I’ve always been aware of the importance of having a tribe. I was one of those chubby, unpopular kids at school that would desperately try and seek approval from others in the hope that I would be able to join their group of friends or their 'tribe'. I would see all the girls (and boys for that matter) in their little groups, playing games, laughing, sharing secrets and I would wish that I could be a part of that. I wasn’t that ‘cool kid’ that was good at sports, that willingly spoke up in class or joined in with games at play time – in fact, I was a complete loner. Even when I went to secondary school, I would try and find a group of friends to be a part of but with no luck. Sometimes I’d find a kindred spirit but mostly they’d either decide they no longer wanted to be my friend or they would leave the country.
It took me years to figure out where I was going wrong. I was looking for that group of ‘ride or die’ friends to be a part of – those girls that would be there no matter what, where we would chat for hours about everything and anything. All I wanted was to be part of a tribe. I knew how happy all those girls looked – how fulfilled they were and how they enjoyed school much more than I did. Here was my problem:
I travelled 3,500 miles to the UK to go to university. I was away from everyone I knew and all of a sudden had this realisation that I had to put myself out there. Everyone was in the same boat and for the first time in my life, I was able to make friends just like that! What I soon realised was that just because they were in the same boat doesn't mean that they should automatically become my 'ride or die' best friend. Some had hidden agendas, some were clinging on to the hope that they weren’t going to be alone, some had different priorities and morals, some were genuinely gorgeous inside & out and others were just plain rude & nasty.
Did I make some amazing friends that carried me through? Yes! Of course I did.
Did it teach me about how to choose my friends wisely? Of course.
Does that mean that my friends at the time are now a part of my tribe? No, not necessarily.
I’ve had years of friendships that had made my soul dance, but I’ve also had years of experience of bad relationships. It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve started to appreciate those that I choose to have in my life and let go of those that don't add value to my life. I've also started to let go of that need to be a part of something that I thought was bigger and better - I now spend my time focusing on creating my own tribe rather than think about how I can be a part of someone else's group.
Like I said, I wasn’t part of a particular group at school but I had friends in different groups and would go from friend to friend at lunch and break times. I knew way back in school how important it was not to just be a part of something for the sake of it, but to choose who you wanted to spend those 10 or 15 minutes with. Each one of those people added different value into my life.
Now, if you ask me why my friends are important, I'll be able to list off a whole reel of reasons why they add value to my life. I only choose those that I feel will add to my life rather than take away from it. I choose to not spend my time with those that leave me feeling drained and exhausted because that doesn't serve me in the best way possible.
Well, honestly, not always.
This saying is so true:
“Some friendships happen for a reason, a season or a lifetime.”
Because your tribe is made up of those friendships that mean something to you, there will inevitably be moments when it’s time to let go and accept that relationship has ended. Ending any relationship is hard and it’s especially difficult when you believed from the start that it was going to last and blossom into something wonderful. I’ve experienced that at so many points in my life – does that mean that it was all pointless? Hell no. Everything happens for a reason and you’ll find that if a friendship does end, there’s a reason for that too. The point of your tribe is that each person has to add value to your life in some way – after all, how we go through life is influenced by the 3 people we spend the most time with. So choose wisely.
When you feel a friendship is no longer serving you, it’s time to assess whether it’s worth working on or letting go of.
Sometimes you might naturally part ways with someone because your following different paths, occasionally there might be the odd bust up but from my experience, when you find those people that have the same morals and values as you, they will be there through thick and thin and guide you when you need it the most.
I can’t even begin to tell you how valuable your tribe is to you.
That’s the real benefit of choosing to nurture those relationships that mean the most to you. Everyone in my tribe is individual, unique and brings something different to my life – do they all know each other? No, not really. They might know OF each other but that’s where groups and tribes differ. A group is a set collection of people that are all friends with each other. Your tribe is a selection of people that you choose on an individual basis! I can count the amazing people in my tribe on my fingers and there’s no set rule to who can be in your tribe or how many should be in your tribe. It’s not a popularity competition of how many friends you have but rather a value added process of what are they bringing to the table.
As long as there’s that balance your tribe can be made up of anyone! I have friends who are younger than me, 10-20 years older than me, that live in different countries, who are from different cultures. I have friends I see every week and others I see every year or two. It doesn’t matter who they are or what their background is. I know I can rely on them, I know they’re there for me and I cherish every moment I spend with them.
Do you feel like you want a little bit more from your friendships?
Do you feel like your lacking support in some areas of your life?
Or do you need someone to hold you and tell you that everything’s going to be OK?
That’s where your tribe comes in and it’s so important to continuously evaluate who you’re spending your time with, what areas you feel you’re lacking in and how you need to be supported in the next step of your journey through life.
Firstly ask yourself these questions:
Understand your motivation behind expanding and growing your tribe. Get clear on what your goals are and then the next questions are going to be a whole lot easier.
Answer these questions as openly and honestly as you can – no answer is embarrassing. I know personally, I have previously answered ‘What feelings do I need fulfilled?’ with ‘To not feel lonely’. Once you know exactly what it is you’re looking for, you then know what value you need someone to add to your life. This stops you from spreading yourself too thin by having too many friends to go between and it prevents you from choosing the wrong people to spend your time with. Remember, it’s an elite selection process.
Finally ask yourself:
Get specific on who you’re looking for and start making an action plan of how you can meet those like-minded people. You’re never too old to make new friends – trust me!
When I moved into my new house 18 months ago, I didn’t know anyone in the area and all of my friends either lived hours away or overseas. So I knew it was time to expand my tribe. I joined a ballet class – I am passionate about dance and it lifts my soul, so why not try and find someone who feels the same way? I started teaching Pilates in my local village and now have a whole group of women who inspire me. I threw a party for my new neighbours to get to know them.
There are so many ways you can step outside of your comfort zone and work on creating those loving and life-changing relationships. Remember, every relationship takes time, they don’t happen overnight and they need to constantly be nurtured – even those relationships you’ve had for years. If you don’t want to expand your tribe then that’s amazing too! It means that all your needs are met and you’re soaring through life with all the support you need. Never forget how important your tribe is, you only have to have 1 or 2 people and any more than that is just a bonus. Finally, change the way you think about friendship.