You Don’t Need A Tribe, You Just Need Good Friends
Warning: Strong opinions ahead.
Nothing makes me roll my eyes harder than when grown women call their friends their “tribe.” It strikes me as contrived, show-offy, and try-hard. Of course, we all have the need community; it’s the very essence of the human experience. There is something about the term “tribe’ and “squad” that sounds juvenile and exclusionary to me. Spend more than a minute on social media, and you’ll find yourself inundated with messages urging us to “find a tribe, love them hard.” Sure, a group of like-minded women lending support and companionship sounds lovely. But this “ideal” of a tribe, a core group of friends who do and share everything comes with a slew of issues and doesn’t work with many of our personalities, or reflect some of our lifestyles, and that’s okay, too.
As a massive introvert, I’m quickly overwhelmed in group settings. A common trait of an introvert is an intolerance for drama. It’s been my experience that if you get more than a few women in a group, you get a lot of in-fighting, gossiping and cattiness. What’s worse is when it’s passive. Everyone is acting kind to each other’s face, but behind each other’s backs, the gloves are off. That’s only fun if you’re watching “Real Housewives.” It’s a different story when you are living your life, and trying to raise good, kind kids, in the midst of high school drama created by the over-35 crowd.
I left the corporate world because I couldn’t manage inner office politics. It’s not surprising; I’m an utter failure when it comes to navigating politics in a social setting. I once walked past a mom in the hallway at school; our kids are in the same class, and no one else was around. Of course, I said, “Hi! How are you?” She did not respond; we were about an arm’s length away from each other, and she just looked at me like I had three heads. When I asked a friend what was up, she said, “She ignores you if you’re not in her group.” This is an actual, verbatim conversation. “She ignores you if you’re not in her group.” My bad. Also, we are 37 years old.
Like many introverts, I get the added benefit (?) of having buckets of empathy. This empathy is a big reason for my success in business. However, it makes you quite sensitive toward others, and this is why so many introverts tend to root for the underdog and often feel like outsiders in social settings. Regarding relationships, introverts hold integrity and kindness as guideposts. So, anytime that we perceive something as unfair or unkind, we feel uncomfortable physically. More people in a “tribe” would relate to a higher risk of drama, and we will be more likely to want to jump out of our skin.
Personally, I would rather have a dozen close friends, who I know well than be the most popular or travel around with an entourage. It feels more authentic and gives you more opportunity for genuine connection. Luckily, I find that the women with whom I am friends try to get along with everyone. They’re supportive of each other’s different opinions, lifestyles, and choices. While we may have differences, we’re still bonded by the idea that “this is hard; do what’s best for your family.” They’re the first to include others; they don’t feel the need to self-label and would never ignore you in the hallway. (Insert hard eye roll.)
One of my girlfriends is so conscientious of bringing people together that each time we are at her house, she would include a new family to meet everyone. She and her husband put a lot of thought into who would get along and enjoy each other. Does everyone become best friends? Of course not, but school and other social events are a lot more fun when you’re friendly with as many families as possible. Another friend is the first to bring a new mom to a happy hour; my neighbor across the street regularly invites us over for drinks to meet more of the neighborhood since we are still kind of new. That’s how you build a community, rather than a clique.
The other challenge I see with the idea of a “tribe” or a squad, or whatever you want to call it, is that, by definition, you run the risk of becoming homogenous, and how is that any fun? When everyone is the same, thinks the same and lives the same, you could end up in a bubble. Instead, if you are fortunate to have a few dear friends with different beliefs and lifestyles, who are maybe scattered around the country or the world, you have the opportunity to have a deeper, richer experience of friendship.
I know so many women who tell me, sometimes sheepishly, that they only have a handful of girlfriends, or that they often feel like outsiders in a world that tells you you’re missing out if you don’t have a core group of besties. I would argue that you are likely in the majority. You don’t need a tribe; you just need a few really good, loyal friends. Managing your home life, career, kids, and competing schedules is hard, and it takes up most of our time. Nurturing friendships also takes time, so it’s important that those friendships contribute to your life positively.
If you have a handful of girlfriends in your corner, you’re better off than most. If they all happen to get along, that’s wonderful, but if their affection for you bonds them, that’s beautiful, too. I don’t have a “tribe, ” but I’m fortunate to have many good friends. A few live across the country who I’ve met through the business; some are from college who know me better than anyone else, and others are the parents of my kid’s friends. They don’t all know each other well, but when we do all get together, they get along great and have a blast. I would so much rather have that, then be beholden to the arbitrary, unspoken rules of a clique.