Making friends as an adult is difficult and don’t even get me started talking about loneliness because I know the feeling all too well.
Too many times, I’ve asked myself the same questions over and over.
Why is it hard to make friends?
Am I doing something wrong?
Do I smell bad?
Is it my personality? The way I look?
Am I too selective?
Seriously, what is it?
To make friends, I’ve tried several things. I’ve created my own Meet-Up group, invited strangers to meet up, tried out Bumble BFF, and even asked a Starbucks barista if they wanted to hang out with me. Maybe I was desperate…no, I was.
And with the track record I have now, or lack of a track record, I am just about ready to throw my hands up in the air and wave them like I just don’t care.
But I care. I actually want to have friends. Not just acquaintances, but close friends.
But why can’t I?
How To Make Friends As An Adult?
This is not an uncommon question to ask. Indeed, you can type this question in Google search and get many people answering variations of this question. In fact, you might even end up upon my earlier blog post: “Hey Google! How Can I Make Friends?”.
I do still struggle to make meaningful connections with people. I sometimes ask others for advice on how they are able to make friends. Most times, I’ve crossed my fingers, hoping that it has nothing to do with downloading a swiping app. But I’ve done that too.
Most advice I’ve gotten include:
- Putting yourself out there and going to places where you can interact with people
- Being on dating apps
- Going to a bar (pre-Covid of course, because we can’t do that anymore)
- Bringing food to work (yup, done this way too much)
- Joining a club
Generally, this is all excellent advice. But the advice and the suggestions themselves are too general. None of these directly address the problem.
A great starting point is to understand why making friends as an adult is difficult. I mean back in the day, when I use to hang out in the playground, making friends was really easy. I could literally offer a kid a chocolate chip cookie, and they would instantly be my friend. No questions were asked.
Now as an adult, if I offered a chocolate chip cookie to another adult at most, I’d probably get “Thank you” or at least a smile and that would be the end of it.
I’m sure you could probably relate, but before I talk about why it’s challenging to make friends as an adult, I first want to talk about why it is so easy to make friends when you are a child.
How Children Make Friends
Making friends just came more naturally. It was much more comfortable in elementary school. The transaction was hardly a transaction at all. I remember asking and being asked, “Do you want to be my friend?”
That kind of question is quite acceptable with kids but by asking such questions as an adult you’d certainly be met with questionable looks. Typically, adults don’t ask such direct questions.
Children are interesting don’t you think?
They don’t worry too much about being vulnerable or acting foolish.
Whatever they think or feel they just say it without thinking of the consequences of their actions. With most children, overthinking isn’t a problem because they will act on it.
They are able to ask such direct questions because they have no such filter. Have you noticed how ridiculously honest children can be compared to adults?
Children make friends easier because they willingly allow themselves to value other people without much thought. It is almost instantaneous. They typically don’t worry too much about whether a person is going to hurt them or not. They don’t even know how to judge people yet…except for maybe “stranger danger”.
Like an empty vessel, they have yet to build up their repertoire of positive and negative life experiences. This is what I believe allows children to form friendships quickly and without much thought.
Adults are different though…
Making Friends As An Adult
When we become adults, we become exposed to more people, and our experiences guide us in determining who is a friend and who is not a friend. We also become more selective with the things we value, such as money, status, appearances, and whatnot.
Thus, as adults, we don’t allow ourselves to easily value other people, and in return, we often feel like people don’t value us. By a certain age, we develop social skills and learn about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate. We worry more about offending people, saying the wrong thing, etc. We are more cautious about our actions and care about how others perceive us. But in some cases, this is completely understandable.
This is why people build their own walls. It’s to protect themselves from hurt and emotional pains. It’s to not waste time and invest in the wrong people. It’s also to have more control over their environment so that there are no threats.
We think we have to always look out for ourselves because no one else will and that no one can be trusted. People these days don’t like to trust other people for anything and this is a problem.
Making friends as an adult is difficult, but I realize it takes a lot out of a person. It is hard work because we have to be vulnerable enough to show others how we value them regardless if they feel the same. Then the other half of the time, we might even have to convince them to see the value in us.
Would You Like To Be My Friend?
Studies have shown that having quality relationships positively impacts one’s mental health, physical, and overall wellbeing. I also wrote about this in a previous post: “How To Build Your Tribe From The Ground Up.”
I am also realizing that we should not only create environments where we can meet new people but that we should allow ourselves to value another person and make them feel valued.
Maybe our ego is against such a thing. Possibly our pride is preventing us from getting hurt. Perhaps the other person finds value in us as well, but they are hesitant to express themselves.
If you get or hurt and end up feeling rejected, it is okay. It’s a bit unfortunate that we don’t value people the way that we used to. As the saying goes, “we can’t please everyone”.
According to the World Population Clock, there are 7.8 billion people in the world and with the technologies that we have today, we have more opportunities to connect with people and make those connections.
When you make a decision to put yourself out there, know that sometimes the first few people you meet will be a miss and it can be a bit discouraging. Or maybe you get lucky! But with the right effort, you can at least make one friend in this world, but it’s really up to you to pursue it.
It starts with vulnerability.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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