I just returned from a fabulous weekend in Jamaica. I went for a meditation retreat, which was new for me… a whole weekend dedicated to meditation! However, this post isn’t about meditation…
I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew in my gut I was supposed to go and show up. I knew the doctor putting it on, and I knew some people from the waiting room of his office. We have shared some small chit chat. Other than that, I really didn’t “know” anyone. And there were a handful of new faces, too.
However, upon my arrival, I immediately started chatting it up with various attendees. And it felt like I had known them forever. We talked about who we are, what we did, why we were there, and immediately started to bite into the juicy details of our lives. And it was amazing. I felt home.
Home. Tribe. Many people are looking for it. We can be where we think is supposed to be home and it feels the opposite. Do you ever feel alone in a crowd of people? Do you feel like a black sheep in your family? Do you feel like you do not belong? You do not have to be in the middle of a forest as a lone human to feel alone.
We absolutely NEED to be in connection and relationships with people. And not just any relationship (because we can be in truly toxic and unhealthy and abusive relationships), but relationships where we feel loved, like we matter, seen, heard, and engaged. They are satisfying. Many research studies show that relationships (of any kind) where people truly feel satisfied are associated with better overall health, greater happiness, and even a longer life! (1)
When we do not resonate with the people around us, it can feel very lonely and difficult to authentically connect.
Authentic connection is hugely important to overall health, wellbeing, and living a meaningful life. True connection happens when we can show ourselves and be vulnerable together. So for example, I show parts of my inner self as do you (it being a one way street may not be appropriate or healthy depending on the situation). But it is absolutely vital we allow ourselves to be vulnerable with those who allow the safe space for it and can honor it.
First, I want to talk about some major patterns that are NOT authentic connecting, and do NOT contribute to building your true and healthy tribe. The first thing is superficial conversation. Talking about the weather or the Bachelor is fine and dandy, and can be a nice conversation starter to warm up, but it isn’t connecting at the core level. It is a tool. There is a place for it. Going on a first date can be kind of nerve wracking, so maybe easing into conversation with some superficial weather talk breaks the ice… Great! But having it be the norm and go-to avoids deeper connection and getting to know who we really are.
I will tell you what also isn’t connecting… Gossip.
I want you to take a second and check yourself. How many people throughout a day do you gossip with? That does not mean you are a bad person, it means you are not authentically connecting. “It’s not real connection. All it is – I call it ‘common enemy intimacy,’ the only thing we have in common is we hate the same people,” Brene Brown said. (2)
Dr. Brown also discusses the finding in her research that brings to light the difference between belonging and fitting in. And the difference is HUGE.
While fitting in, we compromise. We put on facades. We can be simply agreeable. I remember doing this a lot as a really young kid in my upper white middle class town. I gossiped, I wore the same clothes as everyone else, I talked about things I did not care about. Why? Because I was so so afraid of not belonging. But here is where the irony is… because I was “fitting in,” I automatically did not connect and therefore sabotaged any belonging.
I find this to be so so so true from my experience. I have been more true to myself than ever, and although it has been quite abandoning from certain groups I was part of here or there, I feel more at home than ever.
I am currently manifesting more of my “true tribe” where I live. I live in Charlotte without my family of origin here. I love my family of origin. Also, in many ways, I feel like the black sheep. I am very different than them, and they are very different from me. Not right, wrong, or anything like that… It is simply different. So sometimes I have a hard time connecting with them. And for some of us, the family of origin can be an unsafe place due to unhealthy and unsupportive dynamics. So trying to “fit in” somewhere you are not able to truly belong is unhealthy and prevents true connection from happening. Sometimes there is a sense to build another family, or add onto the one you have.
The saying of, “This is the only family you will ever have,” (in regards to your family of origin) is bullshit. YOU have the power to cultivate the people you want in your life. You do not need to settle for fitting in. You can belong. It is a choice though, and a decision that needs to be made with conscious awareness.
Many people avoid authentic connection by doing these things because they fear connection. They fear the potential for abandonment, rejection, or hurt from real connection (almost always because they have in the past at some point… welcome to the human experience), and therefore staying unconnected is a subconscious (and sometimes conscious) way to stay somewhere that is complacent and familiar for them. If that is the case, contact me so we can heal that!
And I will tell you one more thing that is NOT authentically connecting… social media.
I constantly hear the narrative of, “We are more connected than ever because of social media.” That’s a big fat nope. We “connect” through social media, but it isn’t true connecting; it is “knowing.” Giving information willingly through social media about yourself and life, and then others interacting with the pictures and posts is sharing information. It is sharing and therefore I “know”.
I know what’s going on in your life through social media…but I can’t look into your eyes, see your body language, hug you, smell you, laugh with you, hear your pain, and have the true human experience with you through a screen. Social media is a great tool for putting information into the world. I can inform you of what’s going on in my life (that which I want to share), but I cannot connect at an authentic, deep, human level to you through social media.
So this is not to diss social media… it is amazing tool when used properly. Like chainsaws… great tools when used properly, but when used improperly, can cause some serious damage. In several recent studies, teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66 percent) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time (3). I hypothesize it is because we are caught up in knowing when doing that, and not actually connecting and experiencing.
So here are some mindful checks I am inviting you to participate in:
How much superficial conversation am I having as opposed to actual deep connecting conversations where I feel satisfied and alive?
Am I fitting in or am I truly belonging? If I am practicing fitting in as opposed to belonging, why?
Am I gossiping? If am I doing it, why? How many true friends do I have if I do not gossip?
How much time am I spending on social media? Can I use it as a helpful tool instead of a mindless drain or promote negativity? How can I be more mindful of my time and what I am doing?
WHAT DOES MY TRUE TRIBE LOOK LIKE!??! Or you connecting with love or hate (hate is disconnection)? Take the time to write down qualities in people you feel satisfied and alive with. Think about people in the past or currently you feel really satisfied, good, and whole being around. Who do you feel alive and joyous around? That doesn’t mean things are good and joyful all the time. For example, the people I was in Jamaica with… we talked about some hard and dark stuff, and we experienced some spiritual cleansing that wasn’t exactly fun haha. BUT, it was all meaningful, connective, and satisfying.
“As it turns out, men and women who have the deepest sense of true belonging are people who also have the courage to stand alone when called to do that. They are willing to maintain their integrity and risk disconnection in order to stand up for what they believe in,” Brown said. (2) So the solution to building true tribe are connecting with people who are willing to do the same. In addition to that, we are willing to open up ourselves to who we are and show our hearts.
Having healthy community and relationships is inextricable from health. We need it. So take the time to evaluate your tribe, and ask yourself how much of yourself are you showing and if you are truly satisfied.
Keeping putting yourself out there. Building tribe does not necessarily happen overnight. Be patient, be persistent, and DO NOT negotiate who you are in the process. We need connection, we need to belong.