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{#TransparentTuesday} I used to be a lone wolf.

Editor’s note: These posts were written back when my brand name was Remodel Fitness. I’ve decided to include them here without editing them, in the interest of…well… transparency. 😉

Once upon a time, I didn’t have a tribe.

When I look back on the 27 years I went as a lone wolf, I am overcome with a wave of heartbreak. I was so lonely, and I didn’t even realize it. I always had a best friend and a boyfriend and my family, and frankly that seemed good enough for me. I was the girl who often repeated the phrase “I prefer to have just one or two really good friendships than a whole bunch of casual friendships.” And I meant it.

The problem with that line of thinking (which I can only clearly see from my current perspective as a pack animal), is that it came from scarcity, negativity, and fear.

I genuinely used to believe that there was only a very small handful of people who existed that were worth being friends with, and furthermore I couldn’t imagine that most people had anything to offer me, because I was obviously better than most people. I was afraid of people, and I pretty much thought most people sucked, and I used the “lone wolf” rationale to back that up. Which really, was just my ego running the show.

Oh, my sweet protective ego. Our egos are our life-partners, and they are incredibly important at times to help us establish our “self”-ness. Our egos whisper, or sometimes scream, that we are important, that we are special, and that we are different and better than everyone else. Sometimes we need our egos to help us establish ourselves. But more often than not, our egos go overboard and “protect” us from things that we actually need, like connection, intimacy, passion, and joy.

In my case, my ego convinced me that I was a lone wolf and an introvert, when really she was just afraid of losing my special “self”-ness if I became a pack animal. But she couldn’t have been more wrong.

A few nights ago, I was having a triggery melt-down, with my boyfriend. Something we were talking about had sent my entire mind and body into a full-blown emotional meltdown, edging into panic attack territory. We were both dealing with our stuff, so we decided to take a break for a few minutes, and he left to go for a walk. The moment he left, I went directly to my phone and texted my friend Jessica to say:

“SOS I’m having a shame-cave-trigger-central-meltdown right now, PLEASE HALP.”

Thankfully, my friend was available, and within about four text exchanges, she had figured out exactly what was going on, identified the hidden source of my trigger (based on ten years of friendship), and validated and normalized the whole situation for me. I had been nearly hysterical when my boyfriend left, but he returned to find me sitting in bed crying but smiling. I explained to him what I had figured out, and what I needed from him moving forward. At the end of the conversation he said… “Geeze, I was only gone for 10 minutes, and you figured all that out? Thank god for Jessica”.

And I was like… hahaha I know right?! A few years ago I never would have reached out for help in a tough moment. I would have just tried to figure that shit out on my own, because I’m fucking independent, ok?? And because nobody would understand! And it’s not their business anyway, and because I didn’t want to burden them! Trust me, I had reasons for days. Ultimately, while I probably would have still figured my shit out, it would have taken much, much longer.

This is the importance of having a tribe, to me.

I have about a dozen people with whom I am very close, and who I trust unconditionally to both be there for me when I need them, and to use me when they need me. (The two-way thing is crucial for true intimacy and trust.) This is my “tribe,” and each tribe member offers me something different and unique and amazing.

Each person has strengths, gifts, and knowledge that elevate my life in extraordinary ways. Each person allows me to express a different side of myself, and each person is a shining supernova of love and acceptance and beauty and inspiration and nourishment for my soul. Most importantly, each person is someone who I, having found them, now cannot imagine living without.

Old me might have thought these kinds of friendships sounded an awful lot like dependence, and I would have rejected it fully, because my ego wanted me to be completely free and independent! She wanted me to never “need” anyone. Thank god I didn’t listen to her.

I now believe that relying on your friendships and intimate relationships is an act of love and abundance; it’s the ultimate ego-defying act. I am not better than anyone, and I do not need to go through this life alone.

Mind you, I’m still human. Sometimes I forget that I have the power of my tribe underneath me. Sometimes I forget to ask for help when I need, or to reach out for connection when I’m feeling isolated. Sometimes I still catch myself repeating the old story that nobody else will understand, or that I am the only one who can do something right. But then I remember– I am not a lone wolf anymore.

I will always be extremely grateful to the 25 years I spent lone-wolfing, because they taught me to be independent and capable, strong and brave. They taught me to trust myself, and to love myself, and to always have my own back. But just because you’re strong enough and brave enough doesn’t mean you need to fight through life alone. We were meant to have each others’ backs. You do not need to shoulder your whole burden alone.

Are you a pack animal or a lone wolf? Which one comes easily, and which one is difficult for you? If, like me, you have a tendency to rely only on yourself, I encourage you to find your people.

Keep your eyes and mind open as you move through life, and always be ready and willing to connect with the next person. Not everyone will be for you, just the same way you are not for everyone, and that’s ok. You must be willing to be vulnerable and connect anyway, in order to be open and able to find those people who are.

Collect “your people” like treasures, and keep them near you, at least in spirit, at all times. Don’t settle for a pre-packaged tribe, either. There is no one-size-fits-all tribe, and you won’t connect with every single person, even if you’re lucky enough to be a part of a close-knit community. One by one, I encourage you to add to your tribe. Your tribe-members don’t all need to be friends, or even to resonate with each other. That’s because each person we resonate with reflects a particular facet about us, and each of us is a unique jumble of facets.

Please note, that “finding” your people is not enough. If your plan is to wait around until they reveal their true selves to you, you will never discover the power of these relationships. You must take an active role in going deeper and building intimacy and trust. You’ll need to be vulnerable, and share things about yourself that make you uncomfortable; you’ll need to ask questions, and really listen to their answers. You’ll need to hold space for the person to be their own person, and resist the urge to put them in a box. You’ll need to offer them the gift of your undivided attention and trust, and be brave enough to give them opportunities to be there for you.

This is what is required in order to build a tribe of nourishing relationships. It’s hard, courageous, beautiful work. And it will expand and improve your life in ways you cannot even imagine. (No matter what your sweet ego says.)

From my tribe to yours,

<3 Jessi Kneeland Get strong. Feel confident. Look amazing.

P.S. If you want to learn how to show up in a way that draws “your people” to you, and automatically connect to a tribe of other amazing women, please join the Empowered Women Project. We start November 2nd, and enrollment closes Friday! Every single woman in the course is pre-vetted, because she too has read what I’ve written, and felt the call to expand.

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