A great way to stay encouraged is to be a part of a community made up of deep friendships and people you can celebrate life’s joys with and depend on when things get rough.
As a child, I remember friendship being pretty easy. My earliest memories of friendship were actually with people whose names I don’t remember today. I don’t remember choosing for them to be my friends, they were the kids I was paired up with on play dates because our parents were acquaintances or because we participated in the same school activities.
It was in middle school when I started to pick my friends. Well, actually, if I’m being honest, I guess those friends were kind of picked for me too. I was a one of very few black kids at my school in Nashville, Tennessee and on top of that I was pretty different. I had what I can only describe as my own sense of style. Let’s just say that pink and black tiger print Hammer pants were part of my weekly rotation. I remember not caring what anyone else thought. I wore what I liked and although that added to my outcast classification amongst most of my peers, it’s also what drew my first group of true friends together. Our differentness was our bond. It’s what created our tribe.
Yep…that’s me. I don’t know what I was thinking…and yes, I’m also wearing tiger print shoes and a western belt.
Now, as an adult, I often think back to those days and how we just loved and accepted each other as we were. Those bonds between us seemed to grow so naturally. We became fast friends without a lot of caveats or stipulations. It makes me wonder why it seems so hard to make new friends as an adult.
At some point we’ve all been hurt by a friend. That childhood innocence is gone and we put our guard up. For me, it happened in college, when someone I thought was my best friend betrayed me in an unimaginable way. She stole my identity before the expression “identity theft” had even been coined. After that it was extremely hard to trust anyone. It scarred me for a long time and got in the way of me being open to making new friends.
After college, I realized I had put a wall around my heart. I had to confront the trust issues that I had, truly forgive her and let go of the anger. I also had to admit that I had built up an unreasonable standard that had to be met before I would let someone get to know me enough to become a friend. Once I did that, I was able to think more clearly about the type of friendships I wanted and I was willing and open to be a good friend to someone else. I realized that although that person had hurt me, not everyone would.
“We are created for community, fashioned for fellowship, and formed for a family, and none of us can fulfill God’s purposes by ourselves.” Pastor Rick Warren
So now, I was ready to make new friends, but I didn’t know how to start. It can feel so awkward as an adult woman to walk up to someone and say “hey, let’s be friends!” We don’t want to be seen as “that crazy lady.” But when I looked back at that picture of me in middle school, in those bright pink tiger stripe pants, it reminded me that no one is perfect. We each have our own brand of crazy and I just needed to find friends who would accept mine. So if you’re craving community and true friendships that last, here are some tips I hope will help you find your tribe.
Finding Your Tribe Again
Gain self awareness: Friendship is a two-way street, so take an honest look at yourself, what role you usually play in friendships and what makes you a great friend.
Reflect on your history: Consider your current and past friendships. Identify the good, the bad and the life lessons you’ve learned.
Define what you want: What do you hope for in a friend? What do you want your tribe, your community to look like?
Get out and socialize: This can be the hardest part, but you’ve gotta smile, be open to unexpected friendships and get outside your comfort zone. Take a class, attend a local meet up, volunteer, participate in a school, church or work activity and make the first move! Reach out and invite someone to chat over coffee.
Be persistent: Once you’ve put in the effort and connected with someone, follow up and hang out again. Friendship develops over time, don’t be a stalker, but don’t give up if you’re not besties by the end of the first cup of coffee either.
Don’t over think it, just connect and repeat: Don’t take it personally if you don’t make a friendship connection with every person you reach out to. Finding your tribe might take awhile, but the more people you meet, the larger your community will grow and you’ll naturally find those extra special people that are just your type of crazy.
Jamila is the founder of loved+blessed. On her personal mission to leave a legacy of encouragement, she blogs about her own life lessons with the hope that it will bring joy into others’ lives and help them find the courage to keep walking in faith knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. Read her testimony of how God turned her misery into ministry.