When you were a child, it’s likely you naturally engaged in social situations whether it was at school, playing sports, going to summer camp, or playing with other kids in the neighborhood. You might remember walking right up to other kids and immediately bonding without much effort.
As an adult, you might notice there are fewer organic opportunities for socialization and feel making close friends in adulthood seems more difficult and complex than during childhood. You might also feel socially anxious in a way you don’t remember experiencing as a child. There are reasons making friends as an adult can feel challenging and tips you can employ if seeking out friendships is a goal for yourself.
Why is it Difficult Making Friends as an Adult?
If you’ve struggled to make friends in adulthood, please know you are not alone. Let’s face it – making friends and socializing as a busy adult can be difficult and even anxiety-inducing for some. It’s important to know that there are very real factors that contribute to difficulty around seeking and maintaining adult friendships that typically aren’t present or as hindering in childhood.
For example, when you were in high school, you likely had a lot of time on your hands to socialize. Think about your schedule as an adult. You likely work during the week and maybe even on the weekends. When you get home from a long day at work, you might be exhausted and gravitate towards making or ordering food and turning on the tv to unwind for the rest of the evening.
When you’re not working, you might have hobbies to attend to, school, volunteer work, romantic relationships, exercise, visiting family, laundry, and other household chores piling up. There simply are not enough hours in the day to tend to every responsibility and then always have the physical and emotional energy to connect with people.
It’s also common for adults who suffer from social anxiety to struggle with making friends. Research shows that about 7% of American adults experience social anxiety disorder. Those with social anxiety can experience fear around being in social situations or socializing with others. People who suffer from social anxiety can really struggle with thoughts that they are being judged, fears that they will embarrass themselves, and persistent thoughts that everyone around them can sense how anxious they are.
Anxiety unfortunately keeps people in their head instead of the present moment, making it difficult to connect and enjoy themselves when socializing.
Tips for Making Friends as an Adult
Join Groups Around Your Interests
No matter what you are interested in, there is likely a group of people who share similar interests and hobbies. If you like exercise and nature, there is likely a group that organizes hikes or outdoor events. If you are a voracious reader, there are book clubs you can join either online or in person. If you want to learn how to cook, many cities offer cooking classes that are in a group setting.
Spending time with people who share your interests can serve as a perfect icebreaker as you likely will have so much to discuss. It’s even an opportunity to develop a circle of friends if everyone decides to attend group meetings together and socialize outside of the group.
Seek Out Networking Events
Networking events are great because they can serve two purposes – meeting people and also making connections that can lead to career opportunities. Attending a networking event or utilizing social networking can be especially helpful if you recently moved to a new city and don’t know anyone. Socializing with people who can potentially help you grow your career and being able to connect beyond work-related topics can be an avenue to find people you enjoy spending time with.
Work with a Therapist to Push Through Social Anxiety
There is no shame in needing to ask for help from a therapist if you are struggling to make friends and it’s impacting your mental health. Therapists can help with any anxieties and negative thoughts that might be bouncing through your head during social situations. If you struggle with imposter syndrome and worry people you interact with don’t really like you, that is also something that can be beneficial to explore during therapy.
Anxiety can be horrible to experience, but it does not make you any less worthy of friendship. Anxiety might make friend finding challenging, but a true friend will understand you, be sympathetic to your experiences, and not pass judgement.
Don’t Compare and Despair
Have you ever been scrolling through your social media feed and notice making mental note of how many friends people on your timeline seem to have? Social media has the ability to paint a very rosy picture of the best moments of people’s lives. It can be easy to look at other’s social circles and compare other’s lives to your own. It can make you feel like something is “wrong” with you if your life doesn’t compare to what you see on social media.
Comparing yourself to others can erode your self-esteem and make if even more difficult to put yourself out there to meet new people. When you notice you’re spiraling into negative thoughts about yourself when viewing social media, it can be helpful to log off and do something that feels like self-care. Others’ lives do not determine the validity or worthiness of your own and comparing yourself to others erode at your mental health.
Making friends can be challenging, but good friendships are such an important part of life. Human beings crave social connection with others, and friendship is one way to fulfil that need. That being said, you don’t need a million friends to feel connected. Friendship is about quality, not quantity. One or even a few good friends who you can trust, enjoy being around, and make you feel safe to be your authentic self is how you can feel connected and supported by others.