My thoughts were going in circles in my head and I didn't know where to start. I was worried about talking to people about my ideas. My friends knew me as the confident person who always knew what she wanted and what she was doing. So I was confused.
But I had to come out of my shell. I had no other option because things weren't moving as long as I was keeping my ideas to myself and avoiding exposure.
So I decided to share an idea I had for a book. And I needed help. This one single conversation started a ball rolling, and I got introduced to Jennifer. Eventually the whole thing snowballed and we ended up starting DrivenWoman, a women's LifeWorking network in London.
Only now I can see how fundamental DrivenWoman and the tribe we've created has become in my life. Four years ago I had my usual set of friends and life went on in its usual, predictable track. I could have never created anything new in that setting.
Four years ago I had a blank page in front of me. But now I have filled it with hundreds of wonderful, meaningful and inspiring contacts. Through DrivenWoman I have surrounded myself with the most amazing group of new friends who give me so much every time I meet them. I had never even dreamed of knowing so many women who are ambitious, brave, ready to make mistakes, vulnerable, proactive, energetic, honest and genuine. Well, I would go on and on with this list of qualities!
I now realise that everything they say about building your own supporting troops around you is true. The emotional and spiritual benefits personally have been amazing.
But don't take my word for it, there's a lot of evidence that support why women need their tribe.
Engaging with your female tribe reduces stress levels.
When we encounter stress our ancient survival mechanism kicks in and we may feel a need to either 'fight or flight'. However, most stress research is based on men and now researchers suggest that women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just 'fight or flight'.
"It seems that when the hormone oxytocin is release as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead. When she actually engages in this tending or befriending, studies suggest that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect." says Dr Klein.
Can you relate to this research?
I can. If I feel stressed and tired and would rather go home after a long day (i.e. I try to go into a 'flight' mode), but go to our DrivenWoman meeting instead, I always feel completely rejuvenated after the discussions in our female tribe.
Your challenges seem easier to overcome.
Does this sound familiar? You have hit a snag in your project and feel completely overwhelmed by it. The more you think about your obstacle, the more impossible it seems! Then you see a friend or come to your monthly DrivenWoman meeting and just by sharing your story the stress and the difficulty seems to evaporate. You feel the support and the obstacle seems to become smaller and smaller. You start to find solutions and believe in yourself on a new level.
A University of Virginia study of 34 students suggests that challenges don't seem so big when you have a friend standing next to you. Prof. Proffit had students to stand at a base of a hill and assess its steepness. The students who were standing next to someone thought the hill was less steep in their assessment compared to those assessing the hill alone. "The mere presence of another person can be beneficial, especially if this person provides support in a non-evaluative and non-directive manner."
Surround yourself with the right tribe.
It's the old saying that really rings true to me: "Show me your friends and I tell you who you are."
It works both ways, hang around negative people who tell you how bad things are and you will start to believe them. Surround yourself with people who are interested in improving themselves and becoming the best they can be, and voilà, you will pick up a thing or two along the way for your personal development.
You can work on building your own personal network one by one, or jump start your tribe by joining one that shares your values and injects the kind of positivity and growth you are looking for. However, it's important to build your network before you really need them. It's not very cool to show up and start asking for favours on day one.
Groups like DrivenWoman work for its members because everyone knows the rules, and everyone is expected to be honest and open, bring their true self to the party and make a genuine contribution by sharing their stories. When we share mutual values of positivity, openness and proactivity every member gets filled with good energy and the tribe helps to push all of its members forward. It's a unique structure that combines networking with coaching, that's why it's called LifeWorking.
The world has changed.
Last week I wrote about the changing economic and social structures that make having your own tribe even more important. No one can lay their trust on corporations, organisations or even countries in terms of their future happiness and support.
Men have always had their networks, their golf clubs and their football teams. It's time we women step out of the shadows and find our own tribes. Together we can help each other become the women we want to be, the women we already are.
Find your driven tribe and join the last 'Introduction to DrivenWoman' evening before summer holidays: 7th July 2016, 6:45 pm in Soho, London. Quote 'TRIBE' to get 50% off your ticket.