All people, young and old across the globe share a common, fundamental desire: to feel we are loved and we belong. We desire connection, a bond with others who understand us and share the same interests. We gravitate towards others who have qualities we admire. People often say that younger people need to “find their passion”, but what about “find their people”? This is quite possibly even more important.
The desire to fit in starts from a young age and can be all-encompassing, especially in middle school where the pressure to make friends and avoid standing out generates enormous pressure. Not to mention the new social hierarchy that must be navigated, or the physical and emotional changes going on at the same time.
Having a friend or group of friends can make all the difference in the wild, scary world of a teenager; but in school, where there’s so much pressure to make and have friends, it’s easy to befriend others for the wrong reasons—rather than finding relationships that are genuine, fun and nurturing. Finding your tribe means finding support, comradery, and forming healthy bonds that last and add to your life, instead of making it more of a challenge.
Ask the Right Questions
It’s not easy to find your tribe, but once you understand what to look for, you’re more likely to get somewhere. In school, friendship may depend on something as trivial as who ends up in the seat beside them in class, or who they want to talk to. These are not the right reasons for friendships to form, but when you ask, “Who can you be yourself around?” or, “What do you have in common?” the answers reveal the types and qualities of people who are tribe material.
Find Activities Outside of School
Not only are teens in schools mostly exposed only to kids of the same age, which can be limiting, but social dynamics in middle and high school change faster than the weather. It’s great to have a group to hang with, or even one BFF who you’re certain will be your partner in crime forever. But, putting all your eggs in one basket and trusting things not to change can be a huge blow emotionally if and when things do go sour.
When you find some activities outside of school that you enjoy, whether it’s sports, dance, martial arts, etc., you’ll meet people with common interests and broaden your horizons. Finding people who don’t attend the same school, or grade can give you a break from the mask everyone puts on (to get by and fit in at school). Not to mention there’s an opportunity to really get to know someone in a more relaxed atmosphere without class bells, noisy hallways, or the risk of making a teacher angry. This way the focus is on having fun rather than schoolwork or drama.
Attend a Summer Camp or Club
It’s important to not limit friendship to a school district—or any boundary. Going to camp or any new place can be scary at first, but it’s a great opportunity to find your people. Camps often have many fun activities each day, where you can pick your preferred activities. Find your people who like doing some of the same things you do. You can ask the right questions and be certain that you find people who enhance your life and allow you to be yourself. Many people make friends for life at camp or similar settings, and keeping in touch will lend perspective to how big the world is outside of school.
Finding your tribe enables you to be someone you genuinely like and share a bond that lasts—with someone who just gets you! At NonGirly, we’re here to help provide support, ideas, and encouragement to girls and women of all ages. Find your tribe, your passions, and flourish in all areas of life. Also, NonGirly offers advice to parents on supporting and encouraging their daughters.