Social Wellness: Kvell’s 4 Pillars of Community
Greetings Heroes and Heroines,
How’s your social life? If you’re like us, the words “social life” bring up images of parties, social events, and lots of friends. But, did you know that your social wellness depends on more than just friends? In fact, your social ecosystem includes friends, family, romantic partners, neighbors, coworkers or classmates, members of your community, and more. Whether you’re social and involved with peers, within your family unit, or in the community at-large, you can be socially healthy or operating at a social deficit.
Today, we’ll talk about what it means to be socially healthy, and explore your power to make social changes that enhance your quality of life. Let’s dig into it:
Social Pillar One: Self Beliefs and Boundaries
Have you ever heard the saying that goes: “Before you can love someone else, you must learn to love yourself”?
This isn’t just a nice platitude about being kind to yourself, it’s a fact. To be a good friend, partner, or person among people, you must first determine who you are, what you’ll tolerate (and what you won’t) and what you hope to gain from your social experiences. Without this clarity, it’s easy to become a victim of bullying and peer pressure, find yourself in the wrong groups, and be taken advantage of. Boundaries and expectations are important, even with those you trust and who are closest to you. In fact, these are the people who are most likely to cross the boundaries you set socially.
Similarly, a strong sense of yourself and your boundaries will help you navigate conflict and choose better-fitting people to engage with. You can decide who has access to your attention, and adjust accordingly based on your energy, emotional capacity, and social needs.
Here are some self-guiding questions to help you explore your social self beliefs and boundaries:
- What actions or behaviors are not acceptable for a friend to do in my presence or toward me?
- Who has treated me the way I prefer in the past? And who has not?
- What is my communication style? How often and about what topics am I willing to communicate?
- What topics, lines of questioning, or methods of communication do not work for me?
- What has made me socially uncomfortable in the past? How can I avoid this in the future?
- How will I know if someone is not treating me the way I prefer to be treated?
- How much socialization and out-of-house activity can I handle in a week? In a month?
- What traits or characteristics make me feel most comfortable with someone else?
- How can I earn trust? How can I make sure my trust is earned, too?
- What do some friends do together or discuss that doesn’t really appeal to me?
The easiest way to determine what you will and will not accept in a relationship is to think back to times when people have hurt you and analyze what could have been done differently. There is nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries — this doesn’t make you a bad friend, it makes you a good self-advocate.
Once you’re clear on what constitutes a positive social interaction, you can operate with confidence in pursuing and developing those relationships. Just remember: not all relationships are healthy. Here’s how to tell:
Social Pillar Two: Healthy Relationships
Healthy relationships — platonic, familial, romantic, or professional — bring out the best in you and make you feel good about yourself. A healthy relationship with another person does not make that relationship “perfect.” Really, no one is healthy 100% of the time and no relationship can meet that impossible standard, either. You’ll argue, misunderstand one another, and have “off” days — we all do. The difference between the occasional tiff and total mayhem rests in the following list of components for a healthy relationship:
8 Components of a Healthy Relationship
The backbone of any relationship between two people is communication. Healthy communication implies that both people feel welcome to speak, put effort into listening, and arrive at different ends after conversations than where they began. There’s a mutuality of understanding, learning, and accepting that happens when communication is working well in both directions. Without that, the other 7 elements of relational health are unlikely to manifest.
Kelly and Mike have been friends for years, and Mike used to avoid telling Kelly when he felt upset. He would keep everything inside until he couldn’t hold it in, and yell at Kelly to release his frustration. Once Mike and Kelly sat down to fix their friendship, and communicated how they both feel, these conflicts stopped and they built a greater openness and trust between them.
Respect for Energy
As humans, we do a lot. We’re all managing multiple relationships, careers, our health and homes, and so much more. An equitable relationship is one where both parties check in, gauge capacity with one another, and neither party feels rushed or pressured. Instead, there are chances to uplift one another, make space for one another, and bear down as a team when things get tough.
