We all like to belong. It’s in our human psychological programming, to keep us safe. At school we probably wanted and needed to be liked by our fellow peers, we embraced actual or potential popularity within the ‘in-crowd’. If we didn’t come to find this state of being, we felt we were missing out and lacking somehow. We judged ourselves as too nerdy, too bookish, too ‘straight’, or not sporty enough, not expressive enough, too sensible, or not having enough life experience.I was actually called innocent Lynne for a while by a schoolboy, when I was around 16, at secondary school (high school). I hated it, but tried to take it in good part, after all a ‘boy’ was paying some kind of attention to me -whoopee-do! (Even if he was short and blonde, instead of tall, dark and handsome.) However, he carried on and I couldn’t stand it any more. I was very hurt at the allusion to a lack of sexual experience (which is what I thought it was all about at that age of course) and right in the middle of a class, I turned around and spat out the words LEAVE ME ALONE with a fearsome scowl inherited from my dear dad. Well Timothy D never said it again. And I never forgot. But I know I got off very easy compared to children who suffer bullying, and being made to feel ‘other’.
And if we felt marginalised we would look around and see there were a few others on the perimeter of really belonging. A girl, whose name I can’t remember, said to me in the last few weeks of the sixth form –you’re like me, aren’t you?…I guess we’ll soon be out of it…or words to that effect. She also felt, like me, that the boys were exactly that – boys. I had a best friend at the time who was also ‘other’– in fact the friends you make at school go a long way to defining you within that particular social group – and we’d spoken about this school situation, and we knew the score. But these fresh comments coming from a girl who’d hardly ever spoken to me before, well, I was flabbergasted. I thought, we could have been friends, what a waste! So, if there were others like us at school, they were likely to be too few to form an alliance and they were too busy keeping their heads down, like us.
School passed, and we may have been very glad to see the back of it. We might have connected with more people within higher education, since there may have been certain interests in common and it may have done us some good, we could express ourselves, get some stuff out of our system. But next came the real world and we had to move on into adulthood. New people to meet, new places to go, jobs to find, new relationships, a soul-mate to find as a partner, families, new responsibilities. Yet despite our ‘finds’ and superficial acceptance of the rules and order of our particular environment and the people therein, many of us may still have been hoping deep down to find some people who more reflected our own personal values, interests, tastes, and sense of humour, those people with whom we could be fully ourselves with a throwing away of our various personas and personal defences, who appreciated our quirky side, and with whom we ultimately would have a sense of coming home – coming home to our tribe. And in return, we could make them feel at home too.
Here are a few quotes on the value of finding your tribe from goodreads.com
From Shannon L. Alder, inspirational author:
Don’t waste your time being what someone wants you to become, in order to feed their list of rules, boundaries and insecurities. Find your tribe. They will allow you to be you, while you dance in the rain.
From Vironika Tugaleva, inspirational speaker, life coach, founder of The Real Us, and author of the award-winning book The Love Mindset :
Plenty of people will think you’re crazy, no matter what you do. Don’t let that stop you from finding the people who think you’re incredible—the ones who need to hear your voice, because it reminds them of their own. Your tribe. They’re out there. Don’t let your critics interfere with your search for them.
And Vironika on how self development may require you to seek out new affiliations:
Self-discovery changes everything, including your relationships with people. When you find your authentic self, those who loved your mask are disappointed. you may end up alone, but you don’t need to stay alone. While it’s painful to sever old connections, it’s not a tragedy. it’s an opportunity. Now, you can find people who understand the importance of looking for truth and being authentic. Now you can find people who want to connect deeply, like you’ve always wanted to, instead of constant small talk and head games. Now you can have real intimacy. Now, you can find your tribe.
And I think the route to our own personal tribe can be found in seeking those who share our interests. As Seth Godin, author and agent of change, says: A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate. And when you share an interest, you learn how to communicate. it may actually be that simple. I found my tribe when I began doing art courses and taking part in craft fairs. All of a sudden I was meeting like-minded people, with who I felt free to be myself, who thought more about life and the world, who posed more questions, who carried on believing in their creative work, despite the harsher practical realities of life. These people were working on the fringe of what I perceived as mainstream living, which is how I had been operating previously, before I rediscovered art for myself, and took that direction instead.
And after this tribe, I found another tribe when I did some counselling courses and met some wonderfully sensitive, thoughtful and caring people. And these two tribes complimented one another.
When I discovered a love of writing, I sought another tribe…
But that leads me to the next development…how many tribes can you belong to before something starts to give? Before something has to change in you?
Well for me, the creative tribe was beginning to feel stale and unforthcoming. I was becoming disillusioned, not with my own work, but with the art scene and the adherence to rules and procedures on how to ‘get on’, and become more successful, which largely went unquestioned, unchallenged, and various truths which I was now seeing were swept under the carpet and lay there, unacknowledged. So I needed to withdraw. It hurt, I’d met some lovely people, and your tribe becomes part of your identity, but it was necessary to pull out.
Then I joined a writers group quite happily for a while. However I soon realised I was thinking of the crafting tribe as where I belonged, because I found the writing group too prescribed, with very firm opinions too widely differentiated on how the group should operate. And living in a rural area meant the availability and choice of writers groups was limited. So after a few more writing group tensions, I pulled out, and didn’t fancy writing forums, so decided for my own peace of mind to trust my own judgment and go solo.
How do you know when it’s time to leave the tribe?
When it no longer stimulates you. When you find its limitations no longer tolerable. When it doesn’t deliver what you need from it any longer. When staying within it becomes restrictive. When it generates anger and frustrations. When you’ve refined and reviewed what you need now. When you’ve outgrown it, or need a change simply because you’ve changed. Your very mindset has changed. After all, new groups form precisely because the people within them change and seek new affiliations. The ‘fit’ simply changes, or ends altogether.
What’s it like outside of the tribe?
Well, it’s like coming full circle. You’re back on the margins again. But this time, it feels fine, like you meant to be there all along. You’ve immersed yourself in some tribes of like–minded people, and you’ve discovered so much more about yourself and life along the way. And when you walk away from your chosen tribe, you discover the freedom that comes with going it alone. We like to belong to a group, and the pull will always be there, but we can still connect with others at any time, over shared values or interests. I’ve discovered the fit can be in a state of flux, according to need or wanting to share, and this works well. I’ve kept a few very valuable friends from the art scene, and most of them happen to be artists, which doesn’t surprise me, it was my first-found tribe.
So finally, there is no doubt that belonging to a tribe can be highly valuable, but going your own way when you’re ready, or you need to, can be so rewarding too. You don’t seek validation from others, you trust yourself, you’re happy in your very own skin.
(Images courtesy of pixabay)