Learning how to make (authentic) friends

I remember being a teenager and having this breakthrough realisation that if I was just really nice to everyone then they would have to like me and be my friend! Genius!

I was obviously a lonely teenager, with very few friends. I didn’t know who I was, or who I wanted to be.

I surrounded myself with books, and doped myself with sugar. Anything to avoid the reality of life around me.

My genius idea felt foolproof — be super friendly, and helpful, and nice, and then everyone will either like me or they at least can’t be mean to me — the ultimate sickeningly sweet offence/defence!

It took me years to realise that this strategy was not only ineffective (people can smell inauthenticity, and a need for approval just stinks!), but it was also exhausting! Being all things to all people is not only difficult, it’s downright impossible!

I now try to trust my gut instinct when it comes to people, and choose who I spend time with — who are the “good eggs” that are worth my investment. I also try to be myself. My fully wholehearted self. One that practices shame resilience and courage, compassion and connection with others.

It’s not easy making friends — even as an adult it’s still a daunting prospect, especially if you’ve been hurt in the past. But when you are being your best self — the kind of friend you would like to have — rather than a saccharine-sweet imitation of a friend, then I’ve found that people are drawn to you. They seek you out and offer you affirmation, even when you don’t seek it — almost definitely when you didn’t expect it.

The smell of authenticity is just as strong as inauthenticity, but its fragrance is so much sweeter.