A local winery owner I know launched a women’s group back in February called Women Among Women. I’ve attended a few of the monthly meet-ups and have loved participating every single time. The group is more than simply networking, and focuses on topics decided upon by the attendees. Sometimes there may be a guest speaker, but more often the attendees have an open discussion on the specific topic of the evening. Topics have included goal setting, switching careers, and getting over life’s missteps gracefully. The women who attend are students, entrepreneurs, managers, mothers, spouses, volunteers, and so much more. It is a warm and inviting environment where each woman can connect with one another, share their personal experiences, and learn.
I met an awesome hustler a few months ago through this group. This woman began a podcast last year which has become a weekly delight for me to listen to on Wednesdays while I go about my work. The podcast, Hustlin’ In Heels, gets “real about struggles and celebrations of being a modern-day badass babe.” Basically, it’s a podcast Uncorking Peonies can get behind (and I definitely encourage anyone reading to give it a listen!)
Last week’s installment was all about building your tribe. The co-hosts talked about how they define a tribe, who they invite into their tribe, and what being in a tribe means. Their discussion got me thinking about how my tribe is continuously growing and evolving, and how I got to be in the various tribes I now find myself. Thus, I figured I’d focus my “annual Thanksgiving post” on my blessing of friendship and tribe.
To me, tribe is a universal word that is always attempting to be defined on a personal level. In the most basic sense, a tribe is built on similar social and economic ties and within a common culture. Yet a tribe can be so much more. It can be an intimately exclusive group simply built around care and love. Your tribe members have earned your trust, they hold you accountable in your endeavors, and they struggle through Life by your side. I love my husband and I love my parents, but they are not who I consider my tribe — they are family, which is a whole other elevated element of my Life. Instead, my tribe are those girls who are my ride-and-dies.
As a child, I can imagine I tied my identity to my family, similar to any other kid. I am an only child with a small extended family, but most of my memories as a youngster are centered around family holidays, vacations, or outings with my parents. It was not until my preteen years when I began to shift away from my familial tribe and looked to be invited into a friend tribe.
Unfortunately, I am an innate worrier. This means I suffered through my adolescent and teenage years — some of the most difficult years as a girl — in a constant state of worry. Did I fumble my way through that conversation? Am I cool enough to be her friend? That girl is hotter/smarter/cooler than me, so why would she want to hang out with me? I was in my head all the time and had very low self-esteem. With fear of what others thought and loathing of myself, I stepped into several friendships where I struggled to find my groove. There were multiple times I tried to force a relationship to no avail. Be it that personalities collided, trust was lacking, or my own inhibitions got in the way, by the time I reached my senior year in college, I lacked a core tribe.
Typical to human behavior, I played the victim card when friendships failed. “She hurt my feelings. She did me wrong. I was always the only one invested.” were my usual phrases when brushing off the pain of another failed relationship. When I realized I lacked a tribe, though, I began to reassess the past. Yes, those friend-fails may have been due to misunderstandings and crushed feelings, but I was not free from blame. I have difficulty trusting others due to my lack of self-esteem. I’m forever considering alternative motives and asking questions on someone’s intents. My personality is to give my all to a goal (in this reference, a functional friendship,) and sometimes I forget a friend’s personality might not match mine. Or worse, I forget a friend’s life does not center solely on our friendship.
In short, my past friendship fails have been 50/50 when it comes to who is to blame. And due to my own failings and lack of relationships, I found myself alone upon graduating. Right before graduation I had ended my romantic relationship which was truly my one and only core friendship at the time. So I found myself heartbroken, scared of an unknown career path, floundering in student debt, and alone. I lacked that intimate female camaraderie which I had struggled to find for years.
The day came though where I had to place my fears and self-esteem behind me, and throw myself in the hands of the only girls I found near me: my roommates. These two girls had only been my roommates for three months, and we had met on Facebook. I worked an hour away each weekend, studied a lot, and spent most of my free time with my ex, so minutes with these girls were few and far between. Our friendship was very elementary at the time.
Yet when my earth shook, they were there. They listened while my heart broke, held me while I sobbed, and took me for so many cups of FroYo I couldn’t even keep count. And through all the vulnerable moments, I began to heal. Their love made me feel safe and they helped me navigate the following months with grace and dignity. They were my first Tribe, and the perfect founding block on how I learned how to grow my future tribes.
Over the past several years, building my Tribe has become a wonderful hobby. Similar to what Angie says on Hustlin’ in Heels, I find more joy with the people I surround myself with because I trust them. That means going outside my comfort zone to meet new women, listening to their stories, and moving through life with them. Tribe is more than simple friendship; it is the group you do Life with and who does Life with you. Life is amazing and rewarding, but it comes with challenges. I’m not afraid anymore to admit I need help sometimes. As I meet new women and form relationships with them, I place my trust in them — something which I once shuddered at the thought.
The Tribes I have built are my support system. Some may be personal friendships and others professional, but I know they all have my back. I have come to realize that having a tribe is not only something I wanted for so many years, but Tribe is something I needed.
In the all-knowing words of Beyonce Knowles, “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you.” There is just something special about allowing yourself to be vulnerable and transparent and raw with a fellow female. Women understand women — we’re all from Venus after all.
Over the past few years, I have worked to cultivate connections with like-minded individuals in various parts of my life. These women help turn my visions into reality and help me achieve ideas too big for me to accomplish on my own. This might be by urging me to have fun and go out, listening and providing advice during a difficult time, or telling me what I don’t want to hear when I’m being stubborn. To me, Tribe consists of those women who will not only listen to me, but will constantly push me to be better.
As I move through my life I know I am no longer alone when it comes to friendship. I have women behind me to uplift me, support me, encourage me, and check in with me periodically. And the reason they do this is not out of obligation or familial ties. No, these women do so because they choose to love me and have my best interests at heart. Their love and care is unconditional, which ultimately makes them family — my Tribes are my sisters. They are with me during my successes, but they also forgive all my failures. They tell me I’m a rock star, even when I’m not. My Tribes allow me to be human — wins, fails, and all the accompanying tears.
Your tribe can’t be there just to pat you on the back when you’re already feeling great. Your tribe has to be able to provide you with that extra energy needed when times are rough. They have to provide tough love sometimes, or a hand off the ground. My Tribes have helped me personally, professionally, and in so many other ways. They are my best friends, my closest confidants, and my hope is to give the love, compassion, and care back to them, as well as spread it to others.
Every woman needs a tribe.