How to Find Your Tribe:
When’s the last time someone made you feel seen?
Do you remember the last conversation you had when everything the other person said resonated to your core? Every day, we face so much pressure to conform from every direction that it often feels easier just to fit in.
Take a moment and ask yourself: but at what cost?
In “The neuroscience of social conformity: implications for fundamental and applied research,” Mirre Stallen and Alan G. Sanfey define conformity as follows:
“Aligning one’s attitude, opinion, or behavior to those of others. Social psychology distinguishes between two reasons for conformity.
- Informational conformity occurs when one adopts the view of others because others are assumed to possess more knowledge about the situation.
- Normative conformity refers to the act of conforming to the positive expectations of others in order to be liked and accepted by them.”
The Psychology Behind how to Find Your Tribe
This phenomenon has long been studied from a behavioral psychology perspective. More recently, neuroscientific methods have been used to confirm what researchers have long suggested:
“By using MRI and a mental rotation task, the authors examined the neural correlates of conformity in the face of incorrect peer feedback regarding the degree of rotation of an abstract figure. Conforming to incorrect feedback altered activity within visual cortical and parietal regions that were involved in performance of the mental rotation task itself. Based on the involvement of these regions in perception and based on the absence of activity in frontal decision-making regions, the authors concluded that behavioral change in this study was due to a modification of low-level perceptual processes as opposed to a decision to conform taken at an executive level.”
In simpler terms, neuroscientific studies can demonstrate that humans are wired to conform at the subconscious level. This urge to receive positive feedback and group validation for our choices, behaviors, and preferences is so strong that we don’t even necessarily consciously decide to change our beliefs under the pressure of social influence.
How do we untangle ourselves when we discover that this part of us has been wired all wrong?
If your unique attributes feel like flaws you need to hide from others, you’re not the problem: it’s the company you’re keeping. There’s never any shame in choosing to stand out.
Self Discovery is the First Step in Finding Your Tribe
We all have had moments where we didn’t fully fit into the group. We all have conversations where you smile half-heartedly even when you disagree, or go along with it by saying something you don’t believe in because it’s the right small talk for the people around you.
Deep down, you know: “I don’t belong here.”
To find your tribe, it starts with a look in the mirror and going through a period of self-discovery. This enables us to find meaningful relationships and connections that make life deeper, richer, and more fulfilling.
Why? Because the most important relationship we have is with ourselves. Like any healthy one, it should be based on what matters to us, our core values, and our greatest strengths. This, too, requires us to acknowledge the weaknesses we want to improve.
Once we’ve built this solid foundation of knowing who we are, it’s so much easier to share our authentic selves. Self-knowledge is the key to becoming a better friend, significant other, coworker, employee, neighbor, or your half of any of the countless other ways we connect with the people around us. Learn more about how to understand yourself at a deeper, more authentic level here.
The self-discovery process will orient you toward the right “extracurricular” relationships as you start to find your tribe. These are the people who can empower you to become a more well-rounded person. These new relationships you’ll form will empower you to succeed in life for the long haul.
Don’t Settle Where you Feel Misaligned
Are you spending time with people just because it’s easy and comfortable, or just because you don’t want to feel lonely? As we mature into adulthood, it’s completely natural to develop new interests and outlooks that are different than our lifelong friends or acquaintances.
Finding a “clique” to hang out with is temporary; if you want connections for life, you must choose to find your tribe.
In a LinkedIn community I just created, I posed this question to our members:
“How have you made your best personal and professional relationships as you find your tribe? Was it through shared interests? Was it through self-discovery, and then picking interests around who you were to meet great people? Or was it more random?”
Check out some of their answers below:
Showing up to a group outing, sporting event, or dinner and drinks with acquaintances you barely know can often feel like a chore. However, it’s a key initiative if you want to really find your tribe.
Wouldn’t you prefer to spend time on real human connection? Furthering a relationship takes more than penciling someone into your calendar.
Many of us have the same misconceptions about what friendships can really be. As you begin to find your tribe, it can be scary to accept you’ve grown apart from people you’re used to spending time with. Almost always, change demands us to get out of our comfort zone.
Pathfinding, as I’ve laid out in this article, should be the first step you take on the journey of self-discovery:
Do the hard work of honestly looking yourself in the mirror and uncovering who you are and want to be. You’ll find this makes it much easier to be authentic with others. When we fully understand ourselves, we begin to attract people who like us for the right reasons. Authenticity shines forth like a beacon to guide the right people your way.
Forging new Friendships
Humans are inherently social creatures, but our built-in herd mentality can push us into groups where we don’t really belong. How do we find pockets we fit into seamlessly?
From our post-grad 20s onward, it’s easy to fall into the typical 9-5 routine, which rarely leaves time for introspection and intentionality. This type of bare-bones schedule often pares down to:
Maybe you’ll sprinkle in a light dusting of Netflix to decompress, happy hours with coworkers or old friends, or hibernating with a significant other.
Sure, it feels easy, but is this fulfilling? Is this the life you envisioned for yourself? Does living like this make you feel alive?
According to Forbes, more than half of American workers are dissatisfied with their current career. This study asks a question you should as yourself, too:
“[…] whether they’re meaningful, suitable, and high-quality jobs that offer satisfaction—or are they McJobs?”
