Finding Community, Creating Community Where There is None
Written by Claire Howard of Wo-manly
We’ve all felt it strike us – the awkward, paralyzing realization of being an outsider. To feel that one does not belong in an environment is to feel disjointed, inadequate, and somehow deeply lacking in unidentifiable qualities.
The feeling of not belonging, while a deeply painful feeling that all of us have carried silently inside us at some point is not a feeling that points to something wrong within ourselves. Rather, it means we have found ourselves in a community where our identity may be underrepresented, leading to feelings of not fitting in.
This feeling of being excluded or left out of a male-dominated community- possibly through conversation topics or activities outside work- is one shared by many women in the corporate world or their chosen career field. Too often are women left feeling on the outside, without access to the camaraderie of male-dominated spaces. This often leaves women feeling without support in their career.
At Wo-manly, an online platform creating communities and support for women in male-dominated fields, we encourage women in all industries to boldly seek out supporting and enriching communities. This piece of advice, however, is far easier said than done; how do we find communities that uplift us?
1. Be Fearless
The first and often hardest step to building community is having the courage to consistently show up and engage with others. If you’re feeling stuck or lonely, forcing (yes, sometimes forcing) yourself to go to that networking event, or asking an acquaintance to go to dinner with you can spark close relationships, and may just be one of the best things you can do for yourself.
If you struggle with social anxiety or forming new friendships, this piece of advice can be particularly challenging. It may be helpful to consider that the greatest thing you can do in any given situation is simply to be curious and kind. The most captivating people are those that are deeply interested in others, and showing you care by investing in the lives of others through interest creates mutual connection. Struggle with small talk or connecting with others? Here are a few question ideas that may spark a rich conversation:
- What interests you about your [career field, studies]/ what compelled you to pursue that?
- If you didn’t have your current career, what is your dream career?
- What has been filling your time lately?
- Have you watched/read/listened to anything lately you would recommend?
2. Join Activities You Care About
Often, the richest communities are those built around a shared love and close values. If you love spending time outdoors, chances are you may also hold values of personal wellness and environmental sustainability and would delight in a hiking group full of people who care about those things as well.
If there’s a hobby that you love that you’re currently pursuing solitarily, consider finding a social group where you can share that activity with others. The internet has an infinite wealth of communities and groups- even if it’s something as small as a Discord chat.
Another option is to try something new! Learning new skills and activities expands your mind and worldview, and you might unlock a side of yourself and communities of people you never thought to explore before.
3. Create Centered Community
Are you a woman working in computer science, feeling alone? Start a group of women who code! Struggling with focusing and working on your business? Consider asking other entrepreneurs to meet weekly for focused work hours!
Truly anything, from your academics and personal ambitions to the hobbies that give you joy, are shared identities that community can be created around. If the community that you’re seeking doesn’t yet exist, go out there and start your own! Often, the way to feel belonged is to purposefully create spaces for others to belong as well.
Social media again is a way to quickly and widely advertise plans to start a new group. Outside of social media, community centers may help host and advertise your new group. Particularly over the past decade, coffee shops have become popular places for people to gather and coffee shops may often wholeheartedly support your new group and provide advertising for it.
4. Invest Deeply into the Present
Often the greatest opportunities are those lying right in front of us. We’re all involved in communities at some level, from our jobs to our schools to our living environments. It’s common to view current environments as dissatisfactory, but consider pouring more time and energy into those around you.
Spend more time with existing quality friendships and make an effort to deliberately grow closer to individuals around you that you like and respect. You may just be surprised at the rich untapped community around you.
5. Join Wo-manly
Wo-manly’s largest mission is to create and nurture community among women in professional fields. If you’re struggling with feeling alone or different in your workplace, or simply want to find a community of supporting, encouraging women, Wo-manly is the place for you! From networking events to professional development to simply enjoyable company, Wo-manly is working hard to create a space for you. Sign up for the waitlist here, and we are so excited to welcome you!
If you’re a Syracuse student, we also invite you to join our on-campus community called EmpowerU here! Stay tuned for exciting events!
Community, when good, is a vital aspect to personal success and happiness. It increases longevity, contributes to emotional wellbeing, and supports growth and aspirations. It can, however, be anxiety-inducing and difficult to find. We hope these tips can help you find and create an enriching community, and offer Wo-manly as a community we’d be overjoyed to include you in.