On Sunday, I watched the closing minutes of the Women's World Cup Final, and I was really struck by the U.S. goalie and the way both she and her teammates responded when she couldn't stop Japan's shots. She was obviously upset, and you could tell just by looking at her face and posture that she was really beating herself up over what had gone wrong. At the same time, her family members in the stands and all of her teammates responded in a completely supportive way: giving her hugs, patting her on the back, and generally being encouraging rather than derogatory or angry. In other words, they acted like a team ought to.
Ever since then I've been constructing my own ideal team of supporters in my head, thinking about who fills which needs at which times and what spots on the team still need to be filled. One of the biggest challenges, at least for me, is learning how to fill these roles for myself, because sometimes you just need to be your own supporter. I think that every relationship we have, including our relationship with ourselves, invites and challenges us to take on these roles, to stretch our emotional, mental, and spiritual muscles and grow together with the people we love.
So here's the first person I'm drafting to my team:
This is the friend who listens and accepts without judgment, who laughs with you over the hilarious things in everyday life, who responds compassionately to whatever it is you're going through, whether it's largely unimportant (my pen ran out of ink at just the wrong time!) or actually a big deal (there's been a terrible car accident!). This person gets to see some or all of the traits/behaviors/thoughts you aren't so proud of, and the confidante acts like an empathy mirror that provides some perspective to help you see that you're really not so bad. At the same time, this is the kind of friend who can look at you critically and point out that you probably should shape up and then remind you that you've got the skills and the willpower to do it.
I am my own confidante when I write in my journal about whatever I want or post my list of 10 Things making me smile on this blog, just recognizing as completely valid where I am, what's going on around me, and how I'm responding to it. When I let myself cry about something silly without feeling too silly about it, or when I play my favorite song 15 times on repeat, I'm supporting myself like a confidante would. And on those days when I really don't feel like doing work or washing the dishes or taking care of bills but I stand back and tell myself it needs to be done and I can handle it, I'm employing that critical but realistic and supportive mirror.
This is probably the role I adopt most frequently in my own relationships. One of my strengths I'm most proud of is my ability to see the good in others and remind them of it, to be empathetic and encouraging in good times and bad, to listen and respond compassionately and without being judgmental. My ability to fill this role could be improved if I turned to my own confidantes more often for a chance to be refreshed and re-energized.
Do you have a confidante or two or three on your team? Are you a confidante for others? What do you do to treat yourself the way a good teammate might?