Having friends who love and support you through good and bad times can be one of the most uplifting things in life.
Friends are people who aren’t related to you by blood or interested in you romantically – they stay with you because they appreciate who you are.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t have friends at all – much less those they can rely on.
Despite our digitally connected age, many people struggle to find friends.
If you’re someone who feels like real friends are an elusive, endangered species, then read on.
Why Do You Need Friends?
In 2014, a survey conducted in the United Kingdom found that millions of people do not have even a single friend.
Researchers found that one in 10 people they asked said they did not have a close friend, while one in five felt unloved.
The study estimated that up to 4.7 million people in the UK were lonely and did not have a vital support system.
Why do people need friends? There are three key reasons why having friends is a “must” for so many of us:
1. Our bodies need affection.
There is one story about a hospital where a lot of the child patients were dying.
The doctors were confused as to the cause so they decided to keep the children safe from a potential infection.
Doctors ordered that the children be separated from one another and that their handling be kept to a minimum.
At this point, the problem grew worse and children began to die at much more alarming rates.
Eventually, they found that survival rates improved when the children were rocked, held, and allowed to interact with one another. The additional social contact helped save more lives.
Skin hunger is a type of an affliction that affects people who are deprived of affection. People who have less contact with others are less happy, more likely to suffer from depression or stress, and experience poorer health overall.
2. Friendship makes our brains feel good.
Positive social relationships like friendships ignites the areas of our brains that makes us feel good. When we spend time with real friends, the “love and bonding” neurochemical oxytocin is released, followed by the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Our levels of the stress hormone cortisol are also lessened.
These happy, anti-stress brain chemicals driven by friendships help extend our life expectancy and even lower the chances of heart disease.
3. Friendship helps us survive.
Part of the reason why our brains and bodies respond positively towards social bonds like friendship is because it was evolutionarily advantageous.
Otherwise, why should we invest time, energy, and resources in people we’re not related to?
There would have been a return on investment for our ancestors.
Having friends in a fight made it less likely for you to be fatally injured or you want to be friends with the person who knows where all the best areas to gather are.
A lot of ecological pressures made the earlier humans realize that bonding with more people outside your immediate family was a good thing – and they passed these traits to us.
Even now, we see similar examples of this in modern times. When we get sick while we’re far away from home, our friends can take care of us.
Having a friend in the room while you have to make a presentation will make you feel less nervous.
If we move to a new place, we immediately try to make friends because it makes the transition easier.
Having friends allows us to move in society and cope with the changes that come our way.
Common Myths and Misconceptions About Friendship
Although having friends is beneficial to human beings, there are a lot of barriers that make friendship challenging even for adults.
One of these barriers holding back people from forging new friendships is that they have false notions of what friendship is or how it should be done.
Myths and misconceptions twist friendship into something potential unhealthy for ourselves and for potential friends.
Before you begin to build friendships for yourself, here are a few wrong beliefs you should undo:
Myth #1: You absolutely have to hold on to your childhood friends.
People (rightfully) recognize stability as an important marker of a healthy friendship.
It’s difficult but rewarding to cultivate lifelong friendships with the people you’ve known since you were little.
However, people do change as they go through different life stages.
This means that even though you have childhood friends, you can’t cling onto them forever.
It’s a hard truth to accept that you and the people you grew up with may no longer fit each other. You develop interests and values different from theirs, which you need to accept as part of growth – even if it hurts. Letting go of unfulfilling friendships is much healthier for you in the long run.
Myth #2: You should have lots and lots of friends.
Maybe you already have a handful of friends you’ve built a good relationship with over the years, but you see other people inviting a ton of their friends to parties or special occasions.
There is no number of friends you should target. You need to know what is enough for you.
Friendship is very much a quality over quantity situation.
Even when you feel like nobody likes you, having just one close relationship you feel supported in and satisfied with can have a great impact on your overall well-being.
Myth #3: You should have a “best” friend.
When you’re little, the matter of having one and only best friend seems like a big deal. On the playground, children want to know their position or “label” in each other’s lives.
Growing up is a different matter because you are more preoccupied with whether or not the friendship is reciprocated at all.
You could think of someone as a close friend but they might only view you as a colleague or acquaintance.
This way, the idea of having a “best friend” doesn’t really work for adults anymore.
It’s also important to note that one person doesn’t have to meet all of our friendship needs.
We can have a work friend, a gym buddy, or a traveling partner – and it’s no less special than having just one person to do everything with.
Myth #4: You should be with your friends at all times.
One particularly dangerous myth about friendship is that you need to be together all the time.