June and Jackie are sisters. Jackie runs a business and June is retired. June calls Jackie every day for an hour, which makes Jackie feel rushed, stressed, and resentful, even though she loves her sister. By setting better boundaries, Jackie can protect her own energy while feeling more excited for her next call with June. By reciprocating that respect, June will show Jackie that she cares about her well-being.
Lack of Demand
Similarly, one half of any relationship should not push unfair demands or attempts at control on the other. If this is common, resentments build and both people are unhappy more often than not. The healthiest relationships avoid any power dynamic which leaves one half of the friendship or union feeling taken for granted while the other one holds the reins. You don’t want to be on either side of that coin.
Jake and Bella have been dating for two years. Bella now wants to get married, but Jake isn’t sure yet. Every day, she pressures Jake to buy her a ring. Jake loves Bella, but her constant pressure to propose has left him feeling unhappy. By stepping back to let Jake make his own decisions, Bella will alleviate the pressure on the relationship and their engagement, when it does happen, will be natural instead.
Ultimately, you and your friend, partner, or loved one need to want the same things out of the relationship. If your intentions for the relationship match with theirs, you’re both headed in the same direction and things should go smoothly. If not though, both of you will end up dissatisfied with the other. Survey all of your current relationships: are they headed where you want them to go? Are they headed where your friend or partner wants them to go? When was the last time you checked in?
Brian and Kyle have worked out at the same gym for 6 months. They spot each other during large lifts and joke around between sets, but they’ve never hung out. Kyle is always asking Brian to hang out on the weekends, but Brian tends to break plans. When Kyle finally confronts Brian, he says he prefers to keep the friendship at the gym. While this might hurt Kyle, it also frees him up to pursue deeper friendships with other people, and set lighter expectations on his friendship with Brian.
Lack of Conditions
No relationship is healthy when conditions apply. If your loved one only treats you well under certain circumstances, or changes their treatment of you when you behave a certain way, their care for you may be conditional. The healthiest relationships are those where, no matter what you do or how you change over time, the person sticks by your side. And of course, vice versa!
Louise and David have been married for 13 years. After this amount of time, Louise decides she wants to dye her hair fire-engine red! David has never been much a fan of unnatural hair colors, but he loves Louise. He encourages her to try something that might make her feel confident and whether he would choose the color for himself or not, David makes Louise feel confident and comfortable changing up her appearance.
No matter how close you are with someone else, both of you must remain wholly yourselves. When one person puts all of their happiness on the other person’s shoulders, problems arise. Similarly, each member of a relationship should have their own goals, dreams, skills, friends, and preferences. While it is natural to blend and merge with the people closest to you, it’s important not to lose yourself.
Isaac and Andrew are brothers who are close in age, and will be attending the same college this year. Isaac has many friends, is involved in organizations and clubs, and has a new girlfriend. Andrew feels frustrated because he thought he and Isaac would spend all their time together on campus. By finding his own rhythm and identity, Andrew will put less pressure on his relationship with his brother, and find more happiness on his own. Then, when they do hang out, they’ll both have stories to tell!
The primary tenet of the relationship rests in your ability to see things from the other perspective, and for them to do the same for you. The experience of being able to walk in someone else’s shoes is empathy. Empathy is key in any relationship. It’s easier to treat someone well and adapt to their needs if you take time to understand and anticipate them. It’s also more comfortable to be yourself when you know your friend or loved one has bothered to really get to know you.
Maya and Kim are best friends and Kim turns 25 this year. Maya wants to give her a big, blowout party because she loves her BFF Kim so much. Unfortunately though, Kim is having a really stressful year and hasn’t wanted to attend many large gatherings. Maya can use empathy to put herself in Kim’s shoes and choose a more low-key dinner or gathering for her friend. This will bring them closer together and shows Kim that Maya really cares.
A healthy relationship requires both people to openly and respectfully discuss issues and confront disagreements non-judgmentally. Conflict is a normal and expected part of any relationship. Everyone has disagreements, and that’s OK! Healthy conflict is recognizing the root issue and addressing it respectfully before it escalates into something bigger. No one should belittle, insult, or yell at someone in a relationship, even when anger arises. It’s best to discuss rationally, share real feelings, and work toward a solution together.
