If you can’t seem to make friends and wish you’d find your “people” or “community,” you’re far from alone. Making new connections as an adult is a daunting and overwhelming process that none of us wish we had to go through.
Yet here we are, trying to figure out how to make friends as adults.
After college, it took me years to make a new friend. And by “friend,” I mean someone I feel comfortable enough with to text a picture of a burned recipe I tried off of TikTok. To me, a friend shares pieces of themselves and allows me to do the same without any judgment (because, yes, I tend to overdo it with the GIFs and reel shares).
Yet, as simple as that definition is, it’s been the biggest challenge to make friends.
Probably the biggest challenge of my life, if I’m being honest. Not only did I walk out of college without friends or a “community,” but I didn’t instantly connect with anyone at any of my jobs. I had colleagues I liked talking to, but we never moved into that “GIF zone.”
So why is it so hard for many of us to make friends as adults or find a “community” to be part of?
Moving several times internationally definitely played a role in my struggle and my way of being - which leans more towards social outcast than anything else. My idea of fun in college was to write papers, dissect American literature, and play tennis 3 hours a day.
But, in general, looking at the broader perspective, it’s difficult because of the following reasons:
1. Social opportunities have dried up
Unlike childhood, where social opportunities are abundant and easy to come by (tag anyone?!), being an adult has challenges that make it harder to connect with others. Even as a social anxiety coach who makes my schedule, I still find myself strapped for time, priorities to attend to, and finite energy to give (especially if I don’t know what the return is on exerting that energy).
Busy schedules, shifting priorities, and limited social opportunities can leave us feeling isolated and disconnected from others.
2. Not everyone we meet will be our cup of tea
As we age, we become more aware of our values, preferences, and interests. We know what we want to spend time on (puzzling!) and what we don’t (partying!). Naturally, that means we’ll be pickier about who we let into our lives.
After all, if we have one hour a week to dedicate to socializing, we won’t use it with people we have zero in common with.
3. More set in our ways
Due to our busy lives that, for some reason, are becoming busier by the year, it’s no surprise that we (as a collective) haven’t taken the time to address certain mental health issues or toxic habits. If you were insecure as a teenager and struggled with confidence in early adulthood, that might be following you around.
Not trying to change our habits, putting ourselves out there, and challenging our beliefs makes it harder to be open and vulnerable with others (key factors in making friends).
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom! Making friends as an adult can be challenging, but it's not impossible.
Here are 3 tips to help you make friends as an adult:
1. Broaden the definition of “community”
I used to think that community was being friends with all my neighbors, dropping in and out announcing, and traveling together. Boy, did I have to rethink that! These days, there are all types of communities you can build.
Have you ever considered having an online community? Some of my best relationships are virtual. The beauty of that is you get to choose who you want to connect with. And online, it’s so much easier and faster to figure out whether the person you’re talking to is someone you want to be friends with. Should you want, you can always move the friendship offline.
You can find friends on so many platforms depending on what you’re passionate about. I made friends through Pinterest, Instagram, and personal websites. The options are endless!
2. Be proactive in your search for friends
Yes, you have to be ok with social rejection, but chances are you’ll benefit more than you lose. Take the initiative to contact someone and let them know why they impacted you. Maybe you loved a poem they shared online, or they’re going up the ranks on a Discord channel; whatever the case, let them know you see them.
Sitting around and waiting for a friendship to blossom is a poor strategy. Go ahead and attend social events in your community, join an online book club, or attend a yoga retreat (if that’s what you’re into).
3. Practice being vulnerable
Opening up to others and sharing your authentic self can be scary, but it’s a necessary part of forming deep connections. Allow yourself to be vulnerable; it will make it easier for you to make friends as an adult.
As a kid, all you needed to connect on were the type of Pokemon cards you had. As an adult, it’s a bit tricker than that. Giving little pieces of yourself away shows someone you’re willing to put in the time and effort it takes to deepen a relationship. Sometimes, it’s goodwill that wins the day.
The last unofficial tip I’ll add here is to be patient. Forming friendships takes time and effort, so don't get discouraged if you don't see immediate results. Keep putting yourself out there and trust that the right people will come into your life when the time is right.
You’re probably thinking: “I’ve done all of that, and I still can’t make friends. Maybe there’s just something wrong with me”.
That’s a very valid feeling, and sometimes it will feel like that, even though you know that the reason why it didn’t work out with someone was because of some type of mismatch between you. What I do want you to remember is that even with your best intentions and efforts, some friendships may never materialize.
Accept that you will feel the lack of connection but that it does not reflect your worth as a person.
Making friends as an adult is HARD work, so make sure you practice self-compassion and focus on the positive aspects of your life, such as your career, family, and personal achievements for example.