Lately, the talk on women of color not feeling supported has been potent. We vocalize the lack of support in their careers, society, social media, the dating world, the beauty industry, and so many other areas in life. Now more than ever, women of color are challenging people to give them the support they have given to everyone else for generations. In my experience, I can attest to feeling a lack of support.
Sometimes I felt like I had to work harder or "present myself in a particular way" for approval. I was straightening my hair to seem more professional, cleaning up my vocabulary to sound more educated and less "ghetto", and presenting myself as a strong woman of color all the time, not to seem "weak" or incapable. Representing my ancestors as best as I could while trying not to be a "stereotype". Making sometimes degrading adjustments for external validation or support from the outside world.
Back then, I had a tough time communicating what could make me feel supported because I didn't know myself. I expected others to know exactly how to support me automatically. I realize now how unfair and misleading this all was. Today, I am learning that just like love, we all give and receive support very differently. How I feel supported may not be the same way another woman feels supported.
Knowing our support language is essential. When we know exactly how we feel supported at the moment, we can better communicate how we'd like to receive it. These support languages will be broken down into four elements: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. Jennifer Freed, Ph.D., who founded these support languages, used this method on her clients and successfully helped them find a support language.
Here are a few support languages that may help you discover how you'd like to be supported.
Earth Support Language: Support is valid through acts of service.
The earth support language is similar to the love language, acts of service. This support can look like washing dishes, picking up clothing at the dry cleaners, or cleaning the house. The earth support language can also include your partner being calm or patient when you need to get things done. Overall, this support language plays a balance between others being reliable yet consistent with their actions and affections.
The earth support language is open to anyone but typically targeted to people with busy career paths—those who may be overloaded with school or work duties and may need an extra hand. Someone who identifies with this support language is typically driven and independent but appreciates when the people in their life can lend a helping hand when needed. Supporting them through the grind of life will be much appreciated.
Wind Support Language: Support is valid through communication.
Similar to words of affirmation, this support language through communication can be easily expressed through verbal validation or acknowledgments. Having a wind support language means to be heard. Knowing your partner, friend, or co-worker is interested in your beliefs, thoughts, or ideas. This support language doesn't mean that everyone must agree with you, but they can respect your opinions.
A wind support language appeals to expressive people. They are chatting it up in the breakroom, on top of the latest news stories, and love to remain informed. They are also the kind of people who appreciate an ear when they need to vent. Giving them great advice or helping them find clarity in a situation will be best received by them.
Fire Support Language: Support is valid through bold demonstration and actions.
The fire support language can easily be confused with earth in that they both require action. Fire, however, requires going above and beyond. This support language can be expressed through gifts, bringing someone food, or a sweet treat. Similar to the earth support language, this language is also about being reliable. Showing up when you say you will and not a minute later. The fire support language is huge on, "Show me instead of telling me."
Fire support language is perfect for those who are extroverted and are unapologetically bold. These people love to show off their wins and want their support system to be just as excited. They want to celebrate big. Going out for nice dinners, throwing a party, and popping bottles is their kind of flex. They live by the motto: work hard, play hard.
Water Support Language: Support is valid through feeling.
The water support language can be best compared to the love language quality time. They appreciate people who create time and a safe space for their feelings. This support language can be filled by saying things like, "I hear you"; "I understand"; "I am sorry you are feeling this way." Treat their feelings with compassion and empathy instead of judgment. Also, putting the phone away and being fully present and attentive towards this person when they are expressing themselves makes them feel supported.
The water support language attracts people who feel more deeply. These people tend to be more introverted and are more likely to try to process their feelings first. They appreciate their space and are very private. If they are coming to you with their emotions, it's because they trust you, like a lot. Taking time to listen to them and honoring their time to process things on their own is how to go about this support language.
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