Why Every Woman Needs A Tribe
I have spent most of my life independent and believing that I needed to get out there and do it on my own – no one else was going to do it for me right? I have had many amazing, long lasting friendships and a most wonderful relationship with my mother but despite this something was still missing, a vulnerability. I was still hanging steadfastly to a belief that said I have to be ‘strong’, I have to find the solutions, I have to go to war’.
Combine this with always being the go to, shoulder, listener and problem solver for everyone else – and you have one exhausted individual, alone and almost completely unable to ask for help.
Recently two of the most traumatic events in my life happened in quick succession – my mother had an accident which left her severely brain damaged and led to her death and my divorce – to say these heartbreaks cracked me the fuck open is an understatement. Sitting there in a puddle on the floor, ugly crying, in pain, exhausted and devastated I realised that those who love me, they wanted to show up, they wanted to be there, they wanted to give me comfort. And I fucking needed them to and I needed what they were giving.
So I made two important decisions – the first was that I was going deep – I was going to get stuck in and work and reflect and weed my garden – to dig in and to grow. The second was that I was going to find, nurture, create my tribes – spaces where I felt safe, could be vulnerable, that inspired me, cheer-leaded me and with people who would also call me on my shit.
Having a tribe is about being vulnerable and letting those who love us in, letting them show up, letting them give us comfort and support and us reciprocating.
For me this has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life. Here is why I believe women need tribes.
We are tribal, we are a community and we are not meant to do this alone
And yet we have become so shit at it and are doing it alone. Something that was once a given and intrinsic has now become foreign. Women have always spent time together – cooking, raising children, gathering, sharing stories, listening, supporting. But nowadays the attitude is more ‘if you’re a woman in this day and age you should be able to have and do it all – family, mother, high powered job, independent, powerful’. And instead of leaning on each other to help each other achieve these things we have become insulated and busy. It is in the sharing of our stories that our strength is found and shared. It is through our stories that we teach and guide and are taught and guided.
You need a safe place to land.
Spaces where you can be totally and utterly vulnerable and yourself. No pretense and no bullshit. Where you can show up with your bed hair and your ugly cry. And share – you can tell your story from your perspective and just get it all out. You can be a brat, stomp your feet, have a glass of wine (or a beer in my case). You are loved exactly as you are and because of that you are continuously transforming and growing.
You get called on your bullshit.
And then in the most loving and supportive way you can be told youre behaving like a brat. You need people around you to tell you when your behaviour is crap, your attitude is up shit creek, that youre acting from pattern, that your fears are getting the better of you. We cant always see these things for ourselves and we need people to hold up a mirror. And because we know these people want the best for us, they want us to have joy and love in our lives, we feel safe enough to listen and hear what they are saying, safe enough to reflect and safe enough to do it differently.
Your partner, children and family need a break.
We cannot be everything to one person, we cannot have one person be everything to us. The best example of this is if you are in crisis and choose to speak this out with your children. Your children are not your counsellors – they are your little people with little people life experience – you need to be tapping into your tribes. We need different points of view, different kinds of comfort and understanding and at times like when youre in crisis, help. Sometimes life can get heavy and with tribes we spread this out – taking anger out at the gym rather than on the dog, having an ugly cry with your girlfriends, going for yoga or counselling to deal with trauma and then crawling into the hug of your partner and sharing in intimacy. We balance and share the highs and lows with multiple tribes.
It’s good for you.
Women speak the same language and turns out studies have shown when we share and are intimate with other women we release the hormone oxytocin – and its all about good feelings. Oxytocin promotes stress reduction and relaxation, has antianxiety and antidepressant effects, and increases social intelligence, trust, and generosity. When we are in sync communication flows – we pick up on tone, innuendo. We cheerlead and untangle like no other because we know whats it’s like – we can truly empathise because despite our reactions and feelings being individual to ourselves our experiences are similar.
We know what it’s like to be a woman.
As women we face a different set of challenges to men, every day the world over. We are still making our way in a very male dominated world – we get passed over, overlooked and ogled. We are at a higher risk for abuse and trafficking but are still in the minority in government, media and even tech industries. We are told what to wear and how to behave, we give away our power because we think we should be submissive, feminine, softer. Being in a tribe of women we know what this feels like every day and we say fuck that shit. We hold each other up and push forward hand in hand, we say screw the patriarchy, down with inequality and for shame to those who cannot move beyond. We draw strength. We cheerlead. We lift up. We pop-pom. We light each other’s fires. We show compassion, empathy and an understanding that can only be borne from the same struggle.
You can’t give if you can’t receive.
This is a biggie – since learning how to receive I give differently. It’s not about spraying words and feelings confetti like at people, it’s not listening half heartedly because you have 17 other people to provide your shoulder to. It’s about being present. It’s about being vulnerable. When you receive you open yourself up completely – you let those around you know exactly how you are feeling and what comfort you need.
You open yourself up because you admit that you need affection, comfort, love, that you cannot do it on your own, that you need to be seen. And with that we are open to rejection. But open we must because when you do, you realise what it feels like to be heard and to be seen and once you know, that is the only way you can give – with your presence and your whole heart. You realise that you are not alone – that those around you are exactly the same, that they too need to be seen, understood, comforted and loved. When we receive we top up our tanks and so can give without anger, without resentment, without a rushed business and halfness but with kindness and love.
You will have more than one tribe – a Crossfit tribe that encourages us when our legs and arms are failing, a tribe made up of like-minded strangers, mentors, catalysts and coaches, walking tall through the painful and beautiful muck we call life – sharing stories and lessons with each other along the way, using social media as the vehicle. An intimate tribe of women who inspire, teach, cheerlead and love. A social tribe of festival-goers, dancers, foodies and mad hatters who bring laughter, joy and silly dancing and a spiritual tribe of mentors, yogis and mapmakers. Each of these tribes will have a specific purpose, importance and beauty and will be made up of your like-minded people.
So go find, create, join, follow, bamboozle your tribes and come home to your community.
This article previously appeared on Thought Catalog.