Last summer, I did an audit of the top six people I was spending my time with. It turns out, I was spending most of my time with friends or lovers that weren’t showing-up for themselves in the same ways I wasn’t showing up for myself. I knew if I was going to move forward I would need to end those relationships. Afterwards, I worried that my life would feel empty. I needed to replace my negative friendships with people who were making better decisions in their lives. Pick your flock, that’s what my foster mom says. We are a reflection of those we surround ourselves with.
Here are three positive changes that cultivate community and helped me build healthier relationships.
I started a book club. I carefully curated a group of ladies that were in similar places in their lives. These women are living the types of lives I want for myself. Most of the girls in book club have partners and families. THEY ARE NOT drinking at the local watering holes in town but instead are raising children. Three of them were new to town and I thought it would be nice for them to meet other woman in similar life stages. If you haven’t noticed, networking is kind of my superpower. I want to have a family one day, and last summer, I wasn’t making choices that were deserving of that. The universe gives us what we put out there.
I stopped letting other people's opinions of my life and mental health drive the opinions I have of myself. I’ve always had a lot of shame and fear around wanting a family of my own. I have been deeply afraid of repeating the mistakes of my biological parents. When I had my PTSD breakdown while raising my brother, I realized that I will likely have even more to work through when I enter that part of my life. There were people in my life telling me and others that I was a terrible sister-mom to my brother. They were also inferring that I should never be a mother. And I was listening to them. They poked the one wound I feared the most.
I let those rumors and opinions influence how I thought of myself. That’s on me. As I get older, I’m realizing that I cannot control the opinions or actions of others. What I can control is myself. I am an adult and being a victim is a choice. No one else is responsible for filling my cup other than me! On the flip side, I choose who I surround myself with. Not every pairing is a good match and the only people allowed to offer critical criticism in our lives are people who have successfully achieved the things we are striving to achieve.
I joined a running group. Community is something that Auburn, Ca does really well. Recently, I joined a running group through Auburn Fit, a local studio ran by Bryan Twardus. Every Wednesday and Friday the group does a 5am run. They never leave anyone behind and there is a wide range of runners. The night before my first run I had trouble sleeping like it was the first day of school. I wasn’t going to know anyone and I was so nervous! I had to lean in. Lean into the discomfort. Lean into the anxiety. I’m so glad I did. There is a strong connection between fitness and maintaining your mental health.
Community is so critical in our personal lives as well as in business. It can motivate us, lift us up when we are down, and it can push us to be the best versions of ourselves. Yet community can also work against us. Sometimes, strong-knit communities can make newcomers feel like outcasts--judged and unwelcomed. Whether they intend to or not, there are people in this world who will yank on those shame strings and try to talk you out of your pursuits.
I’d love to hear about your experiences living in community, both good and bad. Have you ever felt rejected or shamed by your community? Have you built a new community from scratch? What does living in community give to you that you couldn’t give yourself?