The other day, I was picking the kids up from school and one of them started telling me about a girl in her class who constantly picks on her and causes drama in their group of friends. I gave her the typical advice that anyone would give a child, “Try to talk to her and work it out.”
But then I asked myself if that’s actually good advice or if I would give the same advice to an adult.
Ultimately, I landed on no! That advice might be appropriate for kids who need to interact with one another all day, every day. But when it comes to being an adult, I’ve learned that you get to pick and choose who you surround yourself with.
You are in control of your tribe!
What is a tribe?
A tribe, by definition, is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. Some of this surprised me.
Not the part about how we surround ourselves with like-minded people that enjoy the same things as us, share similar outlooks about things, and probably have similar personalities. The part about a recognized leader surprised me. I started thinking about the leader of my tribe. And what I realized pretty quickly — and this may not be surprising — is I’m the leader!
Who do you spend the most time with?
I control who surrounds me and how those people impact me, good or bad. We are, according to motivational speaker Jim Rohn, the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
That’s eye-opening isn’t it? If I’m spending a lot of time with my friend who loves to talk trash and be negative, then there’s a good chance that’s how I’ll act. Alternatively, if I hang out with my friend who is caring, compassionate, and smart, then it’s likely I’ll reflect those traits as well.
All of this got me thinking about who I spend my time with and why.
- My fiancé: The most supportive, funny, caring, and unpredictable person in my life. He keeps me grounded, isn’t afraid to tell it like it is, and can make me ugly cry laugh at any moment.
- My two step-daughters: They are fun, innocent, inspiring, and full of energy. They only see the good in people and they live each day like it’s the most important day ever!
- My family: Although they can be a handful, they always have my back. They are loud, funny, and always down to have a good time.
- My friends: I’m lucky to have friends who challenge me, teach me, make me laugh, and who are willing to listen when I need it. These people are smart, interesting, inspiring, motivating, and to be honest, downright crazy.
- My coworkers: I can say I work with some of the smartest, most creative, and just plain fun people I can imagine. Everyone I interact with on a daily basis (from my boss to my interns) inspire and teach me in some way.
A closer look at that list
What wasn’t on my list? Catty, vain, judgmental, superficial, fake, and negative people. But that hasn’t always been the case. There was a period of my life when I thought more was better. The more friends I had, the more popular I would be, the more experiences I would have and the better off I’d be.
Once I realized relationships shouldn’t be really difficult, I reevaluated who I was in relationships with. For me it was around age 27 that I had this epiphany. I had been out of college a few years, I had the workings of a career, I had a solid group of friends, and I was becoming independent. And at the same time, I was miserable. Not on the outside to those around me, but inside.
Weeding out the toxicity
I knew that if I wanted to fix that I needed to change something. I started with the people in my tribe, slowly removing myself from any toxic relationships. It was hard — that list included my boyfriend and some of my closest friends — but it was also liberating!
These people made me feel bad about myself and weren’t lifting me up. Once they were gone, I felt free, empowered, and more open to new people and experiences. It enabled me to see the world with a fresh, new perspective!
If you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, then hang out with the best. Do you wish you were more confident? Then latch on to the person you find most confident and let it rub off on you. Do you wish you were more adventurous? Then find that crazy person that’s always traveling the world and get to know them better.
On the flip side, if you’ve been feeling down about yourself, then maybe look at your current tribe and see if there’s someone in there contributing to that. Consider if you want or need them in your life. Because at the end of the day, you’re the leader of your own tribe, so you better make sure you’re leading it well!