WHY I REALLY DON’T LIKE THE WORD ‘TRIBE’

A lot has happened in the past few weeks.

Not in terms of my workload increasing – I’m a housewife and truly our work is never done.

No, it is more of a transition or transformation in myself.  I can feel it evolving, emerging.

The truth is I have never really been comfortable with myself.  And I have never really fitted in.  And it bothered me.  A lot.  So much so, it is a big part of why I became an alcoholic.  Being the good time girl at parties gained me many friends.  All of whom left when I became sober.

Tribe finding and belonging has always proven somewhat problematic for me.  I join tribes (groups), but for some reason, I just don’t seem to fit them very well.  And I usually feel the need to leave.

And it is really hard to leave a tribe.  You feel bad.  You don’t want to be perceived as a bad person.  You certainly don’t want to be left out in the cold.   Our very mental health depends on not being left out in the cold.  Alone.  With no tribe.

Having and belonging to a tribe is very vogue right now.  The word itself – TRIBE – is every bloody where.  We are encouraged to join a tribe, to find our tribe, to start a tribe.

It is all about connection.  As humans, we are hardwired to need connection – to our family, to our friends, to online groups.  And, we are led to believe, the more of a tribe we have, the more connected we are.  Which is a brilliant thing, apparently.  And, if you are blogging for commercial reasons, the more money you can potentially make.  Or, if you are a personal blogger like me, the less isolated and alone you feel.  Ergo if you don’t really do tribes very well, you aren’t connected and are a bit of a loner.

And this bothered me for the longest time.

I didn’t want to not belong.  I didn’t want to be a loner.  I didn’t want to not have a tribe.

And I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just fit in and be one of the tribe and sing my merry song.

And then I realised.

First of all, I have connection.  A lot of connection.  To my small family and my very few friends.  I realised that it isn’t the amount of people you are connected to, but the quality of those connections we have in our lives that are important.  I cannot be measured by how many Facebook “friends” I have or how many likes my blog page has, or how many views it gets.  Connection is relative.  As long as we have just one person in our lives with whom we connect, we are doing well.

Secondly, I don’t do tribes because at heart I am a bit of a non-conformist.  Well, really A LOT non-conformist.  I always have been.  I really hate to be pigeon-holed into any type of box.  This means if I join a tribe, it will often be that I won’t agree with everything it says.  Tribe mentality is usually about towing the tribe line.  You only need to go onto various Facebook groups to see this.  Any person that dares to question the ethos of the group, or something that the owner of the group has said, is immediately maligned as a traitor and ordered to leave the group to “find your own damn group!”  Independent thinking is not encouraged.  And I have a massive issue with this.

Thirdly, we seem to have replaced friends and real connection with real people with having a “tribe”.  We live our lives online and increasingly we look to those online communities to validate us.  This, of course, on the one hand is a good thing.  If we have a rare condition, it is an amazing vehicle by which to connect to others afflicted with the same thing.  But it is also a dangerous way to be.  We are not looking inwardly to tap into those parts of us that enable us to feel validated in our own right.  Instead, we look to our “tribe” to tell us how good we are – as people, as business owners, as artists, as retailers, as bloggers.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Well, it was for me.

Fourthly, we see the word “authentic” being bandied about a lot.  I used to hate that word.  To me, it was another buzz word.  Another cliche.  Another way to make people feel like they weren’t doing the right thing, because if they were (being authentic) then they would fit in (with the tribe).

But then, I reframed it.

Authenticity is really living life to the beat of your own drum.  And in my case the beat is odd.  The beat doesn’t have a massive tribe playing the same rhythm.  And one day, I woke up to that fact.  And I was okay with it.  I have a few people in my life who know my beat is odd, and who accept me, quirky beat and all.  And that is all I need.

And this is why I really don’t like the word tribe:

It requires conformity.  It requires a herd mentality.  Tribes hark back to small clans who needed to stick together to survive.  There was a leader (usually the strongest male) who would make decisions for the tribe and the tribe would conform because to not conform would mean death.  Independent thought – non-conformity – meant expulsion because it would threaten the tribe survival.

We no longer live in that world.  Our world provides plenty for survival.  Yet, our mentality has remained the same.  We still are genetically wired to conform as a herd.  We still want the tribe.  We want to belong.

But not me.  And a few others.  And so we sit on the sidelines.  Not belonging.  Not conforming.

Of course, wanting to belong to a tribe is not a bad thing, not at all.  For some people it is needed for their very survival as a person.  And most people do it so well.  But I don’t.

And this no longer bothers me.

I think that is called self confidence.  I’ve never had that before.  I like it.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

 

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23 thoughts on “WHY I REALLY DON’T LIKE THE WORD ‘TRIBE’

  1. This is why I am so glad you have found your voice. And why I am so looking forward to meeting you. You remind me every day to remember how I used to think before I had kids, and that its ok to still think that way after kids. (And you’ve pointed out why “tribe” makes me feel icky, I’ve never fit in, and still don’t)

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  2. Great points Sarah. I’m a bit of a loner but prefer to use tribe/team than refer to my lovely ‘followers’ to become a subscriber as I want them to feel part of the journey. (followers is a horrible term too as they are independent and don’t follow what I ask but give their time to check out the Temple occasionally) I know where you’re coming from though it is definitely overused as ‘authentic’ is. Like family or friends you don’t fit into every aspect of their beliefs but find the common ground. Village is probably a better word. (it takes a village to raise a child.) it allows for all sorts of independent people and their good qualities among them to give a child the best purest world. Tribe is a very distinct word with limitations that is evolving in definition away from the primal origins of survival. xxo

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  3. I loved this post and it made me think. I love having real, close friends that can handle, and even celebrate, differences in opinion. I have a few of those girlfriends in my life and I am very grateful. I think you’re right – connection between people is quite different to connection to a tribe, which can require conformity. True friendships are a different thing altogether but sometimes true friendships are born through those tribes.

