We all need our tribes.
You’ve heard it said before – find your tribe. And it’s true for business, as Seth Godin has pointed out with great clarity.
But it is also true for life. We all need our tribes.
We need our people.
We take on different roles in our lives. We might be the one who keeps it all together, or we’re the one who always falls apart. The controlling one, the organizer, the wild child, the saucy one, the baby, the teacher, the mess, the clown, the argumentative one, the pouter, the intellectual, the airhead, the one who remembers everything always, the one who’s chronically late…there are so many more.
We take on different roles in our lives. Sometimes we take on different roles with different people.
I tend to be someone who usually has it mostly together, who often organizes, and who is a teacher. Sometimes a little bit of an airhead, and often chronically late. There are other elements to my personality, and different parts show up in different relationships.
I have one close friend who is going through something extremely difficult in their life, and it is something that also touches me quite directly. I am well aware that I have to be strong for them as the situation unfolds, because they will have a hard time with it, and in our relationship, I have always been the one who keeps it together, and they have been the one who goes off the rails.
I was talking to a mutual friend of ours recently, feeling like I needed a shoulder to cry on. And this friend told me to buck up, reminding me that I’m the one who needs to be strong because our other friend will have a hard time coping.
And my response was so immediate and so clear for me that it made me stop short. I said that I knew that I would have to be the one to keep it together, and I was all good for that. I knew that would be my role, and I was set for it. But what I also needed was a place that was separate from that where I could fall apart now and then, when I needed to.
And that’s what it really boils down to. When the role that we take on is one of control, of keeping it together, of doing all the right shit (or so we think), it is absolutely imperative for us to have someplace soft to land that is all our own. Someplace where we can let go of doing it all right, and just wail and grieve and be angry and have all the messy emotions that we keep in check so much of the time.
Because sometimes we do need to be strong for other people. Sometimes we do need to be the one keeping our shit – and everybody else’s – on track, so that everything doesn’t fall apart.* But that cannot be 100% of our existence, or it will swallow us whole.
(*To be clear: I am not, in any way, advocating doing everything for everybody all the time, or taking on other people’s stuff. Sometimes old patterns and relationships are long established, and in times of crisis, emergency, trauma or drama, the best way to be there for someone is to be strong so that they have the freedom to fall apart…putting your own “stuff” away until later. Not forever, just…later. This is also not always the best way to do things. But it is one possibility in a myriad of options.)
I think that within our personal tribes at large, sometimes we are the strong ones, and sometimes other people are strong for us. Sometimes we hold other people up, and sometimes they hold us up. And that is precisely why we need a tribe.
We cannot be everything to one person. And one person cannot be everything to us. We need our tribes.
This is why we have some girlfriends we laugh with, some we cry with, some who are that phone call that get us through the dark nights, and some who will lend us those killer red boots and make us go dancing.
We all need our tribes.
And as we get older, we start to realize who those people are in our tribes. And authenticity becomes everything. The people we value in our tribes, and who we are in other people’s tribes, must come from an authentic place for it to really count as Tribe, and not just…flotsam.
We have less time to fritter away with people who don’t bring the real deal to the table. And so our connection with those less-than-authentic people starts to wane. And although it may seem like our tribe is getting smaller, in fact, our tribe is getting more authentic. Our tribe is composed of ONLY those people on whom you can truly rely.
Because we all need our tribes. Our real tribes. Our life tribes.