A few weeks ago I was at a friends’ house catching up and drinking tea before my trip to Copenhagen. Her sister had just started first year in secondary school that day, we asked her how she was settling in and if she was making friends, all the normal conversation topics when someone starts school. It was only then, in that moment talking to my friends’ sister that I realized, I believe people don’t know the skill of making friends at twelve years old. Some people (like me) don’t know the art of making friends till much later in life. She looked so young, naïve and innocent and as I reflected on my own experience in first year, I recalled a young girl who thought she could conquer the world, but was so inexperienced, frightened and really didn’t understand life.
Making friends is something I believe can only come from experience, it’s skill that can come naturally to some and be the idea of hell for others. It’s a skill that is required with every big change that occurs during the journey of life and yet there seem to be no classes, instructions or manuals on how to make friends.
I’m not talking about early childhood friends, the ones that lived across the road or who you sat beside on the first day of school. Children have the beautiful gift of accepting everyone, not caring what other people think and living in the moment. The careless friendships we make as children can be the easiest to make but sometimes the hardest to hold onto as people, life and circumstances change. As I got older I found making friends becoming more and more of a challenge, as I realized people can be mean, not everyone is the same and all I wanted was to be liked.
Being an extroverted person with a past of crippling social anxiety, making friends was always a difficult one for me. While I knew I was outgoing and always came across as the social butterfly, the idea of actually walking up to someone and introducing myself was similar to asking if I wanted to run around the school naked. Absolutely not!!! As a teenager we long to be accepted, I thought rejection was inevitable and this stopped me from stepping outside my comfort zone to say “hello” to someone new.
I wish I could go back and tell my thirteen-year-old self ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ and ‘Whether you like it or not everyone in this room has the same insecurities and doubts that you do.’ But unfortunately like a lot of lessons in life, you have to go through the experience yourself, and sometimes fail a few times before you get it right. I have no doubt that I was told that exact advice from my parents but you have to go through the shit and make it out the other side in order to look back, reflect and see what you have learned and what you would do differently next time.
However, if I am going to offer any bits of practical advice for making friends it would be this,
- Remember that 10 seconds of courage from my first blog post. Sometimes all you need is ten seconds of blind courage and go talk to something new.
- Take a deep breath, calm your nerves and remember all you need to do is say hello.
- Don’t judge people too quickly, first impressions can sometimes be wrong. Sometimes your best friends are the people who on day one, you thought ‘we will never get along!’
- Fake it till you make it, I have plenty on experience here. Go into a new situation with a smile on your face, even though you might be dying inside. A smile will immediately boost your mood and you’ll become more approachable. After a while, that smile will be the real thing, and you’ll be wondering what you were worried about in the first place, I promise.
But while tips and tricks are important, remember these points;
- It’s okay if you find making friends difficult. Sometimes we can stress and worry so much about us not being able to do something, that it stops us from remembering what’s important, and the original goal can get lost.
- Sometimes you need to step back and look how far you’ve come. If you have done something like start a new school or a new job, look how much you have overcome by walking in the very first day and saying hello to one person. Give yourself some credit and a pat on the back for making it this far.
- Friendships, like all relationships can be a rollercoaster. There will be ups and there will be downs, you just have to remember that every situation allows for something new to be learned.
- Nearly every person who enters your life will teach you a lesson, either about yourself, the person you want to be, or the relationships you want to have with others. I am grateful for every friend that has walked into my life.
- Some friends are for a season, some are for a reason and very few are for life. In my experience, the best friends you have come into your life when you least expect it and when you need them most!
How I’m Copen: 7/10
‘A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself’ – Jim Morrison