"I'm here for you."

This is such a commonly used phrase. Sometimes it's used to say I love you. Sometimes it's used to say call me. Sometimes it just falls out of our mouth in the same way Canadians apologize all the time for no reason. 

I admittedly didn't know the true meaning of this phrase for a long time. Well, I thought I knew and my intentions were good but looking back, I'm not sure I was the most helpful person to turn to. Whenever someone came to me for help, I'd "help" them in the ways I knew how. I took on their problem as if it was mine to fix. I would reply with various solutions, judgments, and was often times too blunt about it. I didn't listen or use my intuition to sense what they needed from me. And when they rejected my advice, I got mad at them and couldn't understand why. 

I now see that the root of my problem was I over-complicated it. I felt that I had to go way beyond just 'being there' and had to continuously dish out advice, fluffy self-help strategies, and judgments. 

I've said again and again that this year has been a challenging one. I've had to rely a lot on my friends and family to help me through and it's taught me so much about what it means to have people who were there for me. And in the process, I've learned how to truly be there for others in a way that actually helps them.  

I can now honestly say I am feeling like myself again and I have come out the other side —the light at the end of the tunnel — so to speak. I'm out of said metaphorical tunnel!

Today I'm sharing what I've learned it *really* means to be there for someone. 

Simply being there. 

This was the biggest lesson I had to learn. Finessing the simplicity of knowing that physically being with someone, or calling them on the phone, or sending a text to check in, is one of the best ways to show them I care. Many times when someone needs support, they actually just need to not feel like they're alone. This requires some selflessness in making time from my day to be available to see them and answer the phone when they call. 

Using my intuition. 

I find that with some people, myself included, you have to read between the lines a little bit when they reach out for help. I personally find it really hard to admit I need help so it often comes out in subtle ways. I'll ask someone to have a coffee with me and I'll ask the questions I want to be asked like how are you doing? or are you feeling okay? since they're typically asked in return. Or I'll ask my sister to stay on the phone with me until I go to sleep. What I'm really asking is for her to be there for me. 

Not trying to fix anything.

I'm a healer by nature. As a Virgo and hence sometimes-perfectionist, I am hard-wired to want to help in a big way. Without even being fully aware of it, I used to try to *fix* people and it never went well. It would turn a potentially special moment into a self-fulfilling discussion that almost always ended with sorry I asked or a sarcastic thanks for the help. I now know that I don't need to fix people and they are perfectly capable of helping themselves. Just as I don't need fixing and no longer seek that from others. How I learned to do this leads me to my next point, listening without judgment. 

Listening without judgment. 

I used to "listen" but really I was often just thinking about how I was going to react to what they're saying and what advice I was going to give. Turns out this isn't actually helpful. When I go to someone for support, what really helps is when they actually let me talk and get things off my chest. That alone is immensely helpful. The second part is not offering any kind of judgments. When someone is hurting, the last thing they need to hear are judgments, suggestions or advice, even if it is well-meaning. 

Accepting them and showing love. 

Acceptance comes from not offering judgments or advice and just allowing people to be who they are, even and especially when they are upset or mad and it's not pretty. There's something really beautiful about vulnerability and when I am vulnerable with others, I get closer to them. When others are vulnerable in sharing their struggles with me, I really respect and appreciate that openness and now see it as an opportunity to practice acceptance. What all of this really comes down to is love. It's choosing love over fear and reminding myself of our fundamental need for it. This is where we all become one, where we truly are all the same. We all want love and acceptance. Whenever I'm not sure what to do or how to help someone, I always come back to love. And it shows me what to do. 


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