People think having a friend is like having a sidekick: they are required to be next to you at all times and help you fight every battle.
However, this is a big mistake because you forget that you’re an individual.
Individuality helps us recognize that our friends do their own cool thing in their own time and they come back to share their experience with us.
This helps us appreciate who our friends are and give us space to live our own lives so we can bring something to the table too.
Myth #5: You need to drop everything to be a “good” friend.
Truth: Friends are people who choose to be there during good times and bad times.
False: Friends are people who have to be there for you all the time.
Everyone is living their own life which makes it unrealistic to expect that your friends will be there every time you call them.
It’s also wrong to think your friend is a “bad” friend if they couldn’t help you in your hour of need. Unless they abandon you maliciously, they probably have their own reasons.
This also means that their life is not your responsibility. If they are truly your friends, you can say no to them and it won’t harm the relationship.
You need to be a good friend to yourself first before you can be a good friend to others.
There is no need for you to sacrifice your own health and happiness to take care of others. Prioritizing yourself does not make you inconsiderate or selfish.
Roadblocks To Friendship: Reasons Why You May Not Have Close Friends
To solve a problem, you must first figure out the cause.
If you are someone who really wants to have close friends but doesn’t have them, then there may be a deeper explanation for that.
This list will look at the possible reasons why you might not be a popular choice of friend.
(Fair warning: you might not like hearing some of these reasons.)
1. You’re selfish
Ask yourself if you are taking more time, money, or attention than you’re willing to give to others.
If you are quick to ask for a favor but are slow to reciprocate it, then it’s not a big surprise that you don’t have friends.
Remember the rules of kindergarten: share, take turns, and be nice.
2. You look down on others
When you limit yourself to a certain “type” of people you are willing to associate yourself with, then you are unlikely to find a lot of people willing to hang out with you.
Ironically, your own snobbishness and condescension will drive away even the people you want to befriend.
3. You’re a bully
You don’t have to be beating someone up or yelling at them to be considered a bully.
If you’re emotionally tormenting others through insults, demeaning words, rumors, or manipulation, you would definitely have trouble convincing people you’re a potential lifelong friend.
4. You’re touchy about accomplishments
You could either be a jealous person or a braggart.
The difference is that jealous people are never happy when others achieve something, while braggarts only talk about their own achievements.
No one wants to be a friend to someone who can never be happy for them.
5. You’re inexperienced
It may surprise you to learn that making friends is considered a skill. It takes a lot of effort and practice to maintain friendships and be a good friend to others.
Thoughtfulness, loyalty, and excellent communication play an important role in any friendship.
6. You’re cold and aloof
Some people don’t try to make friends. Shy people, introverts, people who like being alone – if you look cold and unapproachable (even if you’re not), no one will be attracted to become your friend for fear of rejection.
You could be really fun to hang out with but this won’t be evident to people if you’re not willing to be vulnerable with others.
7. You’re a negative person
Complaining, whining, nagging, seeing only the worst in everything – these are classic signs of someone toxic and annoying.
When people are exposed to negative energy, they will run away as fast as possible to prevent their joy from being killed.
8. Your situation is difficult
It’s challenging to make friends if you have a disability, a mental health problem, or live in a remote area.
Certain situations put a strain on your friendships and it may be beyond your control.
9. You have poor communication skills
People love to befriend those who are interesting and can carry a conversation.
Being too quiet makes you look dull and boring while dominating conversations could be obnoxious and overbearing to others.
10. You have time management problems
Busy people who can never catch a break will have a hard time prioritizing friendships. You could have a lot of responsibilities that get in the way of making time for friends.
8 Tips on How To Make New Friends
Wanting to have friends is a wish many people have because finding genuine, loving friends and building up that relationship is hard.
For those of you who struggle to make friends or turn acquaintances into life-long buddies, here a couple of tips to help you out:
1. Ask people meaningful questions
Small talk is boring and drives people away – so why do that when you can ask a few personal questions to connect with someone on a deeper level?
The theory of reciprocal self-disclosure suggests that when people take turns to share information on an intimate level, you can quickly form bonds and learn to like each other even during your initial interaction.
The key here is listening intently and being open to judgment in turn. Deep, personal responses help develop closeness in friendship because you learn to get comfortable with that vulnerability.
2. Learn how to overcome shyness
Shyness stems from a fear of social criticism.
Shy people are afraid of the possibility that they get judged by someone so they choose to withdraw from people entirely.
However, this behavior tends to get misunderstood. Even if you have good intentions and are just trying to avoid rejection, people would think that you are rejecting them instead.
This negatively affects your image to the point that they actually reject you.
