How to Find a Group That Will Build You Up Instead of Drive You Crazy

December 29, 2020

Competition, comparison, imposter syndrome, call it what you like. As humans, these emotions and reactions seem to be hardwired in us. Our need for acceptance and feeling ‘liked’ has cleverly evolved and morphed with technology and social media at our fingertips.

It’s a frigging struggle. 

When you’re scrolling your social feeds, it’s easy to have a hundred passing thoughts and comparisons. She’s prettier than me, has more followers, has the perfect family, has more money, is more successful, is a better surfer. Ooooh the list is endless.

If you haven’t had at least one of these thoughts when scrolling, congrats, you’re superhuman!

Now, hold onto your pants because this next part might make you uncomfortable. When you make the commitment to go a little bit deeper, beyond the realms of social media and actually join a women’s circle or more commonly these days, a virtual meetup, feelings of vulnerability may sneak in.

I personally feel that making the choice to reach out to a stranger or join a group is an admirable and courageous one. It’s important to have other perspectives and be exposed to new people, cultures, ideas and points of view.  

As a generally extroverted woman, I acknowledge joining groups can be uncomfortable for many, which is one of the reasons I felt compelled to write this article and share what I’ve learned this past year hosting women’s circles. 

In early 2020 before COVID reared its ugly head, I hosted community gatherings at Venice Beach. I was stoked to share my 1985 van with my local community, and bring women together to talk about critical topics. Everyone loves Salted Carmela, pictured below, she brings a warm and sunny vibe, and has a propane stove that allows me to serve my own handcrafted teas.

For our first session, I invited my friend Giselle to co-host and share her story of personal transformation. It was the perfect kickoff to the New Year, and I was stoked for 2020 ahead, an opportunity to serve my community more deeply and get to know these women more intimately. 

EEEEEEK. Queue the screeching halt. 

Before I share how I pivoted and kept the circles going, I have to share some surprising nuggets I gleaned from these women before the world changed. 

Experiences and feedback from several women actually inspired me to keep going in new and different ways because I thought wow, women really need this. 

One woman shared she goes to happy hour with her friends each week, but that time is designed to feel ‘happy,’ so everyone talks about all the great things happening in their lives.  She never wants to bring anyone down with her personal problems, so she holds it all in and has no one to confide in.

Another woman had fled her country and left everything behind to leave a dangerous situation. No family or friends here, she was starting a new life in America and sitting amongst strangers. That was heavy, but I felt so proud that this circle of women showed their support and encouragement for her while she shared her story.

I’m confident she walked away that day feeling more supported and hopeful than when she arrived, and for that reason alone I knew my circles were serving a greater purpose.

I watched these women open up, strangers only moments before, and show authentic support for one another. I remember feeling like I was on the outside looking in, watching it unfold beautifully and unexpectedly, and truly proud of these gatherings. 

These moments and stories reinforced that I was in the right place. I was intended to be a vehicle to bring women together and create a safe space for the physical, mental and spiritual challenges that we will all walk through in this lifetime.

I don’t have all the answers or the perfect formula for a circle or gathering, but I’m willing to experiment and show up imperfectly each time, and serve my community the best way I know how.

Now I want to turn it back to you for a moment. What’s tugging at you most in this moment as you read this? 

Take out a notebook and make a list of 5-10 things you’d be stoked to learn more about, or places where you may feel a void and need, yes actually need community. 

I’m going to leave you with a few of my own to get you started…

Some of the groups I have joined in the past that have changed my course in life include:

Women’s Surfing Group: (aka Bay Street Babes) This started with an all gender surfing Meetup at Venice Beach. After splashing around and making fools of ourselves, a few of us women quickly branched off and started our own surfing meetup each week. I can honestly say I never would have kept going without these women encouraging me, especially during the cold winter months. Thanks Shannon, Jess, Sharishta and Marina for all those early mornings, if you’re reading. 

Book Club or Writer’s Group: I’m a big fan of a book club or writers group, there’s nothing I love more than digging my nose into a book and then hearing all the different interpretations of the same words. My tip here is to ensure you are all in agreement with what you are reading, since reading / writing can be a lofty time commitment, and it’s easy to feel resentful if you feel like you are wasting time reading or writing things you aren’t interested in. Ask questions up front to make sure this is a good fit for you.

Surfrider Foundation: Volunteer with a non-profit in your community. I volunteered with Surfrider and served on the Executive Board as the Chair in Los Angeles for 2 years. I learned about the horrifying realities of plastic pollution, how to speak at City Council meetings for policy change, hosted countless beach clean-ups, developed and nurtured key partnerships in the city, made new members feel welcome, etc.

The list is endless, and while I outline mostly tactical skills here, I think the biggest takeaways from serving this community was building my own personal confidence with public speaking, feeling a sense of inclusion, developing a true community bond and coming from a place of service, and developing deep friendships in a big city like Los Angeles, where I didn’t think that was possible.

These are skills I now have for a lifetime, that I will continue to nurture and refine on my own.

I needed a place to start, and this community provided that safe and inspiring place. Thank you Surfrider, I’m eternally grateful.

The three things I will leave you with as you consider joining a group that’s right for you:

  1. Choose a group like you would choose a therapist – thoughtfully. Go in with an open mind, and ask questions so you can learn about expectations, communication styles etc. If you get a good vibe, trust your gut and keep going. If you get a bad vibe, trust your gut and know it’s ok to walk away and find something else. 
  1. Make a list of 5 things you want to try, and push your comfort zone. As a general rule of thumb, I try everything twice, and then lean into my gut from there. If you’re still coming up short with ideas, here is a list of 5 I came up with for inspiration: 
  1. Weekly Outdoor Hiking Group, socially distanced of course..
  2. Real Estate Investing for Women
  3. Final Jeopardy: Spanish Happy Hour
  4. Relief from grief, trauma, PTSD women’s group
  5. Women’s screenwriter’s workshop

In closing, I mentioned I pivoted during COVID so I’m excited to share more about our own virtual Salted Spirit community. 

Every Thursday from 7am – 7:30am PST, I host a virtual tea community sit for waterwomen. These sessions are designed to be brief and digestible, yet impactful and soulful. 

I invite everyone to bring their favorite cozy beverage, circle up and listen to various waterwomen from around the world speak about their experiences with water. I always open it up for questions or comments to ensure everyone feels heard and included.

Since we aren’t traveling around the world to sexy surf destinations, to me this gathering is the next best thing and has been critical for nourishing my soul.

During our virtual tea sessions we’ve been free diving in South Africa, wild river swimming up in Canada, lake paddling in Cleveland, oyster replenishing in New York, surfing in India and more!

Yes, I encourage you to use your imagination, let your hair down and go with the flow. For me, tea has been a surprising vehicle for opening up my heart and mind, for nurturing my more playful and creative self. It allows me to flow instead of leaving me with jitters and a frantic mind.

You can join us each week here, it’s free and a very welcoming group. Be sure to show up at least twice, and let me know what you think! 

In closing, I’d love for you to leave a comment here or on my instagram, and let me know what communities you have found impactful, supportive and creative during COVID. Let’s continue to inspire one another, share ideas and resources today and into 2021. 

Cheers and wishing you good health,

Stacie

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