Making and keeping friends and spending time with friends is by far one of the best investments you can make to improve your health. As I wrote in a previous blog post titled 8 Ways to Improve Your Health and Look Younger: “Loneliness and social isolation increase premature death by up to 50% making it a bigger threat than obesity according to two meta-analyses from Brigham Young University.” The bottom line is this – you can do many things to improve your health, but making friends and spending time with friends is one of the best things that you can do that is proven (assuming you have good friends) to make a difference in your longevity and health.
I want to start with defining friends. There are rock-solid good friends, acquaintance friends, Facebook friends, BFF’s, Besties, work friends, neighbor friends, church friends, and so on. What really makes a good friend? Someone where there is reciprocal caring. Someone who is as good to you as you are to them. It is NOT the person who rejoices in your hardship. It is not someone who puts you down. It is someone who lifts you up, hopefully makes you laugh – and you them, and someone who makes you feel loved and supported. Anything else is not a friend. And you might have friends in your life currently that are not so great to you. That would be helpful and powerful to recognize. You deserve to have friends. You deserve to have good friends who appreciate and support you – and you them.
Life presents many circumstances where you have to make new friends. You go off to college, get a new job, move to a new city or town, get married or divorced, or become a widow or widower. Life offers many situations where making new friends is simply what there is to do. If you are open and willing to take risks, you can make friends in the most unlikely places or with the most seemingly unlikely people. I met Susan over 26 years ago. She and I were both having work done on our cars at the Good Year store in Whitehall, PA. We were both single and close in age. So I approached her about if she would ever want to go out and have a drink sometime. I was relatively new to the area and had broken up with the boyfriend who was the reason for my move. I gave her my card. I think she was laughing and thinking – who is this crazy woman. We eventually did meet up for drinks and laughed ourselves silly. Together we eventually built a posse stitching together strangers we met along the way and had many fun times. We are still friends and still make each other laugh!
Susan and I back in the day out and about having fun!
Helen was my neighbor before I built my house. She seemed very nice although she was about 48 years older than I was. Who could have predicted that she and I would become friends? Well, we did become friends and kept in touch even after I built my house. I was there for her first ever surprise party for when she turned 80! She said often to me that everyone should have friends that are significantly younger because once you get to be her age all your friends pass away. When I ultimately moved out of state, we kept in touch by phone calls and letters. She was a sweetheart and we would laugh together like crazy. She passed away at age 101 with us having been friends for 23 lovely years. You never know who you COULD become friends with if you are not open to it.
Helen and I out having fun back in the day.
Why is it so hard to make friends? What’s really the obstacle in making new friends? My assessment and opinion is that what holds us back from making new friends is the fear of judgement, fear of being assessed as not good enough, and other anxieties that stem from fear of rejection. Yes, some people will reject you. So what? I have mentioned in prior blog posts that we need to love our imperfections. We need to LOVE ourselves. If you are comfortable in your own skin and with yourself – making friends becomes a whole lot easier. Until you get to the point where you can authentically love yourself and love your imperfections, making friends is a pure act of courage and bravery. It takes being authentic. It takes being willing to put yourself out there. It takes being willing to fail or be rejected.
Most people I know could use a few more good friends. Maybe that’s not you, but I know that most people could. The worst thing that could happen by taking an action or several actions to make new friends is that people might think you are weird or strange. Who cares? You want to have a rich and powerful life. You want to have a life that YOU LOVE. You want to have a life that inspires you! You have to stop caring at some point about what other people think about you. You have to get to the point where you are clear about what your intentions are and you are acting upon those intentions. It is living life intentionally. Maybe making more friends could be one of your goals or intentions for the coming year.
Maybe you not giving a flying hill of beans about what other people think of you would be a breakthrough of gigantic proportions. I just don’t know. I know that making friends is powerful and not that hard if you are willing to give up your fears of being judged and assessed. And the benefits are clearly worth it.
Before I get into the ways to make new friends I should probably be a little forthcoming. According to the Malcolm Gladwell book “The Tipping Point”, I am probably the kind of person that he calls a “connector”. I connect with people, often at a very deep and personal level. Beyond that, I have been since the 7th or 8th grade the kind of person who doesn’t give a bleep about what people think of me. You would understand that fully if you knew that in the 7th or 8th grade I wore my headgear to junior high school – the kind that goes over the back of your head and around the sides of your face – to school. During the day! Yes, I knew that the other kids might make fun of me – and I didn’t care. Good for me.
That’s not most people. What it might take you to make new friends assuming you are even committed to that is starting to care about your life and your happiness MORE than you care about what other people think of you. People have made fun of me for most of my life for different things. And I simply don’t care. I know what it takes to have a wonderful life even in very dark times and that it what matters. Be brave. Be courageous. Do whatever it takes to put yourself out there and make new friends. I promise you that it will be worth it. Yes, you might get rejected. And you can deal with that.
The following list is a compilation of the various ways that I have made friends over the years. They work. They are not an overnight fix. This is not something that will happen just because you go to an event, volunteer, or take one specific action. It takes intention. And for the record, I did not help to start a chapter of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority in order to make friends although that was a byproduct of helping to charter the chapter. I did, however, start two different Toastmasters International Gavel Clubs in two different states to help my children make friends. Just do something with intentionality.
Antique wooden sign from my Great Aunt’s Estate Sale – Love this!
This is a very important topic and I hope that what I have written has given you pause to think about the friends you have in your life and hopefully the inspiration to go out and make more friends as needed. The more work you do on yourself, growth and development as I call it, the easier it will become to make new friends. The more work you do on yourself, the less you will care what other people think about you and quite frankly what other people say about you. You will be clear about what you are committed to in life and how your life is going to go.
I want you to have an amazing and spectacular LIFE that YOU LOVE. Having friends is part of that in my opinion. I just can’t image a life without people to share it with. The love. The laughter. The good times. The bad times. Life is meant for sharing and friends are part of that. Now, what is holding you back from making more friends? How can I support you in making new friends? Please let me know!
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