Hello everybody, welcome to episode 195 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is on making new friends at any age.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And we have a wonderful question for you today. Another one from someone who’s starting a brand new phase of life and looking for some direction. But certainly everyone arrives at transition points differently – with different history and heading different places. For our asker today, she’s wondering how to make friends, as she finds herself in middle age without many to speak of, and with a lifetime of drinking problems behind her. Let’s see what we can come out with to help her out and make this phase of her life a more social one, full of healthy friendships. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “How can I make friends at my age?
Background: I’m 49, unmarried, childless, have just given up drinking after 10 years of letting it keep me stagnant and putting on so much weight.
I work but have hardly any friends and this is because it didn’t matter so much when I was drinking to numb my evenings and weekends.
A confusing childhood was probably the precursor for my unfulfilled life but I now want to live. I’m losing weight and watching my money but cannot get the feeling of regret and running out of time to go away. I feel if I had more friends to do things with then I would feel like I'm moving forward.”
Our Relationship With Friends
All right! Great question, thank you ma’am. I’m a friendship addict – I put so much emphasis on hanging out with friends as much as possible. They’re so sick of me.
What a nice relationship it is that we have with friends; completely by choice, no blood, no contracts. I think it’s great that you’re looking to expand your network of friends. And I also think that you have less to worry about than you think – or at the worst, just something different to worry about.
Here’s what I’m seeing.
You’ve identified drinking as the reason that you didn’t meet friends before, saying that your motivation on weekends was to drink and numb the pain, which was a substitute for going out and being sociable. So to me, it’s not that you can’t make friends, but rather that you haven’t felt like doing so until now.
Since you’ve just given drinking up, you’re just now embarking on this path of making more friends, and therefore don’t have any legitimate ground to stand on if you think that you “can’t” make friends. Does that make sense?
It feels like you’re confusing the fact that you’ve not gone out and tried to make friends with your ability to actually do it. Based on how you’ve phrased your question, you’re just now giving yourself a chance to do it.
You CAN Make New Friends At Any Age
The fact is you can make friends of all ages. And even if you are more bent on making friends at your age (understandably), consider all the people around your age that are looking for a friend.
Not only are there people with generally happy lives with plenty of friends that are always willing to make more friends, but at your age, you also have new empty nesters, people who are losing their parents, early retirees, divorcees that have ended up on the wrong side of a midlife crisis.
Not only are these people that may be particularly interested in making friends, but they’re also people who, like you, are embarking on a brand new journey and likely sharing your concern about whether or not it’s too late for a fresh start.
These people are everywhere, and being exposed to them is not difficult. It’s simply a matter of taking part in activities that you enjoy and putting yourself out there.
You’ve got singles mixers you could attend, hobbies you could take up with others, work friends, neighbors, and of course the option to reach out to the few friends you do mention having. I’d also highly, highly recommend MeetUp.com; a fantastic website for finding fun things to do in your area with like-minded people.
Shame, Drinking, and Regrets
So if you can’t tell by now, I’m not concerned with your ability to make friends when it comes to exposure. If anything, I’m concerned about your feeling that you’re somehow unable to make friends, the shame you’ve accumulated from your childhood and time spent drinking, and your worries about regret and running low on time.
While meeting people isn’t a challenge, these kinds of thoughts could make it challenging to harvest relationships with those you do meet, as you’re at risk for not being present, not being able to enjoy others’ company, and not being able to be vulnerable and relax. I would address these feelings first if I were you – potentially with a therapist.
These feelings may not go away quickly, but have no fear. While you work on overcoming them as you transition into this new, healthy, yet unfamiliar phase of life, you can also leverage your troubles and use them to your advantage in your friend-making process.
Making New Friends at Groups
I mentioned a few outlets for making friends a moment ago, and those are general.
But based on what you’re currently going through, what if you were to join AA and meet people on that path with you?
What if you were to join Weight Watchers and meet people who are also working to lose weight?
What if you were to go to group therapy, where you can share your triumphs with others while also unpacking some of your troubles?
Friendships made at places like this might come a little easier, as you’ll see just how many people out there are fighting the same fight that you are and looking for a teammate to do it with, just like you are.
You have a whole smorgasbord of ways to make friends, both generally and specific to where you’re at right now. You have so many opportunities to me, that there’s still ample opportunity in spite of the pandemic.
I think the most important thing for you is to not let these stories you’re telling yourself get in the way. You’re starting something new, and you’ve got a whole lot of life left- a whole lot. Not to mention you’ve overcome a lot, and the lessons you’ve learned can inspire a lot of people.
I recommend setting goals towards getting out there and trying. Whether it’s signing up for a new activity every week, introducing yourself to x number of new people in your work or neighborhood ever week, initiating a safe hangout with one current friend each week, or anything in between.
Set small, reasonable goals towards this and use your finely-tuned sense of self-discipline to hold yourself accountable to taking action towards them.
To the woman who sent this in, I very much hope you were able to extract some answers and a new sense of confidence towards making more friends. Again, friends are everywhere. And you’ll likely find it easier and easier to develop relationships the more you practice simply being kind to strangers on the street, saying hello to people you pass in the hallways, and so on.
You’re likely psyching yourself out of trying, but the more action you take (in spite of not always having the motivation to do so), the more momentum you’ll build and the less reason you’ll have to shy away.
Thanks so much for being here today everyone and supporting not only the show, but more importantly, this asker on her journey. We’re going to wrap it up now, I’m wishing you a great start to your week and encouraging you to come back for the Wednesday show where we’ll look to help another listener out. Take care of yourselves, I’ll talk to you all then.