As we all embark on our unique journeys in life, it should be a given that we need a team of strong supporters to take the journey with us. I like to call my team my tribe; people who provide unconditional love, unwavering support and the ability to fight for you when you just don’t have it in you. A good tribe is essential to any mental fitness plan; not just any kind of tribe, but a good, solid tribe. At one point, I didn’t know how to form a good tribe. I didn’t know what that looked like. I didn’t know how to be vulnerable enough to ask for support, and I didn’t know how to receive the support people were willing to give me. Over time, however, I began to realize what it means to have a good tribe, how to look for good tribal characteristics and how to possess those tribal characteristics as well. Below is my hopefully helpful little list on how to find your tribe.
Stop Shoulding on Yourself: Too often I would get consumed by who I thought should be in my tribe. I was stuck on old friends who hurt me; family members who didn’t care to understand; or new friends who I wouldn’t give a chance to because well…they were new. Needless to say, I had some major trust issues. So, one of the first things I had to do was stop getting wrapped up in who should be doing what, let go of who didn’t or wasn’t doing what and start accepting who was happily willing to lend support. I had to learn to trust myself and my judgement and be open to new people.
Unexpected Goodness: Speaking of new people, it’s funny how God will place people in your life at the time when you need them most. But, most of the time my preconceived notions were an obstacle for that unexpected goodness. I remember when I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression. My closest friends (the ones I felt like I could really trust) either lived out of town or were dealing with their own issues. I didn’t want to burden them so I thought I would just suck it up and deal with it. Of course my husband was as supportive as he could be, but I needed another mom to understand where I was coming from. So, I randomly sent out a private Facebook message to people I didn’t necessarily talk to on a regular basis, but who I knew were rooted in prayer. And, low and behold, I was met with the utmost compassion from people I never expected. One of them has turned out to be one of my closest friends to this day. She’s part of my tribe and I hope she considers me part of hers. But, I never would’ve known that had I not opened my mind and heart for that unexpected goodness.
Expect Goodness: There was a point in my life when I expected the worse out of everyone, and it was a very lonely place to live. I would react to the way I thought they would treat me instead of seeing conflict for what it was and trying to resolve it like a grown up. I was deeply guarded and as you can imagine, that didn’t create a space for thriving relationships. I had to learn how to expect goodness out of people until they gave me a reason not to. Even when they did (because people will disappoint you), I had to learn to attempt to express how I felt, allow that person the same opportunity and then attempt to resolve it. This newfound method of expecting goodness allowed me the opportunity to let people in and see how we could add value to each others’ lives. It doesn’t always work because that’s life, but when it does, I encounter some amazing people. Some of those people have become my most lovingly fierce tribal members.
Be Honest: This part is hard for most; at least it was for me. I had to learn to be honest; honest with myself about what I needed and honest about my expectations of others who lived in my space. Honesty helps to keep the tribe on the same page as much as possible. Your tribe can’t know when to put the gloves on and fight for you, if they don’t know what you need. So, when they ask how you’re doing or if there’s anything they can do for you, tell them the truth!
Be Vulnerable: Amazing things happen on the other side of vulnerability. Connections are built, lessons are learned, and gifts are shared when you allow yourself to be vulnerable. For many, including myself, it’s a scary place because rejection and judgement can also potentially live on the other side of vulnerability. However, if you combine vulnerability with trusting yourself and your own judgement, you can’t go wrong. It’s important to remember that everyone doesn’t deserve your truth because not everyone will handle it with care. So, don’t go shouting it to everyone you see. Instead, be selective with your vulnerability, but be vulnerable with someone.
Be A Good Tribal Member: One of the most important things you can do when attempting to find your tribe is to be a good tribal member yourself. In addition to doing all of things above, make sure you’re ready to go the distance for those who have gone the distance for you. If a member of your tribe has been there for you when the chips are down, don’t disappoint him/her by not showing up when he/she needs you.