I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. How through all the crazy changes of the last 10 years (graduation, new jobs, getting married, moving to Nashville…!), my inner circle of friends has grown and made my life better over and over again. I say this all the time, but I truly believe life is better and easier and SO much more fun when we walk through it together with our girlfriends.
Since friendship is one of my very favorite things to talk about, I’ve heard thousands of stories and questions from women who are trying to navigate these important relationships in their lives.
Recently, my friend Nicole asked me, “How do you know when you’ve found your tribe?”
You know the ones she was talking about: They’re your BFFs. Your people. The ones you can count on to love you no matter what, no matter how vulnerable or messy you are in front of them.
Nicole’s question is one we’ve all wondered at some point. I think every person craves the belonging we feel with friends who are loving and good and trustworthy. We want the kind of tried-and-true people that finish our sentences, laugh until they cry over our inside jokes, and reminisce for hours over shared memories.
But friend, if you’re looking around thinking, “Why haven’t I found my tribe yet?” I have some encouragement for you.
First, if you don’t feel like you’ve found your people yet, you are not alone.
Sometimes we get this idea that finding a tribe is like finding a house. We want to find it early in life and live there forever. If you’re like me, you grew up thinking you’d find your true friends in school and then be done. But friendships are much more like a garden. They change, they grow, they bloom in seasons. They take tending and pruning. When we pour good things into them, they grow. When we don’t, sometimes they start to dry up. Sometimes they wither unexpectedly.
When I made my best friend in third grade, no one told me life would take me 2,000 miles away from her someday. In fact, SO many of my best friends are SO far away from me. They’re still so very dear to my heart, but I can’t show up at their place on a Friday night with pizza and a movie in hand. So I’ve had to adjust my definition of “my tribe.” I’ve had to learn how to keep my long-distance tribe strong while also forming a new tribe where I live. Moving taught me that even if I had a wonderful, strong tribe in one place, I might end up in a place where I had to start over, or at least start something new.
So friend, if you are looking around at your life, thinking “I could use new friends,” you’re so not alone. Everyone feels that way at some point. We could all use more people who are our people. It just might be that instead of a harvest season, it’s time to plant more seeds.
Second, remember that we don’t always find “our people” on the first try.
Finding your tribe can feel like a series of failures sometimes. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had moments when you realize your circle of friends isn’t as loving or caring as you’d hoped. Maybe you’ve changed since you first met them. Maybe they’ve changed. Sometimes looking around and realizing your friends don’t feel like “your people” anymore is painful. It feels like a failure. But the thing is, the best things in life take a few tries. Think about it. There’s not a single person in the world who has done something great who didn’t fail a bunch of times first!
Finding your tribe is a little like dating in that sense. Sure, you might meet “The One” right away. (It’s been known to happen!) But it’s more likely that you’ll go on a few awkward coffee dates before meeting someone who really clicks. It’s a process of trial and error. That’s all part of it; so if you find yourself striking out, remember that it’s a journey.
And the truth is, sometimes that journey feels an awful lot like stumbling around in the dark. But here are a few reminders for the moments when it feels that way:
– If someone doesn't want to be your friend for some reason, it does NOT mean you’re unlovable (and more often than not, it doesn’t have anything to do with you!).
– If at first your vulnerability is not well received, it doesn't mean you were silly or too much for opening up. It might just mean this person isn’t your person, or that they're going through something that’s keeping them from being able to open up back.
– If a coffee date with a new acquaintance is painfully awkward, know that you’re not failing. You are not un-friendable. Not all of them are going to be home runs, but some of them will be, so keep going! You can do this!
Finally, once you’ve found your tribe, deep connection still takes time.
Even when we’ve found a group of friends who are wonderful, like-minded, loving people, getting to know each other’s hearts takes time! It’s like dipping your toe in a swimming pool. You go little by little. Every little thing you share is an act of bravery, but then one builds onto the next and the next…
When I first started making friends in Nashville, there were days I felt lonely and frustrated. Even though I had a group of great girlfriends in my life, I just didn’t feel like I’d “made it” yet with them. I still felt like I needed to freshen up, pull on my best pair of skinny jeans, and show my best self to them. That’s what it was—they were still skinny jeans friends, and I wanted sweatpants friends! I wanted them to be the kind of people I could call at 4 a.m. or show up to their house without any makeup, my hair pulled up in a messy bun.
What I learned is that to get to this place, we have to keep showing up, giving it a go, again and again. Coffee date after coffee date, week after week, month after month… It’s a process. You’re watering the garden You’ll get there, I promise! Those friendships will grow!