Billy No Mates
A theme that runs through my therapy room is the lack of human connection and the isolation people often feel. If you work alone like me then you may have to work even harder to forge the connections with others. If you have also got a history of abuse or neglect (yes that’s me too) it can be a challenge to navigate relationships.
How we feel about ourselves and other people may also affect our ability to connect to others. Some people find it easy to connect whilst others (including me) will have to work really hard at it. Relationships are complex, and not all are healthy, so it’s good to look at what you want and what you are getting; understanding yourself is the first step in getting what you need out of your relationships. Setting appropriate boundaries is important, as is finding your voice, but just getting started can be a challenge.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs state that human beings need a sense of belonging and some will get this through family but others will achieve this through friendships.
I keep telling my clients I should write a book on how to make friends but that’s an idea for another day, so lets write a blog and see how that works out.
Why do some people not have enough friends?
We will make friends in school, college, university, or maybe work, but we shed friends through the years. As friends have children, get new jobs, and move house, we may lose contact with them and some times people lose friends through divorce or separation too.
Some friendships last a lifetime and some reach their sell-by-date over weeks or years. There are a whole host of reasons why we lose friends, but do we replace the lost connections, or do we fail to notice our dwindling number of friends in the fast pace of life? We may need to add new friends to our lives as time goes by but I hear from my clients that it is harder as we get older.
What gets in the way?
Our own issues can get in the way of making friends if we have low self esteem, are shy, or have had poor experiences of people, we may have trust issues. I notice that a poor relationship with my mother and her inability to manage relationships meant that I had an subconscious belief that “people were trouble and you’re better off without them”. My mother’s insecurities became mine and I struggled; and avoided female relationships as a result. It’s not uncommon for females to find other females difficult to understand, it’s a pattern I have noticed. I have learnt through therapy and experience that the right women can be supportive and a positive influence in my life.
Do we block our own progress?
If we think we are not interesting, that we have not got much to offer, maybe we take ourselves off the friendship shelf without realising it. Often we feel lonely but feel ashamed about this and so won’t reach out, but the reality is that other people feel lonely too so reaching out and being brave could mean less loneliness. I find it frustrating to see all the lonely people out there who don’t seem able to just get together. Yes, people are a nightmare, but they are also very supportive and positive too, it’s finding the right ones for you, so you have to shop carefully.
A true story
A little story: I had no plans one Friday night and didn’t want to stay in, but I had no one to go out with. I spotted a tweet from someone on Twitter, who I had met a few times, saying that she was going to the pub. I was initially nervous, perhaps even fearful, to ask to join her but my alternative was a night in on my own with boring TV as hubs was away. But it was Friday, and Fridays for me are for going out! It took me a while, but I sent a tweet asking “Can I join you? Which pub are you going to?” She said “Of course, come along!” and sent me the details.
On the way there I worried whether I would look sad and desperate. What if I didn’t fit in with her group of friends or looked like a Billy No Mates?
Anyway, when I got there she was on her own. I asked where her friends were and she said “You’re here!” She had put the tweet out in the hope someone would join her and if not she would go on her own for a quick drink to get out of the house. Five minutes later someone else turned up who has also answered the tweet, he also came on his own. We had the best night; three people who were brave enough to put ourselves out there, who didn’t want to spend the evening in watching TV feeling lonely. We had some great conversations and went home feeling more connected.
The moral of the story is to be brave and reach out. The worst that can happen is someone says no, and that may hurt for a while, but they might just say yes and you may just have a good time!
The Catch 22
If we don’t have friends then we don’t go out as much or meet as many people and we don’t experience as much of the world, so the opportunity to make those friends and add new experiences becomes less. If you’re not confident going places on your own it can be a catch 22 waiting do to something or waiting for someone to do something with. If we can learn to do a little on our own we can change the waiting game to a feeling more connected and exploring more to.
Getting friendships started
Here are a few ideas on how you can get started finding and building new friendships:
- Take a course in something fun where you are around other people
- Take a browse on Meetup.com and join a group who undertake activities you are interested in
- Join a networking group, a book club, class or short workshop.
- Connect through sport – running clubs, rowing clubs, park runs
- Volunteer for a project to become part of a group or community
- Explore your existing connections, who have you not seen for while?
- Reach out on social media, but be careful about personal safety if meeting up
- Take up a charity physical challenge and train with others
- Look for “have a go” days to try new things; an activity provides a talking point
- Ask for more connection, tell your existing friends you’re looking for more things to do and can they invite you or forward any events they find to you.
- Get a coach or therapist if you struggle with social skills, confidence or ideas
If you need help with confidence or self esteem issues, or you want to explore and change your world to a more social one where you’re better connected, then give me a call. Everyone feels lonely sometimes but we can work on a social life and building better connections and relationships.
If you want some further reading to help in your challenge to make healthy relationships then I would like to suggest a book written by psychotherapist Lucy Beresford:
Happy Relationships at Home, Work & Play.