I’ve been binge watching Planet Earth. So far I’ve seen a wolf kill an ox, a shark kill a seal, a seal kill a penguin and global warming kill a polar bear. With the exception of the polar bear all the other animals were picked off from their herd, which got me thinking about our herds.
As much as we try to separate ourselves from animals, we have a lot in common. Being part of a group is one of them. We may no longer need a tribe to hunt, or protect ourselves from wild animals, but having a tribe makes an uncertain world seem less scary. It’s also a seal of approval on who we are and how we live our lives.
Even though we don’t depend on the squad for survival in the same way musk ox might, our herd is important to us. Penguins work as a team to survive harsh weather. Lions hunt in prides to take down bigger prey. We lean on our inner circle for support, advice and companionship. But where animals are unified by species and survival, our groups are selected from who’s closest.
Though our main social groups are comprised of whomever we interact with most frequently, there are people that we pick out and maintain friendships with over distance and time. We like to think it’s because there’s something special about them. The reality is a tad more narcissistic. Studies show that friends who support our sense of identity are more likely to be kept around. If you see yourself as a high school prom queen, chances are you’ve surrounded yourself with people who see you the same way.
Our herd reflects who we are, or at least the version of you that you identify most with. If you’ve changed and evolved as a person, it stands to reason that your herd has too. One way or another.
It’s because your herd matters. The right friends can help you to grow as a person and achieve your potential. Similarly, hanging out with the wrong crowd can limiting. The need for approval and fear of being cast out is powerful. You can get stuck in old patterns and trapped in a version of yourself that isn’t true to who you are. If you’ve ever tried to break up with a friend, you’ll know it can be just as hard as a romantic break up.
If you’re in the right herd you all grow and evolve together. If not then it can be bittersweet. It’s all part of being human. It beats being taken out by a shark, I suppose.