We may not like the fact that we are wired such that our well-being depends on our connections with others, but the facts are the facts.
Belonging to a group or community gives us a sense of identity. It helps us understand who we are and feel part of something larger than ourselves.
Most people come to me, coaches and therapists when there is a “problem” in their lives. Imagine – just imagine if folks used mentors as a part of a self-perpetuating wellness strategy: you might have several mentors for different facets of your life, rotating them as you proactively ebb and flow in your personal growth. Imagine creating, directing, exploring, LIVING your life fluidly, securely, lovingly — as per your birthright. Rather, a good 90% of folks in my practice have waited until some part of their life implodes or is driving them sufficiently nuts before they finally recognize that yes, in fact, it does take a village!! Essentially, that’s what most of us in the self-development/help field are: a paid, quick-and-dirty “tribe”; because society, parents (whoever is the scapegoat-of-the-week) has failed to ingrain– without question, the simple concept that we’re not programmed to go it alone. Our genetics and our happiness quotient are structured to have relationships in our lives, and it is our inherent nature and our human mandate to seek and filter those relationships to fuel our souls.
“Tribe” is the moniker I use to refer to the support team in our lives. Some people need a big tribe around them constantly, others, just one or two close folks at a time. Tribe members may be for guidance, support, or simple oxytocin (happy-mood hormones) to give someone a boost for a time. We are predominantly raised to accept our family-of-origin as our tribe: they are the ones that will “love us unconditionally” and “support us to reach our dreams” – through thick and thin, right? “Of course- they’re my family!” Your family may turn out to be a prime source of the types of support that you need to grow and thrive, but more often than not, you need to seek out and assemble a “custom” tribe. Who ever told us that??? Sure, we’re encouraged to go make friends… you know, for basic camaraderie (led to believe that our friends will at least, be “loyal”: and inevitably hanging on to friendships well beyond their expiration dates for that seemingly finite definition!). Eventually we clue in that our circle of friends may need to “cycle” a little, but was it ever on your radar that in choosing friends, you are in essence auditioning your life support-team, in which case, you might have very different criteria? No: because we have been conditioned by everything from Mother Goose to The Brady Bunch to English Lit 101 to butter commercials to believe that family is the mainstay of our support-team, and thus inherently, will be our best bet to guide us in building a happy, secure, fulfilling life. I beg to differ.
My birth-family is great: I simply define life and experience the world differently than how I witness- thus perceive, they do. We all have enough similarities that my upbringing felt sufficient: the expected life-path seemed a decent fit. I know now that while my familial path was certainly comfy, it was slowly choking the part of me that held the lion’s share of my authenticity. As I rode the proverbial conveyor-belt into adulthood… I could feel the suppression alright, I just didn’t have the modelling or education yet to understand it. I’ll expand at another time… but suffice it to say, in order to tap into, nurture, accept, explore, utilize and LIVE my true nature, I have needed to build myself another family… a soul family- my tribe.
All relationships, family-of-origin or chosen tribe (and they need not be mutually exclusive), will meet our needs or not meet our needs at any given time. The message that needs to be hammered into our philosophical understanding of life from infancy is: to continually seek relationships that will help fulfill your needs, and filter those that don’t. (Of course in my fantasy here, it’s a given that one’s uniqueness has been identified and honoured from infancy!) Understandably, a little balancing and screening is needed in the parenting department with incumbent responsibilities in both the nurturing of self-security and in the legal guardianship of our minor kids (i.e. Mom still needs to be the boss of you!). The basic concept of respecting that we may think/be different than our family members, and to ensure safety from feeling guilty/rejected should a someone seek like-minded or supportive individuals outside of the family, is a healthy, healthy way to nurture a lifetime of great personal tribesmen.
The vulnerability in my theory- as lived, is that we may not actually recognize that something is missing for us in our early formative years; as with me, nothing seemed missing per se, I just didn’t have any passion anywhere in my life e.g. I didn’t hate ballet: I was indifferent (BTW that is SO me, the redhead at left… and my sister beside me!!). But I shall once more beg to differ that we are oblivious to signs of dispassion: we truly can intuit- feel when things are “off”; and in the absence of that perception, we are certainly capable of knowing when we feel absolute delight and are excited, curious, or energetic about a path or project. Start there. Find others that share your interest and invite them into your tribe — for an hour, a day… or perhaps your life: time… and your soul will tell.
Still think you’re the blacksheep?? If so, it’s time to ask yourself what the payoff is: how does your adoption of being the blacksheep serve you more that going out and simply finding more black sheep?? Or are you really the village idiot, standing all alone, and yet still in your own way? I say that somewhat challengingly… but with full understanding that while it is that simple, a change in behaviour patterns, limiting beliefs, relationships, and a bevy of new dreams for your true identity will, of course, take energy (note I didn’t say work: with freedom comes fun!).
Even blacksheep are born perfect! Come on, can you even slightly think that she —->
…is a reject??!
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Tribes come about in all kinds of ways, for many different purposes and uses. Here are some thoughts from Dr. Julie Connor: planting the seeds so you can identify your top values and inventory your current tribe to see where there might be a disconnect.
Cultivating Your Tribe
“Finding your tribe can have transformative effects on your sense of identity and purpose,” explains Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. “This is because of three powerful tribal dynamics: validation, inspiration, and what we’ll call here the alchemy of synergy.”
Next: Who To Include In Your Tribe (page 2)
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