You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with — Jim Rohn.
What does ‘finding your people’ mean?
I want to make it clear straight up, that finding your people is not about exclusion or separation. This is not an attempt to find a clique or a club that accepts you, just so that in that group you can engage in ‘othering’ anyone who doesn’t fit the description. This is not Mean Girls.
This is about finding people you can be yourself with.
At a workshop a few years ago, I heard transformational speaker Lisa Nichols share her definition of true freedom as ‘…when there is nothing to prove, defend, hide or protect’.
To me that fits perfectly for who ‘your people’ are. It means friends you can trust to accept you, with all your imperfections. Where you can be vulnerable without fear of judgement. You don’t have to hustle to impress. You don’t have to cover things up so they won’t see the real you.
Instead, you are actively encouraged, admired and celebrated for being the real you.
Is there any better feeling?
It might be tricky
As a young person especially, this can be really confusing. For the most part we don’t really know who we are – and even when we get a sense of ourselves, we very probably don’t feel confident about it.
In her book Daring Greatly Brené Brown refers to research she conducted with year 8 students, who share their understanding of the difference between fitting in and belonging:
- Belonging is being somewhere you want to be, and they want you. Fitting in is being somewhere you want to be, but they don’t care one way or the other.
- Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
- If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.
As a young person, our suffocating desire for approval and acceptance pulls us in the direction of anything that means we will ‘fit in’. If we are able to do that, we might think we have found our people. But if you’re like me, you’ll remember the cringe – things you did and said and went along with that in truth, you didn’t agree with. The rejection you faced when, for a moment, you let your ‘real self’ slip out from behind the façade…. it still hurts to think about!
I believe the desire to truly belong is embedded deep within us. And in my experience, the older we get the more serious this desire becomes. We start to think more critically about the people we spend time with.
Without taking it too literally, the concept of the ‘5 people you spend the most time with’ is a good starting point. It emphasises the influence on our lives of the people who we are closest to. In a very basic example – if all the people around you are mad keen for football, you are likely to enjoy it too or at least take part in watching the game on a regular basis. Similarly, if your closest pals are serious gossipers, or volunteers, or Liberal Party supporters, or animal lovers (you get the drift) you might find yourself participating in those activities and sharing in those opinions on a regular basis. These people have an impact on your life, and even the way that you think.
A few years ago when I started to do my inventory on who those people were – and what impact it was having on my life – I felt a creeping sense of worry. ‘How am I going to find new people now?’ I’m already an adult!!! Everyone knows how hard it is to make friends as a grown up.
Imagining myself on a dating website for adult friends, I started to feel small. I started to think that maybe it didn’t matter that much. I could settle, I would ‘get by’. But there was a burning feeling gnawing away inside of me, and it wouldn’t go away. I didn’t feel like I was being my true self, or that I could safely do so with that circle of friends. So it was time to get busy.
Finding your people
I want to share with you a few things that have worked for myself and others. Some of these are practical tips, and others are mindset shifts. But each of them is just one mini leap, because any change, growth, evolution or expansion in our lives is just one mini leap at a time. You can do this.
Tip 1: Join a group course
Have you always wanted to learn a language, how to draw, or hang off a rock climbing wall? Whatever it is, this is a great way to meet new people with similar interests – a pretty good starting point! You will also get to learn something, and give yourself the gift of a new experience. Start by picking something you really love doing, and go from there. [Bonus tip 1: there are heaps of low-cost community courses in most cities].
Tip 2: Try Meet Up
This is super fun. Whether you are new to a city or you’ve lived there for eons, you can be guaranteed an interesting experience when you attend a Meet Up. You can meet an amazingly diverse group of people interested in an amazingly diverse set of activities , and the best thing is – everyone is there for the same reason as you! You can get rid of the fear about making adult friends, because literally everyone is there for that reason. Pretty cool.
Tip 3: Say yes to everything
Think of any offer or invitation as an opportunity to expand your circle of truth. Try ALL new things, no matter if you can’t see any obvious benefit. We are what we think about, and when you change your mindset to, ‘who knows what might happen?’ you will attract new opportunities from all over. See them as a doorway, and don’t attach to the outcome. Just give it a shot.
Tip 4: Be willing to get uncomfortable
We all know you can go to a group class, but not really ‘be’ there. Go first. Start the conversation. Invite someone for a coffee. You might totally make someone’s day. And if they’re not into it, guess what will happen? Nothing! You have nothing to lose and everything to gain here.
Tip 5: Reserve judgement
Don’t rush to decide whether you will talk to someone or not. You might look at someone and think you couldn’t possibly have anything in common. Or you may even have a negative association with the way someone dresses or talks. This is a beautiful chance to get CONSCIOUS about your thoughts – are they stories you have picked up along the way, or do you really think that? Challenge your thinking, and give it a while before rushing to judgment.
Tip 6: Trust your instincts
You will know whether the people you meet make you feel big (free and possible) or small (squeezed and worried). Tune into your body… how does your gut react? The more you practise this, the easier it will be to listen to your intuition. Something else to notice is your behaviour – do you catch yourself saying or doing things you’ve decided you don’t want to do anymore? This could be a sign this crew aint for you.
Tip 7: Be yourself
This one is scary, but you have to get a little vulnerable. When the moment arises, share your real self by not holding back from saying what you really feel and believe. The thing is, if you’re on the hunt for people you can be yourself with, then you have to… be yourself!! And right from the beginning. If the people you meet are new, it’s like a glorious clean slate. No one expects anything from you; it’s an amazingly liberating feeling. Get courageously truthful. [Bonus tip 2: coincidentally, this is a great also strategy for those of you seeking a special someone to spend your time with!]
One final tip: Join the Conscious Living Project Community!
If you’ve found your way to our website, and this blog, you can be pretty sure you’ve found a community of folks who care about the same things you do. Our whole jam is to get people together in person or online and get them thinking, talking, listening, imagining and inspiring each other on a range of topics centered around conscious living. We would absolutely love to see you at our next gathering – stay tuned to our website and instagram to see what’s coming up/where we will be, or flick us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. You are so so welcome!
You deserve this
If you haven’t yet had a taste of the kind of loving, accepting friendships I’m talking about here, I really want to encourage you. I don’t think there’s any more important feeling in the world for your sense of self-worth (the place from where all other personal growth flows from) than belonging. Have faith that your people are out there, and don’t give up until you find them.
Whether it’s the Bronies, weekend Dungeons & Dragons in the park, your church group, a running club… it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you find people you can hang out with freely – no proving, defending, hiding or protecting.
Love from all of us to you and your tribe!