3. Reduce social anxiety by “playing a part”
Compare someone who walks into the room with a purpose versus someone who shuffles in awkwardly.
You would be attracted to the former rather than the latter. There is a secret you can use to become socially confident: define your role and your goal.
When you enter the room, allow yourself to play a role so you take away the focus from your own anxiety or awkwardness.
Sometimes, people need structure to bring out their social skills. It doesn’t mean you’re being a phony person.
Rather, you are playing up the parts of yourself that are socially desirable but authentic.
Maybe people say you’re great at giving compliments.
The next time you have the opportunity to interact with someone, bring up a genuine compliment so you can ease into a conversation.
It’s important to make the decision and become a sociable person.
4. Figure out the right questions to ask
Knowing how to ask questions can open doors towards friendship (or at least keep the conversation going).
If you’re talking to someone older or more experienced, you can freely ask for advice about something.
It could be as simple as “You’re in great shape! How do you do it?”
Not only do you open with a compliment, but you also set up an opportunity for further interaction – maybe they’ll invite you to work out with them.
Another trick you can use is to ask open-ended questions so you get more than a yes or no answer.
If possible, encourage people to talk about themselves.
Most people would be more than happy to tell you about their hobbies, career, family, or even pets.
Make sure you sound interested and respond when appropriate.
5. Practice good manners.
Good manners give others a good impression of you and a good impression is usually the backbone of many friendships.
Politeness, respect, gratitude, compliments, decent table manners, eye contact – these are the forms manners usually take.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being considered as a civil and cordial human being. It’s a step in the right direction.
6. Keep yourself up-to-date with what’s happening.
No one wants to befriend an ignorant person.
Current trends, news stories, and popular culture are topics that interest a lot of people.
It’s much better than making small talk about the weather.
By staying informed of what’s happening in the world, you can strike a conversation with almost anyone around the world.
7. Find your “conspecifics”
A “conspecific” is a scientific term that refers to a member of the same species. When making friends, it means looking for someone similar to parts of you.
If you’re a gamer, your conspecific would be other gamers. If you’re interested in arts and crafts, then you can make friends with other artsy, crafter people.
Remember, you’re not the only person in the world who likes what you like.
Chances are there are thousands of people who are already part of a community who share your interest, so go find them and meet up with them.
8. Accept invitations
Changing out of your pajamas on a Friday night is hard, but being lonely can be even harder.
Even when you’re tired or you think you’re going to be bored, just accept the invitation and go. You won’t meet anyone at all if you’re at home all the time.
How Can You Be Happy Without Having Friends Anyway
Social interactions are essential to our development. The need for social interactions arose out of the human desire to better understand the world we live in.
But you may be surprised to hear that friendship isn’t necessary for our survival or even our happiness.
Our relationships with other people are not required to meet a specific quality or intensity beyond basic connectedness.
Many individuals who suffer from certain conditions or have difficulty making and keeping friends tend to take a negative view about themselves because of society’s hyperfixation on cultivating friendships.
Constantly telling people that they need other people will (naturally) make them feel like they aren’t enough or complete on their own, even if other aspects of their life are okay.
The pressure to make friends disregards the fact that some people do better on their own or genuinely enjoy being by themselves.
And in reality, we’re all alone as we face our respective journeys in life.
What is necessary for human beings is being able to thrive even if we don’t have friends or partners to rely on. Here are some ways you can live a fulfilling, friendless life:
Seize new opportunities: You are free to do anything you want when you’re not waiting on someone to go along with you. Pursue higher education, travel, cultivate new experiences – life can be rich and unique when you give priority to your own needs and desires.
Stop comparing yourself to others: It’s hard to live a free and independent life when everything around you is telling you to join in and stuff your social calendar. Focus on what works for you.
Take yourself on a date: It sounds strange at first but you will come to appreciate your own company and your own thoughts. Catch a movie, treat yourself to a fancy dinner, or even hang out at a cafe for a change in scenery.
Keep yourself active: Exercise releases endorphins that will boost your brain’s happiness and prevent negative feelings from clouding your mind. Spend time on aerobics, yoga, sports, or other gym activities to maintain your good health and the flow of your energy.
Help others out: Being alone doesn’t mean cutting off other people entirely. There are hundreds of ways to make good use of your time in the service of others. Random acts of kindness or volunteering in your community can connect you to others and have enriching, quality time for yourself.
You Deserve To Be Happy
Whether or not you go through life as a social butterfly or contendly friendless, know that you have a right to enjoy yourself and be happy.
As long as you have something you passionately care about, you can definitely make the most out of your life.