Why Community Matters and How to Find Your People

This post is based on an Instagram Live discussion with my friend and fellow therapist, Jesie Steffes, LPC. Join me for Riverbend Therapy Chats each Monday afternoon on Instagram Live (@riverbendtherapy) as I discuss mental health topics and answer your questions with my colleagues.

Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing a lot about the new Women’s Empowerment Group I’m starting at the end of August with my friend and fellow therapist, Jesie Steffes, LPC. Every week on my River Bend Therapy Chats on Instagram Live, we’ve been exploring different topics that we’ll be covering in the group. As we have, I’ve been thinking more broadly about the group, I’ve realized that it might be better to describe it as a women’s empowerment community.

Why? Because having a community of strong, empowered women in my life has been crucial for my own empowerment. We are all ultimately responsible for our own self-empowerment and healing, but being part of a supportive and loving community is essential to doing that work. On that note, in this week’s Therapy Chat, Jesie and I explored what it means to create community, and how being part of communities has helped us each grow.

To start with, how do we define community? It is not the same thing as friendship, although your friends can be (and likely are!) a part of your community. Finding your community simply means finding supportive relationships based on mutual respect with people who will champion you, and who you can champion.

To create community you do not need to always agree with people or have the same opinions or beliefs—in fact, it can be good to build community with people who challenge you in healthy ways. Being part of a community simply means finding people to walk with you through the seasons of your life.

You can be—and likely are—part of many different communities, and the communities you’re part of can all fulfill different needs in your life. Maybe for you this looks like:

→ A spiritual or faith community that helps you connect with your divinity

→ An intellectual or professional community that furthers your goals

→ A sport, hobby, or interest group that engages your inner child

→ A circle of your closest, dearest friends who hold you

→ A group of acquaintances you go to happy hour with to blow off steam

So how do we create community? And why is it a necessary ingredient for empowerment?

1. Be a Gardener

Being part of a community is like gardening: You can’t harvest anything if you don’t put in effort. Being in community with others means giving of yourself authentically in a way that doesn’t cause self-abandonment, while also being open to receive what others give you. You’re walking with them however they need; championing their dreams, goals and vision for their life even if it differs from yours; cultivating trust and vulnerability, and allowing them to do the same for you. Empowerment ripples out, and holding space for other women to feel safe and empowered will further your own healing and self-discovery.

2. Go Deep and Broad

It’s all too easy to define yourself by one part of your identity and forget to cultivate a community that supports all parts of you. But it’s important to do so because you’ll need different support at different times. Sometimes, you’ll need to turn to your closest friends to hold you steady in your river of heartache; other times, you’ll need to go out with acquaintances to just inject some levity into your day; you’ll get one type of support from a spiritual community and another from a professiona