I'm Tori, a portrait and wedding photographer based in central New Jersey. Thank you for visiting my little corner of the internet; I'm so happy you're here. Come check out the full galleries from recent weddings and portrait sessions, behind the scenes, personal posts, helpful tips and more. Please feel free to take a look, and let me know if there is anything special you'd love to see in a future post. I hope to hear from you soon!
I wanted to take a little time today to talk about support. What it means, how to do it, and just why it matters so much. I know it seems kind of obvious, support is simply being there for someone, but it feels like we’ve lost sight of what that actually means. At least I feel like I have. I’ve been teaching myself how to live a life of support by building others up. And I’m not talking about just those who ask, because I’ve realized that not everyone who needs support is shouting from the rooftops all the ways you can be there for them.
What it means and why it matters:
Support feels like it has to be a tangible act, like physically doing something for someone else (or for yourself), but support starts from within. It starts at your core on an emotional level where you decide every single day that you are here to lift others up. It doesn’t mean bending over backwards and neglecting your own needs, but it starts with awareness. It means finding it in your heart to consciously change how you think of others. It’s remembering that all those late-night-thoughts and daydreams you feel, other people feel, too. It’s acknowledging that you can’t be there for someone unless you choose to be, and that support isn’t something that just happens.
When we wake up each day choosing to live a life of support, we are throwing aside all other jealousies, confusions, ideas and mushy-brain-garbage that doesn’t really matter and just genuinely caring for other people. We gravitate toward supporting the people we know, like family and friends, but there are far more people who need a little boost of reassurance than just those we know personally. Whoever it is, and I hope it is everyone in your life, support is about caring when someone fails, because that’s when we realize that people need us. That’s the obvious time to run in with hands open wide asking what we can do to help.
But what about when someone needs support for their successes and achievements? Somehow, that causes our brains to throw little jealousy bombs down to our hearts and makes us feel like we can’t support someone when they’re at their highest because it’ll only bring us farther down. #FALSE!!! Drop jealousy off at the door; it’s not wanted here! You know that quote about the candles not losing their flames by lighting other candles… HELLO, that’s just it! Light everyone up, baby! No amount of loving on someone and supporting someone else’s success is going to dim your dang shine, I promise.
Support means learning empathy far beyond sympathy. Watch this great video to understand the difference! It’ll stick with you. Empathy takes practice, and it’s a matter of understanding how you function as a human and translating that to understand all other humans. It’s learning how you can help those around you by finding what feels right in your heart. Not everyone supports in the same way and not everyone internalizes support in the same way. Deeply caring about your people is going to help you know how they internalize so that you can be there in the most helpful way. People are intricate as all heck, and we know that because we know how wacky our own headspaces are. The better we learn to understand how valuable support can be, the more we can foster stronger, more positive communities and help everyone rise up to be their best selves.
Okay… but how? Here is a small list to get you thinking about how to support your people:
Number one rule of pretty much anything. Pay some serious attention to what people say, but more importantly, what they do. There are endless signs you can pick up from people if you just sit there, shush all other thoughts, and hear someone out. This doesn’t have to be crazy deep, it can be as simple as someone saying they’re really stressed about all their work and haven’t been able to get sleep. What you hear: My friend needs help organizing and prioritizing, because you know that nothing can get done from a place of exhaustion. Can you give them some suggestions on how you schedule your work days? Can you pass along an essential oil that helps you sleep better? Can you offer to help them with the tasks that are taking away from the work that needs to get done? Listen closely, then try to help.
Know what kind of support someone is looking for.
If someone is launching a project that they’re super excited for, are they in need of emotional support where you can give them a huge hug and congratulate them on their success? Are they looking for actionable or financial support, like needing you to purchase something to get their project going? Someone who is looking for financial support on a project but is only receiving emotional support from a few Facebook likes and comments is going to be super stinkin’ down about it. Now, I know not everyone can always afford what people are selling nor do they always need what people are selling, but knowing what kind of support someone is looking for can help you understand what they need if they happen to not get it. It might just be because I’m in a creative field, but I can fully understanding putting out content, photos, etc. and feeling unsupported. It hurts to be so excited about something and feel like you’re falling flat on your face at times. All I ask of you, not just for myself but for anyone who is announcing something that they are up to, take the extra time to realize when they’re asking for a virtual high five or for you to repost their link to show your support. Do the most you can for them while still being genuine on your end. Be invested in what your people are doing; it means the world to them.
Click when you can, sign when you can, say yes when you can.
We’ve all seen the Instagram posts asking for someone to click off the app and follow a link to some page that requires you to fill in your personal information or connect with Facebook. Does that drive anyone else nuts?! My hand is way up!! We’ve all seen people on sidewalks asking for a second of your time, flyers leading you to an event, someone asking for your signature, your donation, for you to share this and comment on that. I know how frustrating it can be, but why? Why is it such a burden on me to give someone the time of day and just care? Oh, that’s right. It’s not. It’s not a big deal to login with Facebook so I can sign a petition for a friend I haven’t spoken to in years. It’s not going to make me look lame if I “like” every picture on my Instagram feed (This is me. I literally like every. single. picture I see. My thought process: If I follow these people, it’s because I like them… so why wouldn’t I like their post?). It’s only going to make someone smile if I take the few seconds to comment on their pictures, so why not?! I understand a lot of these suggestions pertain to social media, and as much as I hope we can support everyone in real life, social media is still a really important way to show people that we care. Take the few moments to give someone your attention and care about what they’re asking of you. It means something to them, and if you’re practicing support, that means that maybe it can start to mean something to you.
