In my practice, with each assessment of a new patient, I ask about their history, interests, health and a slew of other details. The purpose of this exercise is to get a nice picture of what I'm working with before I dig into the "meat" of things. Perhaps one of the most important questions I ask is about the person's support system. I will say, "tell me about the people that love you." Sure, there are a few that can only think of their cat or hairdresser, but for the most part people start listing off their family and friends. What has surprised me is that a good share of people have this amazing support system, but never utilize it. People don't ask for help. They just don't. I don't know if it's pride or stubbornness, but asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness, to appear unable to do things on your own. Hey, I get this. I'm a single mom that kicks butt at the whole "Miss Independent" thing, but you know what's better than running yourself ragged to prove that you're awesome? Asking for help. Enter tribe.
I only recently had this Oprah "ah ha" moment. Sure, I have lots of friends and acquaintances. Many of us do. What is really valuable are the like-souls that get you. Now, identifying these people can take time. How do you know if your friends are part of your tribe, and not just fair weather space holders on you Facebook page?
1) They show up. Really show up when things are hard. They come at any sign of need and never require something in return.
2) When you talk, they ask about you. So many "friends" are dead set on talking about their own life endlessly, and it can feel like you are only a sounding board every time you are together.
3) Unconditional love. These folks see you at your best and worst. They don't care if you make stupid choices in your personal life, or get a bad haircut. They are proud of you and love you without condition.
4) Non-judgement. If you feel exhausted after spending time with a "friend," defending yourself and your life choices -- not a tribes-person. Move along.
5) Do your friends offer you random acts of love? Texts of support, gestures on special days, words of affirmation? That's the good stuff. You have a keeper there.
6) Never in competition. These folks celebrate your successes as if it's their own. They never feel saddened that you got engaged and they didn't. In a tribe, it's a feeling of "wholeness." Your joy is their joy.
This last year has been a period of growth for me (as I hope all years are). I have been showered with tribes-people. Many of us hold on to crummy friends because we want to be supportive and don't want anyone mad at us. This can be a huge boundary issue. If you find yourself exhausted at the thought of having coffee with Jane, don't go. You can be done. It's OK. Find your tribe. The ones that fill your love tank to overflowing.
I have learned something absolutely priceless this year. I can ask my tribe for support and it is freely given with waves of love and kindness. I am so thankful for my people. I'm thankful that I have learned to ask for help when I need it. I'm humbled by the abundance in my life. Take the time to make an inventory of your own relationships. If you feel that some of your support team isn't exactly supportive, cut them loose. Life it too short for lame coffee dates and empty guts of sadness. Go forth and find your tribe, my dears! You shall be blessed.