I have always had a hard time belonging. Always. There are days I don’t feel like I even belong in my own skin, but that’s a different kind of battle I fight every day.
No, I never really belonged to one group. I spent my middle school years feeling alienated, my high school years adjusting, and my early 20s feeling like the only people who understood me lived thousands of miles away. I wrote about how I wasn’t a girly-girl because I didn’t have a group of girlfriends I met in college, or anything that even remotely came close to fitting the Bring It On/Clueless/Sex and the City standards girlfriends seemed to live up to in those days.
I came to terms with it. Kind of. I grew up, I moved out, I made friends – I lost them, and for a moment, I thought I had found a group of girls I could call my tribe. They were the ones I could count on to stand by my side when I was going to get married.
Then that all fell apart too.
Once again, I started searching. I looked 40 years into the future and sought out my potential Golden Girls. I wanted to just feel like I belong.
The more I searched, the more I reached for a group to call my own, the more I realized how that, by nature, creates exclusion. The idea of finding ‘your tribe’, which has gained popularity in the female population over the last few years, is essentially a grown-up version of being Mean Girls.
No, hear me out.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have people we trust more than others. An inner circle is essential, but it shouldn’t be exclusive. In the last few years, I’ve made girlfriends under a variety of circumstances. I met all of them under unlikely circumstances, when I needed to in my life, and our relationships evolved over time. I trust, though, when they come together, they’ll get along because the qualities I seek in those closest to me are similar. They’re trustworthy. Passionate. Encouraging. Funny. Sarcastic. Empathetic. Smart.
But I wouldn’t call them my tribe. We don’t all hang out every week. We don’t all have to hang out together every time. My friendships with them are separate, but when we all come together, there’s no exclusivity about it.
Finding your tribe isn’t supposed to be about inclusivity or exclusivity, but let’s face it, that’s what it’s become. That’s human nature. Over the years, I’ve observed so many people preach about being accepting while being negative behind closed doors. It’s frustrated me, because to me, that’s being hypocritical. While I could probably get along with these individually, it was clear that not getting along with one of them would mean being an outsider. There would be resentment, and more than likely, whispers within the rest of the group behind my back.
So I stopped looking for my tribe. Instead, I’ve tried to focus on individual relationships. Anything that turns into group mentality and lends itself to exclusivity is out for me. The moment I begin to feel like I can’t be myself around my friends is the moment I begin shutting down.
I don’t know where my relationships will be in 5, 10, 20 years. Maybe I won’t ever find my Golden Girls, but I trust that whoever is by my side won’t ever make me feel excluded from our friendship. In a world full of judgment, <stereotype>-shaming, and backstabbing, I choose to surround myself with strong individuals who don’t let their insecurities stand in the way of their growth.
Because, let’s face it, ain’t nobody got time for that.