Let’s be honest: Making new friends during a pandemic is hard. Nevertheless, I have noticed I’ve been following a strange pattern for a few months. I am afraid to put myself out there again and reach out to people. I don’t know how to contact the acquaintances I met before and tell them I’d like to hang out with them. I’ve been in a rut, isolating myself when I didn’t have to.
I have been avoiding contact with others, even virtual ones. Did I choose the easy option and take the pandemic as an excuse? Maybe. On the other hand, I felt lonely and I blamed myself and thought nobody liked me. I found myself back into this strange mindset you have in school where you desperately want to be accepted by your peers. Was I even trying to make friends, though? Not really. I wondered why it has been complicated to make friends in this new place when I was used to making friends easily when I moved around during my college years. Yes, I was younger then and at university, so I guess it made it simpler. When you move into the adult world and workplace, people you meet tend to have their own inner circle, therefore I found myself asking, “Well, they don’t need a new friend, do they?”
I found myself thinking I wasn’t good enough, not interesting enough. The language barrier was also an excuse. I blamed myself for my lack of vocabulary or if I stumbled on words when speaking; I felt stupid for not being able to make them laugh. In response to these silly questionings, I shut myself down and buried myself into work and activities I could do by myself. I did it despite feeling a void within me and getting lower self-esteem as the months passed by.
The thing is — now I understand it — everyone needs a friend and everybody is different, therefore you bring something new to the table when hanging out with new people. We all need a new friend, someone who you thought of as an acquaintance but will become a good friend over time. All you have to do is be yourself. It’s easier said than done, but here’s how:
1. Remember your values. You are worth knowing.
2. Know yourself enough so you can share parts of yourself and your likes/dislikes more easily.
3. Listen more than talk.
4. Smile and laugh easily.
5. Breathe and take your time to speak. Stay positive with your words.
6. Have a little drink—it helps the nerves (when you’re out).
7. Ask questions.
8. Understand you won’t be able to talk all the time, so learn to be a great listener without feeling like a useless ghost.
9. Making friends takes time and effort. Play your part and don’t be afraid to bother people. Maybe they were waiting for you to reach out and have a chance to get to know you and they thought you were busy.
10. Some people will like you and some won’t. You cannot please everyone, but acting antisocial when you actually adore spending time with others won’t help. Get out of your comfort zone and call them.
The last realization I had not long ago is that it is rare to keep friends from childhood. It’s the fake truth movies make you believe in. The real truth is you can have friends from different periods of your life and that is enough. We change, we evolve, and it makes sense our inner circle develops with us. I believe one of the purposes of our lives is to become the best version of ourselves and do good things. The truth is, some people are ready to change and adapt, but some aren’t. They won’t understand your moves, your new drive, or ambitions. That’s all right. You’ll meet new people who will understand you. The more you’ll accept the fact that your circle of friends changes with who you are becoming, the better you’ll feel about losing old ones. What’s the point of having people who don’t understand you, anyway?
I have also been realizing that I have been afraid of rejection and disappointment when it comes to letting new people into my life. When you still carry the scars of your past emotional trauma, you tend to push people away in the hope you’ll avoid being burned again. In the end, you avoid the burn, but you also prevent yourself from living amazing moments with new people. What if they’re good people and they understand you? Don’t let your past and people who were unable to understand you prevent you from sharing your best moments with great, emotionally intelligent people. Give them a chance. Give yourself a chance to experience unexpected great moments.
Be unapologetically yourself and keep your pretty smile. People are drawn to happy people. Share your story in bits, show who you are, stay genuine, and let the magic happen.