You know when you meet someone and after they introduce themselves, you’re halfway through the conversation when you realize you completely forgot their name? Though embarrassing to admit, this happens to many of us when meeting new people. Our minds are racing with taking in new information that we forget to actually LISTEN. And often our brains are clouded by comparison. “Is she prettier/thinner/smarter/funnier/kinder/more successful than me?” When we ask these questions of ourselves we make no room for asking questions that lead to genuine connection.
In reality, these thoughts typically occur subconsciously, we may not even realize we’re doing it, and can feel like a human instinct to “sum ourselves up” in comparison to the person in front of us – where do I have a “leg up” and where do I “fall short?” In some ways it could be coming from a protective instinct to keep yourself closed off and safe. But over time a lack of vulnerability or honesty means a lack of authentic connection. In short, comparison gets in the way of true connection.
Now with social media it’s all too easy to compare ourselves to people we sometimes have never even met in real life! We compare clothes, bodies, relationships and lifestyles but the cards are stacked against us as we compare our own messy reality to someone else’s highlight reel. With the image-based aspect of apps like Instagram (and filters galore!) our bodies become a natural focal point for comparison. And with influencers promoting their workout routines and “What I Eat in a Day” videos users are left thinking “if I just eat and move the same as them, my body will look like theirs.” NOT TRUE! Body diversity means all of our bodies will naturally look different, and change within our lifetimes, which is a BEAUTIFUL thing. Imagine how boring the world would be if we all looked exactly the same?
Ultimately, asking yourself how a person “stacks up” in relation to you furthers you from actually getting to know the person and listening to them! If you strip away the judgments that come from comparison and insecurity, what you find may surprise you – a potential friend! And the importance of adult friendships cannot be overstated, with research indicating that friendships and connection are pivotal to emotional well-being and overall happiness.
But even if you recognize the value of friendships and are actively seeking ones, it can be hard (really hard!) to make friends as an adult. In part this is because our society doesn’t prioritize friendship-making after college and mainly centers romantic and familial relationships over friendship. But friendship is an incredibly unique bond – it’s a relationship we actively choose (unlike family) and it doesn’t really have a formal structure (unlike romantic partners). So don’t write off the power of friendship and the ability for connection to improve your mental health!
If you’re feeling stuck in making friends, try this practice:
- Reflect. What do you value? What sparks joy for you? What are some of your favorite activities? In taking time to reflect on what matters to you, you can better identify what may be priorities for you in terms of what you’re looking for out of a potential friend!
- Participate. Based on the values and priorities you came up with in your reflection, seek out opportunities to meet similar people! This can look like joining a intramural kickball league, going to a gallery opening, volunteering at a local shelter, joining a virtual book club. For instance, if you’ve moved to a new city, let your existing friends know that you’re on the search for more local friends and leverage the network of people that already know you best to find other potential friends! It’s all about getting actively involved in what YOU like to do and through that meeting others that value the same activities or perspectives.
- Keep going. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t make an “instant best friend” after setting the intention and taking the actions to do so. Relationships take work and you may have to be persistent in showing up and building the connections you have with people until it forms into an honest, true friendship.
Through it all don’t forget that you are worthy. It’s not about the quantity of friends you have but the depth of each connection – the honesty and vulnerability you’re able to share with others and let them share with you. Making friends is hard enough without applying a “me vs. them” comparison mindset to everyone you meet. Give yourself, and others, a little grace and keep your ears and mind open to the possibilities in the people around you.