What do you get out of your career beyond the paycheck? Naturally, compensation is critical, and it’s somewhat of a luxury to consider fulfillment when other citizens are struggling to pay for their basic needs, like food and shelter. If you have the privilege of flexibility in your career, consider the following:
“Employees at various income levels share one important commonality—having a sense of purpose is prioritized, and they don’t want “just a job.”
What is your sense of purpose, and how can you align that with the job where you spend the majority of your day?
Take a moment to look inward. Strive to understand yourself and explore your curiosities. Diving in head-first is the first step to meeting the right people. Along the way, you’ll forge connections that feel safe. These are the people with whom we can share our truest selves, deepest passions, and wildest dreams.
Cultivate the Right Relationships With Intentional Pursuance
Intentionally making friends (on your own!) isn’t as simple as it sounds. Putting ourselves out there to meet people outside our established social circles can feel raw and vulnerable.
What used to be such a simple part of life starts to take more courage as we mature into adulthood and leave the pre-built social environments of our youth behind:
- Sports teams
Sure, you can join an alumni group, but that’s painting with such a broad brush. How do you find “your people” without someone else scheduling those opportunities for you?
When I was in high school and college, I never felt understood or like I fit in. It wasn’t until after graduation that I found my people, as I started to explore my entrepreneurial pursuits.
Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but we all have inner urges that call us in different directions. When we follow those urges, building community and direct relationships around those desires often leads to a closer connection based on shared passions and pursuits.
The more I started meeting entrepreneurs and people who were in my community, the less alone I felt. I’ve found that I can build strong relationships fasters using this approach.
At the beginning of this year, I had a hard conversation with myself. It started with honestly answering this question:
What were my interests outside of “work” and building a business?
I didn’t know what I liked to do for fun, and that was a tough realization. All my free time since BW Missions first launched (and honestly well before then) had been… well, not exactly “downtime” at all.
Whenever I was “off the clock,” I went into autopilot, spending most of my time working anyways and only socializing with anyone who made the plans for me. Chipotle with double meat and guac was often the most luxurious way I indulged.
This year, I mapped out a strategy to develop totally new interests. Here are just a few things I have the desire to explore:
I haven’t been able to do everything on my list, but I just started my second improv course and have checked off a lot of boxes.
As I’ve explored new interests, I’ve met a lot of really cool people along the way. One of the most notable people I met was the instructor. We connected on several core levels, and share many principles about humanity.
I’ve also learned that getting to know people from entirely different walks of life breathes new life into projects, ideas, or methodologies that are stagnant. Constantly thinking about how you can grow and expand a tribe of people from different communities who inspire you every day is the key to get “unstuck” when you’re in a rut.
Most importantly, exploring new activities will create a foundation on which you can build relationships. Connect with people over other commonalities beyond what drew you both to the community you met within.
Ok, I’m Sold… How do I Find my Tribe
Let’s say that during your self-discovery process, the interests you identify that you want to explore include:
- Salsa dancing
- Stand-up comedy
- The startup scene
- Outdoor hiking
I’ve always found it effective to take the top-down approach. Find the leaders of communities that intrigue you, then reach out and ask them how you can get involved. Build these relationships the right way by being authentic.
Step 1: Identify Groups or Online Groups That Catch Your Eye
Look for classes or workshops within those areas of focus so you can start building those skills you’ve always wanted. For professional purposes, use this same process you’d use searching through Facebook groups and events, except on LinkedIn instead.
Focus your searches on topics within your industry. Break these down to the most granular level possible.
Keep in mind, there are always two dimensions to consider:
- Individual connections
Once you’ve assembled a list of options, the next step is to once again research. After you’ve narrowed this down, decide which ones are worth the commitment. Get the best ROI by investing real time and effort into communities you genuinely care about.
Step 2: Reach out and Communicate Your Interest in Joining These Communities
Spend time delving into any related groups and get to know the members. Sooner than you expect, you’ll have built diverse relationships outside of work that make you multidimensional, interested, and interesting.
Become a chameleon by honing the flexibility to adapt: bounce in and out of groups [online or offline], naturally blend in, and find common ground. When you discover what drives you to keep showing up, it’s so much easier and more fulfilling. Bring your whole, heartfelt self with you, every single time.
The Future That Awaits: The Fulfillment of Finding Your Tribe
Fundamentally, self-discovery is a precursor to finding your tribe. Self-knowledge works in congruence with relationship building. Be intentional about where you’re going based on the insights you’ve drawn about where you have been.
As valuable as it is, self-discovery can only take you so far. Once we have acquired self-knowledge, we can start to rethink how we spend our time, and who we spend it with.
Identify the “pockets” and communities where you see yourself thriving, then figure out how to infiltrate them and build relationships with the members within by being your authentic self.
Think about all the time you spend in ways that aren’t fulfilling. How much can you accomplish with that time once you start spending it with people who lift you up and push you to grow? I’m excited for you to find out, and I hope you find the courage to start this process now.
The real value will be the relationships you build around your newly discovered identity and community, and the empowering communities where you finally feel like you truly belong, and where you’re empowered to grow.
As an individual, you will always be limited… but as a community, we can be infinite.