Finding Your Tribe

The catch-all, trendy phrase “finding your tribe” has struck a chord with me these past few years.  In the entrepreneurial digital world that I’ve entered since leaving the corporate world, this phrase seems to be everywhere.  What the online marketing gurus mean when they tout finding your tribe is to find the audience/the demographic/the target market that will be open to your message and buy your products.  Since I’ve been in sales my entire career, this concept isn’t new.  However, on a personal level, it means something much deeper.  To me, it means finding someone or several ‘someones’ who will be there to adventure with you.  Have you connected with your tribe?

Finding my tribe

Venn Diagram of my high school years Jocks, Drama Jocks, Rats, The Popular Kids and Me

Venn Diagram of my high school years

Like many teens, I spent my high school years looking for groups to belong to, groups I could be accepted for who I was and unconditionally loved as the weirdo I believed me to be.  I never quite became a part of any circle, instead always feeling on the edge of all the cliques.  I went to a large college where it seemed the pattern repeated itself.  Not as obviously, but I never found a group that felt like home.

After college I moved to New York, where I met my (now ex) husband.  He had his own tribe, and I felt like I worked hard to become a part of it.  I treasured the compliment one of his long-time friends gave me: “I keep forgetting you didn’t grow up with us.”  I tried many different groups – even volunteering with the Junior League.  Every time, I felt like the square peg trying to fit in the round hole.  So often, I tried to please others not realizing I wasn’t be my true, authentic self.

When my marriage fell apart, the group of women I thought had been my friends, disappeared.  It was crushing at the time.  Flash forward to having seen many of them recently, and I now can see that we had to each take our time to grieve the broken relationship.  At times, I also see how I was the one who created the distance, to help me heal and move forward in discovering who I am inside.

I remember during a time when I was actively seeking to change my inner way of seeing life, and my own true self in the world, that I visited a therapist who practices an alternative medicine called polarity.  While I can’t explain exactly how it works, or how she also has spiritual guidance, I do know it helped.  Particularly when she told me I had been wanting sisters.  I have one brother, and a step sister who entered my life while I was away at college – so not the close-knit relationship some biological sisters have.  Since that time, my relationship with two friends I’ve known since high school has deepened to a place where I call them my sisters.  They are people I consider part of my tribe.

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

When the phrase “people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” finally resonated with me, I was learning to let go of a lot of long-held co-dependent behaviors.  One being that people not being in my life anymore was always “my fault.”  The phrase helped me see that people and friends, come and go, and it’s not just okay, but part of how the world works (and 90% of the time, had nothing to do with me).

When it came to finding my tribe, I tend to look at those who are lifers.  Even if they are the kind of friend who you don’t see for years, but are instantly connected to the moment you start a conversation again.  People who come in for a reason are usually for “learning life lessons.”  The ones who come for a season, those are the harder ones to let go when the time is up.  You don’t always know they have been a “seasonal” friend until afterwards.

The struggle is real

With the popularity of the concept of having a tribe, I struggled in knowing mine.  It feels important to have this, to have this sense of belonging.  It took a conversation with a dear friend, whom I met at a women’s empowerment weekend in Miami and who lives in Virginia, to get clarity that my tribe isn’t ever going to be in one place.  They are people (mostly women, but a few men too) with whom I have a special connection.  They aren’t necessarily family, neighbors or coworkers I spent years getting to know.  I say more about my thoughts on the special connection, as it gets weird-sounding when written.  Plus, finding your own tribe also means defining what it means for you.Everyone needs a friend who will call and say: Get dressed, we're going on an adventure!

Tips to find your tribe

  1. Take off your mask, and discover your authentic self. You’ll probably have tribe members showing up before you do this, but it may take time before you appreciate them for being there.
  2. Look at the people in your life right now. Ask yourself – who feels like that kind of friend that you could not talk to for days/months/years and pick up right where you left off?  Who do you feel connected to deeper than the multi-margaritas (or whatever) you had together?  If you believe in reincarnation, do you feel like you met them in a past life and will meet them again in a future life?
  3. Go out and try new things, activities that light your soul. Take the risk.  While doing so you will meet others who share at least one interest with you.  As you try different adventures, you’ll narrow down what you like and don’t like as well as discover people you want to make space for in your life.
  4. Reach out. Kick shyness to the curb. When you meet those lucky individuals who light up your life, channel your inner bravery and ask to connect. That’s how I met the one person I still connect with from college – I had to catch up to her walking back from class. She lives across the country, and is one of my inspirations.  Another “tribe member” I met by chance at a Burning Man conference, when we were hesitating between meetings.  (This is also a lesson in trusting the Universe…when you get that intuitive reaction to someone, follow it!)Stacey and Kara have become part of their own tribe, smiling while at Burning Man
  5. Drop the superficial judgements. You may meet someone on a plane, train or a boat on a far-away destination.  You might meet them walking the dog.  On the surface you may think there’s nothing in common.  Until you drop the judgements and connect.  You never know where friendships will show up.  If you don’t connect, you may be missing out on finding one more of your tribe.

Do you connect?

Will this help you connect to your tribe?  Why not give it a try and discover for yourself?  What I do know is that it worked for me.  Oh, and the group of women I thought I “lost” in the divorce?  Years later we still get together and I know what we have is a certain kind of unconditional love.  That is why I know they will always be part of my tribe.dancing with your tribe

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