How The Hell Do You Make Friends as an Adult?

As we get older, our priorities change.

Hitting three bars on a Friday night isn’t appealing anymore. Hell, hitting one bar on a Friday night isn’t all that fun anymore.

Inching into our very late 20s (shoutout to the 27–29 club), our focus is on family, career and leading a healthy lifestyle. Among our growing businesses and careers, perhaps our newfound motherhood and wife statuses, and choice to spend $150 on workout classes rather than on a new pair of jeans, where does a social life come in, and how do we go about sustaining one?

While we’re doing a good job setting goals of achieving optimal work/life balance and spending our hard-earned cash on organic produce instead of fireball shots, it feels like there’s something missing.

For a lot of career and family-focused millennials, that something missing is friends.

Even those of us who do have a good friend base, they are often spread out all over the country, making an after-work cocktail or shopping trip together quite impossible. And for those of us moving to new cities? The concept of making friends from scratch seems comparable to acing a Calculus test without studying…when you’re an Art major.

In an age where social connection (real, live, in-person connection, not social media exchanges) is so important to our well-being, why are we afraid of pursuing it?

Time to Address Our Friendship Insecurity

We tend to gravitate toward the things we know will provide us comfort. This doesn’t just apply to friendship — It applies to everything from finding comfort in the foods we know taste good, the outfits that make us look good, and of course the people who make us feel good.

If we are the adventurers we portray ourselves to be, having no problem taking career, travel and outfit risks, why can’t we take potential friend risks?

In a recent conversation with my own friend about feeling friendless, I quickly saw a parallel to the millennial mindset on entrepreneurship — Those of us obsessed with the entrepreneur title know that being the sole one responsible for our career happiness is both difficult and rewarding — the same as acquiring a quality circle of people, better known as friends.

If we want friends as bad as we want to be successful, shouldn’t we be approaching it the same way?

I think yes.

Everything great in life (as we are so often reminded by our parents and Inc. articles) is acquired from “putting in the time” and “earning our keep.” Thus, the concept of making friends as an adult shouldn’t be any different. If we want friends, we need to go out and get them. Friends, just like success, aren’t going to come looking for us. We have to go after what we want, whether that’s a Range Rover or a fellow human companion.

When we’re at our cycling class, do we attempt to initiate contact by complimenting the girl riding next us, “Love your purple leggings; where did you get them?” hoping it will lead to an actual conversation?

Do we nod and smile at the akin toddler mom at the park in hopes she will walk over and ask to borrow some children’s sunblock?

No. We clam up. We overanalyze what the other person will say back and what they will think of some random person approaching them. We fear rejection of not fitting in the same way we fear rejection of failing with work.

The culprit of so many life situations is fear. Fear paralyzes us and makes us believe we don’t deserve a lot of money or good people in our lives who support us and celebrate us.

Maybe the problem is that we’re relying on other people to solve our friendship insecurity problem. Maybe the problem is we’re not doing anything but making up excuses as to why we wouldn’t get along with this person or that person, the same way we make up excuses to not being able to start our own businesses, blaming it on bad timing, insufficient funds and the relentless pressure to be “cool.”

I think, in order to get over our fear of making new friends, we need to get over ourselves, stop thinking we’re too good to welcome new people into our lives, and mussy up the courage to say, “Hey, I know we don’t know each other that well, but I wanted to see if you wanted to grab lunch later this week.”

I haven’t even done this yet, and I’m already feeling the euphoric effects of the blossoming of a new friendship.

The time to make new friends isn’t when you get a new job, move to a new city or experience some other life change. The time to make new friends is right now. Put your (real or invisible) friendship bracelet on for good luck, and go out there and make some friends!

Thanks for reading!

Life is better when we laugh. I write about the importance of mental health & believe our weirdness is what makes us great.