If you're looking to make new friends as an adult, it can be a daunting prospect. And if you are in a friendship rut, it can feel extra stressful. You may have feelings of shame and rejection before you even start and may not be able to put your best and most authentic self forward.
But here are some sobering facts — research has indicated that loneliness can have similar adverse health outcomes to smoking, such as cardiovascular disease. Cue the phrase "loneliness is the new smoking."
A 20-year study by the University of Queensland also showed the importance of meaningful relationships in our lives. They found that women with the lowest relationship satisfaction scores had the highest odds of developing multiple chronic diseases.
So, even if you have a large social circle, it's the quality of those connections that really matter. If those relationships lack depth, you may still experience social isolation, leading to anxiety and depression.
And it almost goes without saying — quality friendships improve our physical health, help us build better habits, motivate us, increase our self-esteem, provide encouragement and help us live more meaningfully.
We spoke with personal development and leadership coach Rema Lolas of Mind Matrix to provide tips to help you overcome your friendship-making fears and build your confidence to foster new connections.
What are some common reasons why people resist making new friends as adults?
Having negative experiences in the past, like being bullied or having friends betray us, can make people reluctant to form new friendships.
Or, sometimes, people think they are different and worry they might not be accepted as they are or need to be something they are not.
Further, people might feel uncomfortable in their own skin and care a lot about what others think. If so, they likely fear being rejected.
These can often create anxiety and resistance to making new friends.
If people do want new friends but are hesitant, what can they do?
If you want to make new friends but feel uncertain or anxious about it, the first step is identifying what is causing that fear. Then, tune in to understand the root of the fear and what story or belief you may be telling yourself that's fueling that fear.
Then reflect on whether this is a legitimate fear? Or have you overgeneralised? For example, you may think, "No one is trustworthy", or "Everyone will bully me?"
Consider if this is a fear you might be unconsciously holding onto that doesn't impact you any more.
By doing this activity, you can better understand what's driving your fears and explore the underlying beliefs or assumptions contributing to your fear.
When it comes to putting yourself out there to make new friends, what are some tips to overcome self-doubt?
To overcome negative thinking, focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong.
Imagine the best possible outcome, and make it as enjoyable as possible to motivate yourself to take action. Then, write down a list of good reasons why this outcome would be beneficial, and let it outweigh your fear.
Start with small steps, especially if you feel uncomfortable, and remember that not all new connections will feel right immediately or even at all. It's important to keep in mind that others are often afraid of new relationships, too, so you are not alone.
After taking a small step, be sure to celebrate your success and keep practising. By doing so, you will gradually build new connections and gain confidence in yourself.