Of all the tough parts of adulthood, finding friends who really get me has turned out to be one of the toughest. When I was a kid, I expected going to work and paying my own bills to be the hard parts. As it turns out, forming lasting, interesting relationships with other grownups who feel like your people feels like way more work than any actual job I’ve ever had.
It’s not that I don’t have any friends. I do. I have a close handful of girlfriends, some of whom I’ve known since childhood. I’ve picked some of them up since I became a mom. We get together as often as we can, and we support each other through the big life moments. When our kids were small, we were all stay-at-home moms and had tons of time to get together.
But our lives have changed, and for some of us, the changes have been drastic. Over the last few years, some of us have gone from married to single, some of us have added lots of new babies, while others’ “babies” have grown into teenagers. Every one of us has either started a new job or seen a huge explosion of career success.
It’s not that we don’t still love each other as much as we always have, but we just don’t have the time we used to have. It was easier to stay connected when we could hang out on a Tuesday afternoon or grab lunch on the spur of the moment. Our babies are kids in school now, and every one of us is busy with their activities. Life has changed. We can’t be everything to one another like we could when our kids were younger.
Some of my friends have found other circles where they feel like they belong. They moved into close-knit neighborhoods, got involved with their kids’ schools, joined especially social workplaces, or even rekindled old friendships that predate our mom days.
That just hasn’t happened for me. I homeschool my kids, we aren’t currently attending church, I work from home, and my extended family lives thousands of miles away. I’m not sure where you find your people when you just don’t see that many new people regularly.
It would be great for my little family to have a bigger circle to rely on, relate to, and enjoy. But I am finding it difficult to make that happen.
Minneapolis-based writer, writing teacher, and advice columnist, Nina Badzin, recently tackled the subject of finding your people in her friendship advice column. Her reader, who signed her letter “Feeling Not Good Enough,” wrote that she felt connected to a group of friends when her daughter was in early elementary school, but as the kids approach middle school, these people have stopped feeling like her family’s people. She’s noticed that they seem to have “grouped off,” and in the process, her family was left out. Even though her own sister is part of the group, Feeling Not Good Enough struggles to feel anything but awkward and uncomfortable now when she tries to socialize with her old friends.
She asked Badzin for advice on how to “not struggle with feeling ‘not good enough’ to be included,” and “find the energy to start all over again with trying to find new friends who are a better fit” for her family.
When I first read this question, I was eager to see Badzin’s response. The idea of hunting for friends to expand my circle and provide more social opportunities for my kids is exhausting to me, too. I don’t always know where to start looking for my people or if the effort will be worth it.
And let’s be honest. It can be kind of scary! Approaching new people can be a lot of emotional work for some of us. Social rejection is really uncomfortable. When you’re trying to find whole families to mesh with your whole family, the dynamics can be overwhelming. It can be hard not to pin the difficulty on yourself, wondering if you are fundamentally not worth the effort a new friendship takes.
Badzin’s advice included this gem that resonated with me immediately. It was so simple, yet so brilliant.
“Some people have to work harder to find their people. Instead of feeling like something is wrong with you, I’d love for you to see this as more of a factual situation. Fact: For [some people], it’s easy to make friends; for others, it takes longer. Period. No emotion. No negative self-talk. Just facts.”
Isn’t that freeing? It makes me feel better to give myself that grace. I love the idea that if you’re having trouble creating a close circle from scratch, it isn’t a reflection of your likability. It’s just harder for some of us to make friends, and that’s okay.
As for my kids, I have to remind myself that it’s not my job to make sure they have friends. They have many years of school and activities ahead of them. They will make their own friends along the way. It’s my job to provide opportunities for them to meet other kids, but I think it’s time to take the pressure off myself when it comes to their friendships. My parents friends didn’t have children my age, but I was never lonely. I have to try to remember that for my own kids.
As life goes on, I will find more people who feel like my people. I don’t know where or when yet. Life has a funny way of bringing people into your life, even if you weren’t looking. Somewhere out there, my future soul sister is thinking she could use another friend or two, too. Maybe our kids will find their way onto the same soccer team, or we will wander into the same nail salon. Maybe we will sit next to each other at a church service. If I’m lucky, she will move into the house next door.
I don’t know how my circle will grow yet. I know it won’t happen all at once, because it’s not that easy for me, and that’s okay.
Finding your people is just hard for some of us. If you are finding yourself in a season where your circle of friends seems small, you’re not alone. Fight the urge to make comparisons and tell yourself that it’s okay for this process to take time. The people who you’re going to meet don’t know how amazing you are yet, but you’re worth the wait.