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Choosing Your People: What It Means to Belong

They say we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with – suggesting that our chosen community makes us who we are. Who we identify in our day-to-day speaks volumes about how we feel about ourselves and the world we live in.

Relationships that dominate our time direct our thinking in ways big and small. Even the voices in our head are a direct reflection of these primary relationships and influence everything from food choices to recreation interests to daily habits of production. I've found that friends in particular influence the habits of our consciousness and cement our values.

Belonging is an action verb, comprised of all the small but deliberate choices we make that define how we attach ourselves to others and the world at large. It starts when we are born into with our family, which indelibly imprints our perceptions of the world. As we mature, we begin to think critically, and by doing so, we have the opportunity to redefine not only our earliest value structures, but the very meaning of belonging. Ultimately, those we choose as friends and colleagues will define our days and direct our destiny.

Whether chosen, inherited or some combination of both, our people are the foundation to how we feel about ourselves and everyone else. From the earliest days of human history, our experience of belonging to a close-knit group was a matter of life and death. No human could survive alone, so being thrown out of the tribe would be tantamount to certain death. Clearly, our primal need of belonging still controls human consciousness today. The power of technology only strengthens our tribal consciousness.

We know ourselves better when we find our community. We understand that we humans are herd animals and that we are stronger in a group than on our own. For many people, it is family that defines their closest tribe, but for others, like me, it has been the family I have chosen, my tribe of friends that has taught me about accepting myself first so that I can belong to something bigger than myself.

My friends provide a mirror for the best parts of myself. It took me a long time to learn to choose relationships with people who valued who I am and how I live in the world.I am always on the lookout for my people and value those reunions as more precious than gold.