Paul and Christine are planning their wedding. Paul has always wanted a destination wedding with a few close friends while Christine prefers a massive party at home with everyone she knows. They’re both afraid to tell the other one how they feel since this decision is so important. However, they know that the key to kicking off their marriage healthily is to make decisions as a team and share feelings openly. When they do, they’re able to arrive at a compromise that meets their needs, together.
Social Pillar Three: Your Support System
A support system is made up of individual people who provide support, respect, and care to one another. These are the people who are truly in your corner, unconditionally and empathically. They do not judge you or ridicule you. They provide feedback that is genuine and in your best interest. Their support is not self-serving. They have a positive impact on your personal goals. These people may be close friends, relatives, neighbors or simply acquaintances. You may talk to them frequently or just occasionally. The key to identifying whether or not someone is in your support system is by the way they treat you, and the way they make you feel. Anyone you feel safe and comfortable with is part of your support network.
“What if I don’t have a support system?”
There is always someone out there who will look out for you, support you, and check on your well-being. If you don’t feel that your social circle, family, or community supports you, there are a few things you can do:
- Meet new people
If you are not satisfied with your current social experience, or if you don’t feel supported, try expanding your reach. Join a class or club, engage in online communities, or reach out to friends-of-friends to find your fit.
- Assess your existing community
Look at who you already spend your time with and ask yourself why you don’t feel supported by them. What can you learn about the types of people you gravitate toward and how that might need to change? Where are you neglecting or overlooking an acquaintance who might be a great supporter for you?
- Deepen existing relationships
Of the friends, relatives, and acquaintances you do have, who is the most supportive or likely to reciprocate care? Maybe the lack of support you feel is really a sign that you should lean into those relationships and make them better.
- Offer support to others
The quickest way to earn support is to show support. If you don’t feel as loved and supported as you could, think of ways to modify how you treat others, to get more out of the relationships you do have.
- Join a support group
The words “support group” may drum up images of groups for addicts or a group for grief counseling. While these are perfectly valid ways to build up your support system, you don’t need to be experiencing a specific challenge or trauma to find groups to join. Some groups, like meditation circles or even book clubs, might be your ticket to the supportive, healthy relationships you’re looking for.
Social Pillar Four: Community Belonging
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who defined five categories of human needs. On Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, number 3 is love and belonging. Among other more pressing or biological needs like physical health or safety, love and belonging is so highly ranked because humans, like many animals, are social by default.
Historically, humans have needed a support system to survive the perils of life, like we discussed above, but belonging speaks to more than that. To truly belong in a group is to feel needed, welcome, safe, and praised. Belonging to a community and knowing that you’re where you truly fit in might look like this:
Ways to Experience Social Belonging
- Having an open, trusting bond with your immediate family
- Building a chosen family of friends and acquaintances you trust
- Being a member of a church, temple, or spiritual community
- Pursuing a consistent routine with your workout group or sports team
- Joining a bird-watching society, quilting circle, or Canasta club
- Volunteering, and being part of a community of helpers
- Being a good neighbor and fitting in on your block
- Contributing to a community of those with similar lifestyle and representation — such as LGBTQ+
- Working for a company where you feel seen and accepted
Social Wellness and the Kvell Wheel
Regardless of what moves you in life, other people will be a part of it. You’ll need to make friends, engage in romance, build family, and complete work in collaboration with other people. Likewise, most of the best emotions and experiences in life involve relationships and socialization.
Any social connection can have a positive influence on your life. Being connected with others is vitally important to your happiness, self-esteem and ability to cope in difficult times. Healthy socialization also has a positive impact on self-acceptance and emotional health, and can promote your work in other areas. Your support system can help you achieve physical and financial goals, and support your spiritual journey, too. In this way, your social wellness is a major key to unlocking the benefits of the other four wellness types. It’s all interconnected.
Fortunately, you can learn to take care of your spirit, body, mind, heart, relationships, and finances with help from Kvell. There’s no telling where kvelling will take you.
Always with you,
The Kvell Team