Do it in public.
No, it’s not what you think ;). This is a tiny change that can make a huge difference. Tell someone you love their hair in front of other people. Give your girlfriend a kiss on the head while you’re walking through the store. Say, “hey, I actually really like them,” when people are talking badly about someone. Compliment someone today, tomorrow, and always. Ask someone if they can use any extra hand with that. Stand up for people whether they are there or not. Say how you feel, honestly, in public. It changes things when you speak out. It’s one thing to feel and a whole different thing to actually do. Always, always do if it’s a positive gesture from the heart.
Reach out randomly.
We forget how powerful someone calling or texting and saying that they were just randomly thinking of you can be. I LOVE when someone reaches out because they saw a little something that reminded them of me or that I randomly appeared in their dream. Those are easy little moments that can be forgotten, or you can act on them and reach out. I’m a firm believer that someone might just be needing exactly what you have to say, even if it’s just that you two ran a marathon and ate twelve pine cones while you rolled down a hill in Ireland in your dream. Tell them, because somehow that might just be the one thing that brightens their day. This is something I am genuinely awful at, and I know how powerful it is. No need for New Years to set goals for myself; this is a huge one that I’m trying to implement into my every day. This doesn’t necessarily have to be prompted by anything. Make it a point to reach out to someone once a day or once a week and just check in on them. Not just your close family members, which you should definitely try to do anyways, but people who you notice a distance between. Imagine how happy you’d feel to get a call or text from a high school friend saying they just wanted to see how the heck life was going. Let it lead to lunch, let it bring friendships back in. Even if you have a major girl crush on a stranger who is just killin’ it at life, reach out! Let those people who inspire, encourage and guide you know what they have done for you. Just put yourself in their shoes, wouldn’t you want to know if you mean a lot to someone? Even if they don’t respond because they’re a big-deal-boss-lady or super-fab-fashion-blogger, you did something to try to light someone else’s candle. That’s sounds, to me, like you’re a big deal, too. By reaching out and reminding someone that you care about them, or letting them know that they’re on your heart, you’re supporting them in a bigger way than most of us will ever realize.
Be proactive instead of reactive.
Easy. Have you been in contact with someone all along so you can share in their big, happy life moments? Or are you reaching out because you saw that they just had a cute, little baby and now you want to jump back into their lives? People can smell fakeness like dirty fishy nasty yuckiness. Fake is BLEH. Don’t be fake. Proactively stay up to date with people so you’re not just jumping in when life gets good for them!
Ask for help when you need it.
It’s OH-FREAKIN-KAY to need help, love, support, answers, hugs, and shoulders to cry on. As much as it will build you and others up to be as supportive as you can to people, never neglect your own needs. When you reach out to someone asking for their time, they’re going to know how much it means to you that they are there. People want to be needed, let yourself need people.
Give in the way you want to receive.
For some reason, nobody really believes someone when they say that they like to give instead of receive. We all usually love getting gifts or being treated to something nice, but if you can shift your heart to start valuing how incredible it is to give, give, give, you’ll see how much more powerful that is than always being on the receiving end. I’m not saying decline gifts; if someone wants to give you something, then let them, because they thought of you and wanted to do something that would make you happy. I think it’s really sweet to give gifts, no matter how big or small, at times that aren’t holidays. That just shows that you were thinking of someone not out of obligation but out of love and support. This doesn’t even have to be for gifts, just love on people in the way that you would hope for in return, because we all know what we need and other people are most likely searching for that, as well. Go a little above and beyond to show people you’re there for them and that you always will be; it’s likely going to change their outlook on people and life.
Offer to help.
This is simple. If you see someone in need, do everything you can to help them. Big or small, be there for people. If you don’t know how to help, just ask them in the most honest way. You are allowed to say, “I know you need help right now, but I’m not sure how I can do that for you. Can you please let me know what I can do to help?” It can be a hug in a time of need or moving someone into a new house; whatever it is, they’re going to remember the people who were there when they needed it most. Just asking how you can help is support in itself.
Create reasons to support others.
If you are unsure of ways to support or you just feel inclined to support in new ways, create reasons to support others. I know not everyone is a photographer, but for example, I have found that I can do this by planning Styled Shoots. I am able to collaborate with other creatives to show them that I appreciate their work, care about their businesses and want to show them off to my following. I am able to gift them images in return for their time and efforts, which is definitely a great little perk, but I think the true value is in being able to show my support for someone’s craft. Think of new ways you can create an environment of support. Is it a monthly gathering for the residents in your town to create a safe space for anyone in need? Is it sending out emails to your family every few weeks with a funny picture to brighten their day and asking them to send it along? Be ambitious, and try to center your ideas all around how you can foster a community based on supporting one another.
If you’re like me, you know you can be doing more. As I am writing all of these down, I am teaching myself that I know how to support, but that I’m not implementing it nearly enough. It’s okay to realize that you can do better. If you’ve realized that you’re neglecting to support the people around you (and don’t forget about yourself), reach out to them and apologize. Tell the people who matter most that you value you them and that you’re really sorry for not being there to show them that. Acknowledge where you are at and grow from it. Nobody is a master supporter, but start with admitting your wrongs and changing right now. No need to wait until tomorrow, just get out there and support the heck out of people.