At the beginning of this year I decided to move into a lovely semi-detached Victorian house along with four housemates, each with very different personalities. This was quite a change for me as I had been living on my own for over seven years. I had become used to having my own space with my own things. I liked the freedom of decorating as I liked. I never had to worry about my music being too loud or my being moody after a hard day’s work or my dirty dishes bothering someone else. But soon my living alone became a problem because in 2014 I also started working for myself. Often, simply because it was cheaper and meant packing fewer things, weeks would pass without me really getting out and seeing people. Instead of enjoying my solidarity, I came to dislike it intensely. And I would watch TV series after TV series over weekends just to divert my thoughts from the fact that I was very much alone.
Then a change occurred. A friend and fellow coach with her own business in travel, yoga, food and coaching to help women live more radiant lives, often told me at coaching bootcamps about her experiences of taking some of her ladies to Bali. It sounded like heaven. So I used the last of my pension payout to sign up for this “eat, play, yoga” trip of a lifetime. Needless to say, it was amazing! But what struck me most was realising how much I enjoyed being around people. I loved being able to come back from a day’s activities to the room I shared with my friend. Then there were the other ladies in our party who were always around to share experiences.
And so I started to wonder whether I was alone at home really because of circumstances or was I actually subconsciously choosing to isolate myself rather than to engage with people.
I recently read Into the wild by Jack Krakauer. It is like the male version of Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It tells the true story of a young man from a wealthy family and with great prospects who literally set his savings on fire so that he could live off the land and hike around Alaska. He would move to small towns, work and live there for a while only to retreat back into the wild again. He explains it as follows: “We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again.” Unfortunately he comes to a sad end and the wild gets the better of him when he mistakes wild sweet peas for wild potatoes. Wild sweet peas are poisonous. He starves to death. In his last days, he writes in his diary: “I had convinced myself for many months that I didn’t really mind the absence of intimacy in my life.”
What are some of the thoughts we convince ourselves of to justify that we don’t have friends in our lives? We tell ourselves we are weird or introverted or too deep and therefore not good with people and relationships, or that we just haven’t found people like us.
It is so much easier (not necessarily nicer, but easier) to isolate ourselves, to withhold ourselves from relationships than to face the messiness and the complexity of it all.
It is easier to shut ourselves away to avoid the hurt that sometimes comes with our interaction with people who are just as broken as we are and deny their darker side as much as we do. It is easier to keep ourselves locked in our houses or flats than to learn the interpersonal and boundary-setting skills necessary to establish healthy and thriving relationships.
The truth is we all need a community of people where we can feel it’s okay to be ourselves. A safe space where we can just be all of ourself. Our shadow sides, our wacky sides, our weird sides. Lisa Rankin (read her full article here) writes about her need for “a group of people among whom I could be unconditionally loved and accepted, while staying in alignment with my true nature”. We need a tribe that we feel we belong to. Something that’s different from the teenage days of “cool and uncool kids” where we did everything to conform so that we would fit in and belong. Rather we need something like a Soul Tribe.
Sharni Quinn from Cape Town, a yogi and the founder of the Follow the Sun tribe for women (of which I am part of), describes her tribe as follows: “For me, my tribe is a group of like-minded women who are the same as me but different. We have all been through loss, experienced sadness, joy and ultimate bliss – so we can all relate with one another. We might have been in different situations but in the end the feelings and emotions are the same. My tribe is made up of many different women of various ages who all provide their own wisdom, knowledge and nurturing energy – each in their own special way. It is not about being better than anyone else, it is not about judgement, it is not about competing or comparing . . . It is about support, faith and trust. In the end we all experience the ups and downs of life. A tribe is there to support you through the tough times and to celebrate with you during the good ones!”
For me this tribe has become invaluable in sharing life’s trial’s and tribulations, ups and downs with. This is also the place where I can get feedback and business or life advice from. These are the people who I want to have around me when I am going through some sort of transition. Because I know that I am very much welcome here in all my forms.
We cannot shut people out of our lives. We were born into a peopled world, creating attachments from our very first breath. We need people not because we cannot live without them but to share our lives with them. As Chris McCandless, the young man in Into the Wild, concluded: “And so it turned out that only a life similar to the life of those around us, merging with it without a ripple, is genuine life, and that an unshared happiness is not happiness . . .”
How can you find your own tribe?
Go to Authentic Relating Games or do a course in Imago coaching to develop your own interpersonal and boundary-setting skills.
Practise your passions and your hobbies. Go to a yoga or Nia dance class. Take up flow arts. Start your own business women’s support group or men’s group on Facebook or join an existing one. (See Meetup). Whatever attracts you, there you will find your people. If you cannot find a group with your unique interest in blowing soap bubbles while dancing on one leg, then create a group yourself on Meetup.
Do the inner work. What limiting beliefs are you holding onto regarding your interaction with other people and the forming of friendships? Are these beliefs serving you?
Draw your tribe towards you by embodying the characteristics you value in a tribe. Work on your own self-worth. Become comfortable with who you really are and you will attract other people who are comfortable with who they are.
Formulate your intention. Be clear regarding what you want. And then be open to receiving it.
[Main image taken and supplied by Sharni Quinn]