Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Belonging

Egg Tribe, encaustic, 5" x 5"

A few years ago, my friend Laila Atallah introduced me to the concept of "belonging to a tribe." As a holistic career counselor and life coach, she often helps her clients determine where they belong -- in terms of careers, but also in terms of their lives in general.

I remember one day when Laila and I were in her kitchen (always a great place to have conversations) and we examined where we felt we belonged. Who were "our people," meaning who ignited us, inspired us, made us feel good? Who made us think, had similar interests, cared about the same things we did?

We began listing certain characteristics we appreciated in friends, and we also began to contemplate what made us "grow out of" certain friendships. Had we changed? Had others changed?

Here's a list of questions I've just spontaneously created to help you examine your tribe, community, friend group, network, or whatever you'd like to call it. And maybe you have several tribes with which you are drawn.

1. When in social situations, how do you like to be received or treated?

2. Do you find yourself yearning for connection and action or wanting quiet contemplation -- or a combination?

3. List some activities that you love to do. Examine why you love these things.

4. List some activities that repel you. Examine why these things push you away.

5. What values do you hold firmly, that you can't imagine changing?

6. What aspects of yourself do you wish you could accentuate or illuminate?

7. List three objects that comfort you.

8. List characteristics you love in other people that you don't necessarily cultivate in yourself.

9. Are there certain things that will make or break a relationship for you?

10. List 10 characteristics of your authentic self -- the self that you've had since childhood.

After you've answered these questions, circle any important words or phrases that feel of significance to you. What can you glean from these words? Is it clear that you are drawn to very intellectually-oriented folks or people who love to be politically active? Maybe values are most important to you, so finding people with similar ethical philosophies is how you create your tribe. Maybe these questions highlight that you are malleable in your actions and tastes, open in your ability to fit into many communities.

You might also like to imagine how you might have answered these questions as a teenager. How different (or similar) might be your answers?

Feel free to post your insights and responses here!

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