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Mental Health Matters: May 2024

Choosing Your Tribe

There are many old sayings about choosing those you associate with:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Show me who you associate with and I will show you your future. You can’t soar with eagles if you associate with turkeys. It’s better to be alone than be in bad company. Choose people who believe in you and you will believe in yourself. One bad apple…

You may know others with the same meaning. Our mothers knew them because they were always encouraging us to choose friends we were proud to be around. My mother referred to it as “choosing your tribe.” Kipling wrote in “The Jungle Book” …the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. To be a strong wolf, we must have a strong pack surrounding us. And to be a member of a strong pack, we must be strong wolves.

If everyone’s mother knows this, why do we need to be reminded? Throughout our lives, we make choices daily that will affect us in important ways, sometimes for the rest of our life. I am writing this from Poland, where our son just got married. As they recited vows (in English and in Polish!), the importance of these choices were beautifully illustrated. “You help me find joy in the simplest things, like eating a blueberry,” and “You push me when I need a push and you hold me back when I need to slow down.” Clearly these two understood the meaning of the sayings quoted above.

So how can we make such a choice, especially when we may not know a person well? After meeting someone you might want to spend more time with, ask yourself: How do they speak about other people? How do they speak about themselves? How do they spend their time? Are they positive and happy? Do they encourage others? Do they share some interests with you? Do they have interests you would like to share? Are they curious about things you like? Do they try hard at school or work? Do they have good habits you wish you had? Those are the people you want in your pack, in your tribe.

When I talked with college-bound high school students, I encouraged them to join activities they enjoyed, because there they would find others with the same likes and dislikes. Like to read? join a book club. It sounds simplistic, but not only are you doing something you enjoy, you will be surrounded by people who feel the same. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves paired with a classmate, a coworker, a neighbor, or even a relative without a choice. All of us can sit next to someone, work alongside someone, share a holiday with someone, and not allow them to influence us. Not allow them to “be in our tribe,” as my mother would have said. In order to draw these lines, we must always be working on knowing who we are and what direction we are wanting to go.

Whether we are off to kindergarten or to the senior center, our journey continues. In order to be the best version of ourselves, we will always benefit from soaring with eagles.


  • Dawn Provencher

    Mental Health Matters: The northern Taos County communities have lost several young people in recent months. Questa del Rio News is starting a column dedicated to mental health matters. Dawn Provencher is a retired counselor. She has a master’s degree in counseling and a master’s degree in social work. She will be contributing to this column on a monthly basis.

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