By Kaitlyn Dunagan

When it comes to thinking for yourself, the first step is also the biggest. The simple act of recognizing tribe mentality is enough to begin a personal revolution. But it’s really in seeing just how much the collective influences (what we assume are) our personal ideas, beliefs, choices and of course, emotions, that you realize how deeply we need to be liberated enough to not have our thoughts be unconsciously chosen for us.

Tribe mentality is when thoughts and beliefs are insulated and affirmed by the group of people you most commonly associate with. It is when pockets of people hold the same beliefs and essentially include others in their group if they, too, hold the same beliefs.

I am taking a stand against the sheer unawareness we have about it, and being honest about the fact that I can no longer ascribe to it anymore. Tribe mentality is drenched in sameness, and you can feel it even before you know it. People in the same “tribe” generally wear the same clothes, express the same opinions, and scowl at an outsider’s opinion and even an outsider’s presence without asking, “why do you think (this) or (that),” stomping on curiosity and individuality.

It may make a person feel less alone to be surrounded by an air of belonging but I would rather be alone than refuse to be myself. Refusing my identity would make me more miserable than changing who I am in order to be accepted by people who would not love me if I was different than they were. I am not perfect but I am not an ensemble you get to put together; you cannot choose the parts of me you wish to keep and that which you wish to put back in your closet. I am not a secret; you do not get to cover me up.

It is not that I wish to write off collective friendships or look down on those who are comfortable with their selected tribe. After all, people are capable of being a part of a group alongside people they disagree with, depending on the disagreement. I just have not found peace in a group of people but I have found homes in individuals. I popcorn hop from group to group, not really fitting into it completely but finding at least one rich friendship to invest in and that keeps me satisfied. Despite my bouncing to and from different kinds of cliques, I am a fiercely loyal individual. Each friend seems to give me a different perspective and even if we do not agree, we can somehow find a way to love one another. I think that is beautiful; to accept one another despite our deepest faults, that is love. They also introduce me to new hobbies, ideas, books, movies, and people. Their difference keeps my life interesting.

I realize humans are social animals and there are benefits of being in a tribe. For one, there are power in numbers. The more people agree on an issue, the more it can bring about positive progression. However, this can also work in reverse and if others choose to agree on an idea or action that ultimately brings about destruction, the rest of mankind will suffer because of their collectivity. Tribalism can too often become accompanied by others following another imperfect person blindly. I find it much healthier to be open to conflicting ideas because I am not infallible and neither are you. This tribe mentality can also, as I have mentioned earlier, create a sense of radiating exclusivity. Think of high school and what would happen if you were a lone wolf that decided to sit with the popular kids (or vice versus). Sure, there is a possibility that a person would befriend you. However, there is also the possibility that they would be confused by your presence and you would feel a You Don’t Belong Here vibe.

It is not confined to the halls of high school and continues into adulthood. It may be a little less prevalent but it is what seems to contribute to the success of businesses, organizations, and the social hierarchies that are found within them. There is a bit more reason behind the tribalism found in our chosen careers; it only makes sense people who work together should generally share the same values and end-goal. However, true success of a company can be attributed to the fact that a group of different individuals come together to successfully complete a common goal. It is not always filled with like-minded individuals who prefer to stay in their box with other like-minded individuals. In my opinion, striving to succeed through conflict is what causes the success.

Despite all the positive contributions the tribal mentality can bring, not exposing ourselves to new people, new ideas, and refusing to assess our own belief system for a prolonged amount of time cannot only end up hurting ourselves but others around us. Deconstruction is not always necessary but assessing whether or not deconstruction needs to take place is necessary. And it does not matter if our deconstruction is a slow and steady growth, like that of an oak tree or as quick as the speed of light; nonetheless, it will be growth.

Bring on the healthy conflict, bring on the love, and bring on the positive progression.

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