (in person or online) – such as Al-Anon, parenting groups through mental health agencies, faith courses offered through churches, etc.
  4. Write thank you notes, texts or emails to those who offer supportive roles in your life – offering gratitude for the positive support not only keeps it in perspective for you, but helps others realize the impact they are having in the lives of others.
  5. Offer your support to others – by reaching out a helping hand you can start to develop reciprocal relationships in which you help one another when needed.

Boundaries, Beatitudes and Besties

I was chatting with a friend today and confessed that the first time my newfound therapist (back in 2013) suggested I put “healthy boundaries” in place in regards to my then BFF, I truly had no clue what she was asking me to do.


No clue.

As an empath and lightworker, I have always found myself drawn toward the broken heartbeats in the world. As an adult child of an alcoholic, still trying to figure out the meaning of codependency as it applies to my life, I have also found myself desperate to save those I thought were drowning in a sea of despair. I would throw on my super-hero cape, the one with the Good Daughter emblem on it, and swoop in to save the day.

Photo by Steven Libralon on Unsplash

Having grown up more Catholic than the pope himself  (Dad was a Jesuit brother for eight years, Mom spent her recess time in grade school sneaking into the chapel to pray, and my parents spent their honeymoon saying the rosary together instead of attempting some procreation stuff), I was indoctrinated into the faith. My main goal in life, according to my mother, was to “find a good Catholic boy, marry him, and make little Catholic babies.” In that order. Obviously.

I was instructed, on a nearly daily basis, how to be a good Christian and follow such teachings as those dictated by Christ during his Sermon on the Mount, as shared in the Gospel of Matthew, The Beatitudes:


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
     for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
     for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
     for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
     for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the clean in heart,
     for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers,
     for they will be called children of God. 

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
     for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the peacemakers. My self-imposed role. Straight A student, conformist, good girl, avoider-of-conflict-at-all-costs. One of those eye-opening realizations when I read “Codependent No More” by Melanie Beatty, was my unhealthy role as peacekeeper in my family. A peacekeeper mentality can actually be a good thing when we have healthy boundaries in place and are cognizant of the driving force behind our desire for tranquility. Where I was up until 2016 was donning the unhealthy peacekeeper role.

A recipe for chaos: 

No clue about boundaries.

Unhealthy peacekeeper mentality.

Drawn to hurting souls.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Then, boom, March of 2016, it all became painfully obvious. I was brought to my knees when my bestie disappeared from my life without warning at the exact moment my alcoholic mother was fighting for her life in a state of detox, seeing little boy ghosts and hearing songs not being sung, in her month-long hospital and rehab stay.

After crying for, oh, I don’t know, a year, I did what I always do when confronted with chaos . . . I researched the shit out of it. I read books and articles, listened to podcasts, watched videos, joined online groups, tormented my friends with hours of contemplation, self-reflected through journaling, and prayed. A lot.

Somewhere along the way I learned how to forgive. And I learned about loving from a soul perspective in lieu of ego-based. Most importantly, I learned how to let go. In the process, I put some healthy boundaries in place (it’s still a work in progress and some of the lines are squiggly, but that’s alright). I also maintained my role as peacekeeper, as I am a huge fan of tranquil living, but with the realization that I can say “no” and stand up for myself at the same time. Respect for myself and my own needs has been a key component.

Utilizing ho’oponopono Hawaiian healing practice has been crucial, as well. For instance, I might silently say to someone who has been curt, “I’m sorry I don’t understand your anger. Please forgive me. I love you. Thank you.” Then I move on.

Now when my eyes meet the knowing eyes of another soul who has dwelled in the darkest of spaces, I offer a hand to hold, as always, but with this knowledge in place:

  • Healthy boundaries are crucial to a healthy relationship.
  • A peaceful existence is possible, even with a volatile past.
  • As a lightworker and empath, my role is one of empowering others through  “I get it” connections on an emotional and spiritual level, while honoring my own space.

I’ve been thinking about the girl I used to call my “best friend”. There are days I miss her. Tremendously. When she comes to mind, I send off a little prayer. And in it, I wish her peace.

Photo by Nathan Fertig on Unsplash