“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anais Nin
I love Anais Nin. Her diaries are some of the most insightful books I have ever read simply due to the emotional depth with which she experienced her life. Her ability to be honest about her feelings and relationships and express the nuances of these relationships through writing is often breathtaking to me.
She had many close, intimate relationships and experiences that she candidly relates in her diaries. She had no problem meeting and courting lovers. She had no issue attracting friends and admirers. But why was this?
She, like many artists, was able to express and communicate the vulnerable aspects of herself.
But why does this attract people and what does this have to do with you?
Well, there are a few reasons someone might not have any friends. These reasons can range from having recently moved to a new city to having to work a nightshift that limits your social time.
However, this post will focus on two important emotional and practical aspects that might stop someone from creating or maintaining friendships. Most of this material is from my own experience and from books that I have read and that have helped me.
So, let’s get started.
1. You have vulnerability issues
When I was in high school, I had maybe one true friend. I would often spend weekends alone and was sheepish and shy about this. My one actual friend didn’t even know how embarrassed I felt about not having many friends. I would evade questions about what I did on the weekends because I felt that I should be partying, or I should have friends to hangout with.
I hid my insecurities like it was a full-time job and it was a painful time for me. It felt like expressing the desire to hangout or grow closer to someone during this time was dangerous, because I feared being rejected. So hiding felt like the best option. During this same time I struggled to connect with someone romantically and didn’t have my first true romantic relationship until college.
It was a lonely and isolating time for me, and it was truly due to my own immaturity.
I didn’t have any friends because I was unwilling to be vulnerable.
It wasn’t that people hated me. I was relatively well liked by those who knew me in school.
It wasn’t that people were already too busy with their own lives for someone else. Everyone wants to connect with others on the weekend. Everyone is trying to create a maintain a group of friends. It’s truly a never-ending process.
My problem was that I wasn’t willing to be vulnerable enough to tell anyone I had no plans on a Friday night. Or I was afraid to tell someone I wanted to get to know them better. I had issues even inviting someone to dinner or lunch. I had an unhealthy fear of rejection.
And if I couldn’t invite someone to lunch, how could I possibly open up about my interests in trying hitchhiking or how I enjoyed exploring abandoned places around the city? How could I possibly begin to connect with someone?
I had vulnerability issues.
And to truly to connect with someone, you need to be able to expresses the less presentable side of yourself. You need to put yourself in a position where you might face rejection.
Anais Nin was able to be vulnerable. In Under a Glass Bell and other works, she evokes a true depth of experience that is hard to come across in daily life. She doesn’t dismiss sexual thoughts or insecure thoughts and instead chooses to engage with these secret longings and forbidden desires.
Most artists have a knack for being vulnerable and they often have to be explore these vulnerable aspects of themselves to create great art. True vulnerability can create powerful connections and invoke emotions that lead to deeper and more honest relationships.
Of course the vulnerability of a great artist and a normal person is not the same, but the underlying principle is.
The vulnerability we need to connect with others is often just to simply ask if they want to meet up for lunch on Saturday. Or just to just candidly talk about the music you like and how shy you felt yesterday during that meeting.
If you can speak openly about your feelings and experience, most often you will be accepted and you will be on your way to creating a friendship. Also, if someone does reject you feeling a certain way or enjoying a certain hobby, then that person isn’t the quality of person you want in your life anyway. There is no more ambiguity.
However, vulnerability needs to be done well. If you hold all your negative emotions in and then suddenly break-down to someone with tears and a pity-show, then that person is likely to feel uncomfortable. Vulnerability needs to be increased gradually with someone and the other person needs to reciprocate to form a healthy relationship.
One of my favorite books about this is by Mark Manson and is called Models: Attract Women Through Honesty. This book isn’t the first to discuss this topic, but it is actionable and concise. It does focus on relationships more than friendships, but the content holds true regardless. Give it a read if you have the time and follow some of the actionable steps within the book. It really helped me on my journey from socially anxious to a healthy, adjusted adult.
2. You’re not putting in the work
Wanting friends or busier weekends and actually working towards that goal are two different things.
I’ve met so many people who want a busier social life and want to meet more people, but simply stay in to watch Netflix or keep playing videogames on the weekends. These people struggle less with vulnerability issues, but simply aren’t putting in the work required to meet people and make friendships.
Early in our lives, we often easily make friends. In school everyone is the similar age and demographic, and we spend long periods of time with each other in non-competitive spaces. This happened throughout our school years and especially in college when our differing parental/family life situations are also often stripped away.
Unfortunately, this experience does not prepare people for the realities of making friends as an adult. As an adult we need to actively join clubs or groups to put ourselves in situations to be able to meet new people. Then we need to consistently attend these groups or consistently keep in contact to grow a friendship. This is work and requires effort. Additionally, this often requires people to try new hobbies if their old hobbies were not social.
Additionally, peoples lives become more divergent. You can’t count on your highschool friends staying in your hometown forever, and they often move for family, jobs, or other opportunity. So you will likely be faced with needing to make new friends more than once in your life.
Yet, so many people don’t put in the work to make these friendships and simply spend more time alone.
Research shows why this is important. Having a strong social network is correlated to a longer life and that loneliness has worse health outcomes than obesity. That’s powerful and something that shouldn’t be ignored.
So what can we do to put in the work?
Well, I’m not going to dive too deep here, but here are four steps that have worked for me when moving to a new city or even to a new country as I recently moved to South Korea to live abroad.
- Join classes, groups, social sports, and clubs
- Be friendly and try to talk to lots of people
- Get contact info and invite people to lunch or something casual outside of the club/group (This is important to grow a closer friendship)
- Follow up and continue to invite the person to meet up
This is a huge simplification of what I do and I know it works well with making friends and friend groups. I have plans to write a more in-depth post about this process so look out for that next month. Keep in mind that the other person needs to be reciprocating during this process, but I have made close friends and friend groups in every city that I’ve lived in by following these steps.
Just understand that it takes time and it can take some effort, but having close, quality friends will make your life infinitely richer and better.
And that’s really it. There are many nuances that come into play when making friends that I didn’t touch on here. You will meet many people who don’t have the time or for whatever reason don’t want to be your friend. That’s ok, don’t take it personally, but if you find yourself having no friends then maybe you have issues being vulnerable like I did. Or you simply aren’t trying like you need to. Making and keeping friends takes some work.
If you are emotionally not healthy enough to create friends or simply have been complacent, don’t worry because everyone struggles with this at some point in their life. There are also proven ways to create quality friendships so you’ll be out there with new friends again in no time.
Thanks for reading and keep a look out for more content from Becoming a Person as there’s a lot more to discuss about making quality friends and relationships.