As adults, it seems the older we get, we find we have few friends or we find it’s difficult to meet new people and expand our network. Life changes, career changes, moves, relationships, and different life phases also bring shifts in our friends and social circles.
Maybe you find that you’re shy, or that our modern busy lifestyle and lack of social context to meet new people isn’t there like college or high school, but sometimes it can leave you feeling isolated.
Truly, there is no single reason why it may be difficult to make new friends and meet people as an adult.
Then I came across this cartoon and it seemed to resonate with many of the stories I hear:
Artwork copyright © Brian Gordon
Why did it seem easier when we were kids?
Although many people find it hard to create a deep and meaningful friendship in adulthood, it’s not so hard if you know what to do.
Consistency – When we were kids, there was school, band practice or sports. There was a consistent schedule where we would have the opportunity to meet others. As adults, there isn’t much life consistency outside of the work place. One way to expand your network to is take advantage of the social situations you’re current in. Invite co-workers or gym buddies to spend time outside of the work or gym environment. Happy hour or lunch is a great way to expand and build a friendship.
Be Vulnerable – Vulnerability is the key to emotional bonding, without which relationships tend to feel superficial. Children are put in situations where they naturally feel vulnerable, like after school dance classes or even school itself. Being in vulnerable situations make people feel needy and provide the opportunity for others to provide comfort or support and build bonds.
Make Yourself Available – Smile and say hello to everyone you meet. Everyone. Just this simple act will help you move away from any social shyness you may have and actually make you approachable. It may seem a little uncomfortable at first, but this will help you build confidence in yourself. The fact is everyone likes to be acknowledged. So, why not be the first to say hello?
Meetup.com – This is a great platform to meet others with similar interests. Attending a meetup event requires little effort except to show up!
Take classes or workshops – much like meetup you’ll meet others with similar interests but you’ll also expand your mind and skills. A pottery, yoga, or painting class can be fun and relaxing. It’s a win-win option.
Remember to have patience.
It takes time to become familiar with networking, talking to strangers, and breaking out of your routine to make room for new people in your life.
It especially takes time for new people to transition into buddies then friends. If someone isn’t ready to meet or hangout, don’t take it personally – just let it go. You don’t know what’s happening in someone’s world, especially when you don’t know him or her very well. Don’t let it discourage you.
Be brave, be yourself, and remember: there are lots of new and awesome people out there waiting for you to join them!
We’re going to talk about Loneliness.
I’m not going to give you a top 10 list of ways to meet people. You can find that all over the Internet and frankly, it won’t really help and will probably just piss you off because, I know that’s how I’d feel.
We’re going to go a little deeper.
This is especially poignant because I’m writing this while living in the Pacific Northwest, specifically Seattle, Washington, which is nationally known for the “Seattle Freeze”. A good way to describe this “freeze” is that most folks that move here find it immensely difficult to make meaningful friendships or truly experience anything beyond surface pleasantries. People here are nice enough, but emotionally and socially distant. Another way to phrase it is: “You’re welcome onto the porch, but never in the house.” Thus “lonely” is a word often heard and an experience often felt.
When I initially moved out here to the Pacific Northwest, I was a resident in a local Buddhist Monastery. While living there, I had a close confident in an 86-year-old nun whom also was originally from the East Coast. She told me the reason people move out here to Seattle is to heal. There’s something about all the water and remoteness that draws those who are suffering.
Her point of suffering is where we’re going to start addressing loneliness.
Being lonely can mean not feeling part of the world despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.
This is Internal Loneliness, which is different than the sort of environmental loneliness brought on by something like a relationship suddenly ending or a recent move to a new location. It’s important to understand the difference because it goes so much deeper.
Internal loneliness is a deeper more prolonged sense of loneliness. The causes usually come from within ourselves.
This deep sense of loneliness can happen for a number of reasons:
• Low self-confidence
• Seeing yourself as less or unimportant
• But most importantly, a deep sense of loneliness may stem from childhood, and could be linked with feeling unloved or cared for as a child.
That’s a lot to take in, as this requires you to look back over your life and the length and breath of this loneliness and feelings of exclusion. This requires courage, so take a deep breath and give yourself a lot of patience.
If you’re looking back and seeing a long pattern of loneliness, it very well may be the result of childhood abandonment, and thus you abandoning yourself. (Remember to breathe)
Childhood abandonment results from:
• The loss of one or both parents to death or divorce
• Physical/sexual abuse
• Withheld nurturing, affecting or stimulation
• Or even a parent whom had an alcohol or drug addiction or mental health condition.
Children are totally dependent on caretakers to provide safety and basic needs. When this isn’t provided, the grow up believing the world is not a safe place, that people cannot be trusted, and that they do not deserve positive attention and proper care.
When we are children, we have no other experience of the world and this being the first experience, it becomes the baseline or standard for everything else.
As an adult this can manifest as:
• Feelings of insecurity & mistrust
• Anxiety & Isolation
• Inability to commit or follow through
A common adult symptom of abandonment issues, is finding yourself in unhealthy relationships that reinforce negative beliefs, even though you’re looking for love & acceptance.
Does this sound familiar?
What does one do?
First it’s important to understand that this isn’t your fault! It is by no way an indictment of your innate goodness or value.
But it does take time, hard work, and patience to separate fears from the past from the reality of the present.
These feelings of loneliness and abandonment can seem overwhelming, but they can be managed and overcome.
• Explore ways to care for yourself
• Develop a way to ground and center yourself when feeling fears arise
• Communicate needs
• Have appropriate boundaries
• Build a sense of trust
My friends, you all deserve love and happiness.
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