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    1. This is very true Robyna. Sometimes the kinds of friendships that develop true connection do form through those tribes. It is most certainly important to remember that 🙂

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  4. There’s so much in this that I relate to Sarah, as a fellow not-fitter-inner.
    I struggle with the fact that it can be hard to find groups to be alongside others, I’ve found myself frozen out of a couple for being authentically me, which is hard to take when they’re groups that regularly bandy about being true to yourself.

    I don’t have any answers, I totally agree the depth of connection is far more important than the quantity, but boy it’s hard to feel that way when you’re often an outsider.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree Lila. I’ve been knocked about in recent months in tribes and I have found that hard, but the flip side is that it has given me time to reflect. We need to connect, I get that, I just want to be able to do it without constantly having forgo my authenticity. And by the way I love your authenticity so very much xx

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  5. I like the way you have articulated this – I agree (plus, we can be in many groups, which may not align – that doesn’t seem to sit with the idea of a ‘tribe’ either). It feels like a word that has become a bit jargonistic, and hasn’t sat well with me either

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  6. In modern parlance, the word “tribe” has replaced that Anglocentric word “set” – as in the “upper-class set” and the more global “jetset”. Whatever the “buzz” word is I never fit in either! Great post.

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  7. Great post! I often feel like I don’t belong to one tribe, more like I am straddling the bridge between two different ones. I hate that I have the need for validation, often from strangers on-line, eg No blog comments = a shit post, or only 15 Instagram likes = very average photo. I am aware of it, don’t like it, but somehow find it difficult to rewire my thinking. x

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    1. I am completely the same Karen – I totally get caught up in the “how many followers/likes/comments do I have” phenomenon. I am really trying to rewire my thinking too. xx

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  8. Sarah…thank you! Thank you for being a bold, courageous woman and speaking what has been silent in my heart for so long! Even as a young girl, I didn’t have a gaggle of girl friends. The girls I thought were my best friends moved on with life without a second thought. It wasn’t until high school that I found a group, but even within that group, I would often feel exhausted from playing the role of “fun, party girl,” and would drift to the sidelines with my two closest friends, one who is now my husband! As my husband and I had kids, we became more and more involved with our church, and the expectations of the church culture have been a disastrous blow to any semblance of self confidence I had. The idea of life groups or small groups or “we do life together at the point of excluding everyone else” groups is pervasive, yet my husband and I are not in one. We serve. We give. We worship corporately. But, we have never been able to establish ourselves in a group. The main reason: we aren’t invited. Once a group is established, ain’t nobody breaching the walls. Unless, of course, they really like you and what you have to offer. And the one we were eventually invited into didn’t work for us because my husband and I don’t have traditional 9-5 work hours. And to be real, we just felt like we couldn’t “be real” ! We like to talk progressive theology, social justice, and (gasp!) politics, but those topics are generally off limits. I say all this to establish, that for years, I felt like a failure as a Christian and a pariah in my own church community. Seeing a post this morning on Facebook of someone gushing about her tribe brought it all back, and in a moment of cynicism, I googled “I don’t need a tribe,” and I found your beautiful post that brought me back to truth: real friendship is so unique that it cannot be tribal in nature, or it will inevitabily sacrifice it’s uniqueness. When I read that you consider yourself a nonconformist, I laughed with shared perspective because on my bad days, when I have listened to the world tell me that I must fit in, my husband reminds me that God did not create me to be a minion. I just can’t conform. And while it may at times be lonely, the genuine connections I make with the few and scattered soul-friends I have is so very worth it. When I see the Facebook posts of everyone in their tribal rituals, I will pause and give thanks that there are some lone wolves among us to keep life interesting. Blessings to you, Sarah!

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    1. Oh Traci, thank you, thank you, so very much for taking the time and honouring me with your story. I do honestly believe that this notion of “tribe” has been bastardised and manipulated to make people feel they are missing out. On a societal scale, the consequences have been dire. Suicide rates are up and mental health is increasing exponentially. There is a vast difference from being part of a “village” and the highly exclusive nature of this concocted “tribe” that has beset our vernacular and culture. Like you, my best friend is my husband, and I have learned that I am blessed to have that in this world of uncertainty and turmoil. Like you, I am political, not religious – but love to talk religion and what it stands for today, and very socially progressive. I cannot stand social injustice, which is, I guess, why the whole notion of tribe is one that does not sit well with me for its utter lack of inclusivity. May your journey be a good one Traci, and may us lone wolves continue our journey fighting for inclusivity, for individuality, for tolerance, and may we always hold our doors open for those that want to join us. Much love to you xx

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