Finding your tribe and other things you wish you’d known in high school

Study more.  Wag less.  Try out for the school play.  Take off that huge crucifix and stop trying to dress like Madonna during her “Like A Virgin” years (Seriously, you just look like a slightly slutty nun with bad shoes).  What do you wish you’d known before you started high school? Last year Mamamia’s Rebecca Sparrow wrote “Find Your Tribe (and 9 other things I wish I’d known in high school)” a guide for teenage girls that covers everything from friendship and bullying and body image to sex, drugs and why you should never date a boy who has Cher tunes on his iPod.

We asked Bec to share the first tip in her book: Finding your tribe.  This post is especially for the teenage girl in your life …


Let’s get one thing straight. The truth is, despite having written a novel entitled The Girl Most Likely – I wasn’t. I wasn’t the girl most likely to succeed in high school. I wasn’t a prefect. I didn’t win any awards in my final year. Not a single one.  In fact, in high school I was fairly average. I got pretty good grades, I guess, but I didn’t top any subjects.  And I certainly didn’t stand out.  Although when I look back at photos of me at seventeen I’m not entirely sure how I DIDN’T stand out considering that in high school I looked like a cross between Tootsie and Jon Bon Jovi.  Harold Bishop with a perm.  That was me. Excellent.

And while we’re being honest, let’s just say that high school also handed me some of my most crushing moments. Nobody invited me to my school formal.  A guy that I was madly in love with barely knew I even existed. I was so bad at Maths I ended up having to do Maths in Society.  And despite the fact I’d been playing netball since I was nine, I wasn’t chosen for even the C-grade netball team in high school. Talk about a blow to the ego.

But here’s the weird bit. Despite all that rotten stuff – I loved high school. Yep. Loved it. I’m one of those people who can actually, genuinely say they enjoyed it. A number of my closest friends today are the people I whispered secrets to during Modern History and French and Drama (and, clearly, PE and Maths. I’m beginning to suspect that my grades would’ve been better if I’d actually shut up and paid attention in class).

So how does that work? What was my secret? I made some smart decisions. Starting with finding my tribe ….


One of the major factors that will determine the quality of your time at high school is who you hang around.  Your friends.

I’m going to cut to the chase: Life is too short to hang around with bitchy, negative people.  So don’t.  In high school you want to find your tribe.  Your tribe are those friends who get you, who see the world the way you see it, who like you for who you are.  They’re real friends.  They don’t slag you off the moment your back is turned or routinely humiliate you and put you down. Nope. Real friends have your back – they’re fiercely loyal and protective.  If you have a tribe of six friends – that’s fantastic.  But even if you have just one great friend – that’s all you need.

You know what else? You don’t need to be in the cool group to enjoy high school. Aim to be someone who is friends with all different kinds of people at school.  Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes calls this being a ‘floater’.  Floaters do their own thing, have healthy self-esteem and they definitely don’t pay attention to peer pressure.  Be authentic in your tastes. In other words, be who you are. Don’t change your personality or your interests or your taste just to hang around with girls who spend all their time bitching and making fun of other people.

All this sounds obvious, right?  And yet many adults will tell you it took them years (and some painful friendship experiences) to finally get this lesson.  For some reason, many of us spend our spare time with snarky, negative people who make us feel worthless.

And don’t think for a second that hanging around with the cool group will make you seem more attractive. There’s nothing attractive about someone who behaves like a sheep and follows a leader.  You’re way better off hanging around with your tribe. After all, what’s attractive is a girl who is confident, who can laugh at herself, who smiles a lot and who exudes a generous spirit.



Did you love or loathe high school? Did you find your tribe? What friendship rules do you have?