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Being alone to make friends

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09/07/2011

Rachel Bertsche photo 2 

Last Friday, through the cloud of my sinus-y, phlegmy sickness-from-hell, I mentioned that I recently had a bit of a making friends aha moment.

Well, the clouds have parted, I can finally breathe through my noise and swallow without wincing, so I’m focused and ready to discuss.

Gretchen Rubin, in her Secrets of Adulthood, says that “the opposite of a great truth is also true.” (As it turns out, she borrowed this from physicist Niels Bohr, but let us not pretend that I am caught up on the work of physicists. In fact, I opted out of physics in high school.) Examples, for Rubin, include: “Control and mastery are key elements of happiness; so are novelty and challenge;” “The days are long, but the years are short;” “Happiness doesn’t always make me feel happier.”

I’ve always loved these truthful contradictions, because I believe in this “secret” wholeheartedly. I’ve gotten in many a tiff with my husband where he will say, “You’re contradicting yourself!” and I’ll say, “But I’m telling the truth!” It may not be logical, but it’s real.

When it comes to friend-making here’s my revelatory discovery, two truisms that contradict: “To make friends, you must be okay with being alone.”

Did I just blow your mind?

There are many reasons why this is true. First, back when I wasn’t as comfortable being alone, I often stayed in because I didn’t have anyone to go out with. So instead of going out, exploring, and talking to new people, I’d stay at home, peruse Facebook, and watch Friday Night Lights (R.I.P Riggins). As you can imagine, this exercise in TV watching didn’t bring me any new BFFs.

Also, when I wasn’t as cozy in the world of solo adventuring, I would see a sign for a class or an activity–say, a dance class or a flash mob–and I’d think: That looks like fun, I wish I had a friend to do it with. Now, my thought process has flipped. The new reaction to a posting for said class or flash mob is: That looks like fun. Maybe I’ll make a friend when I do it. See the difference? The first is restrictive–since I didn’t have a friend, I didn’t do it. The second offers possibility–do it anyway, and maybe (bonus!) make a new pal.

People often think they want friends because they hate being alone, when really you should want friends because you love company. There’s a difference. People who fear time with themselves, and thus find company in the arms of The Kardashians or even a good book (and I’m not knocking either one), will likely find themselves alone for far longer than those who embrace the solo lifestyle. Aside from the reasons above, people who are comfortable with themselves and don’t need a companion for every little thing, exude a confidence that attracts new friends. The opposite attitude can potentially project a neediness that turns others off. Something to think about…

Do you agree with this friend-making contradiction? Have you found that the more comfy you are by yourself, the easier it is to meet potential BFFs? Do you have another friend-making Secrets of Adulthood you are ready to share?

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