The Power of Female Friendships & Making Girl Friends as an Adult
“I tend to live in the grey area, a life-long learner”
If I were to describe my identity I would say I am proactive and honest. I am always ready to adapt and change….My family surname means ‘Always Ready’.
To see yourself through a friend’s lens is insightful for getting a true reflection, and growth. Some words and phrases that have been used to describe my identity in the recent past: kind, loyal, overreaching, oversharing, high expectations, overly organised, committed, prepared, control freak, guarded, multitasker.
Making friends as an adult I found can be difficult….Let me give this scenario:
It’s 3:15 pm and you’ve just turned the corner of the road that leads to the school, ready to collect your darling child from their day of learning fun. You’re early because you really hate the thought of being late and your little one standing in the playground searching for Mummy.
Even from the end of the road, you can see a gaggle of parents already gathered around the school gates, all of them even earlier than you. Some are in pairs, some are in small groups, a couple are alone.
You start to slow your pace. You look up at the trees shedding their autumn leaves and watch the cars moving slowly along the road beside you. Glancing towards the other parents by the gates, you try not to appear like you’re staring, yet also trying to work out from this distance who’s there already, who’s missing, who do you know, who do you even want to talk to, and who might dein to talk to you?
If you join a conversation, will they accept you in, will they ask you questions, and if they do will the questions come from a place of care towards you or simply out of politeness? Will it be a two-way conversation? Will they want to know about your affairs?
It feels like you’re standing in the playground all over again, aged thirteen, with Sammy talking to Juliet, and Rebecca A. not speaking to Rachel, while Roberta, Katherine, and Rebecca B. are all giggling at something everyone else is unaware of.
And you still don’t know exactly where you fit in. The question how making friends as an adult be easier? Is difficult to answer as you are up against other ladies’ inner child voices and assumptions.
These feelings can be the same for any similar scenario, office community, extended family, and social gatherings. Some of my best chats have been with strangers randomly in shops countless times, as there’s no pressure to give a good impression because you’ll probably never see that person again – I have had it finished by, it’s such a shame that women just don’t chat openly to other women like this. I, therefore, know that the need to talk to someone is there for so many, both men and women. I’m not the only person who doesn’t have siblings or a steady drip of family coming and going or calling.
While I do have amazing women I can turn to now, I can at times, day-to-day, still feel lonely. I still need to grow and connect with other empowering women for taming my inner child voice and celebrating the growing adult self! I get as much as giving and supporting others as I do feeling supported. This can be difficult when everyone is so busy with their own lives, as we all are so often these days.
My main issue is that, when someone asks me how my day was, I have a tendency to be too open and honest,– the happy Labrador who doesn’t hold back: an example recently at the school gates.
Other mum: How was your morning?
Me: It started off okay, I went for a run and did the food shop. But then I went for a spray tan and got so panicked in the booth that I nearly fainted, and the woman had to look after me until my husband came from work to get me and take me home, because I didn’t feel like I could drive, and he missed a really important meeting.
Other mum: Oh…right…
But what I found, over a couple of years, was that this kind of real-life honesty doesn’t go down all that well when it comes to a first shot at making friends as an adult. It’s too much for acquaintances to cope with.
Being honest about your day-to-day achievements doesn’t seem to cut it either:
Neighbour: How was your morning?
Me: Good, thanks. I went for a really great run. From home up to town, and back.
Neighbour: All the way to town? That’s about five miles each way!
Me: Six, actually. Thankfully, I wasn’t even tired afterward. And I beat my PB too.
Others can see wanting to be excited about something I’ve achieved as bragging. Not correct etiquette either, apparently. One must temper one’s achievements in order to seem ‘normal’. However, sometimes when we ask how someone’s day was, we are just being polite, making small talk, and we really can’t deal with anything more than an ‘oh, fine, thank you.’ This brings the question, are most friendships surface level only?
Making friends as an adult becomes like dating all over again.
Trying to work out who wants to hang out, and whom I want to hang out with. A bit of eye contact, a coy smile, a little wave. Then there’s the fear-uncertainty-and-doubt syndrome that follows if, the next day, your chosen person isn’t talking to you but to someone else. People change, and friendships change, and sometimes we can’t talk to the ones we’ve known for our entire lives because they’re just too close to the situation. It’s a roller coaster.
Social media has its benefits and for me still is a friend or foe debate.
Is it a reaction to the pressures of virtual ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? Or is it a cathartic exercise that allows one to store memories that are good for the future soul? Users have two lives: one that they portray online; the other that is the hard, cold reality behind the phone screen.
And that’s exactly what I’m seeing – and feeling. Although I’m not a social-media sharer this has blocked me from one group of women straight away. Maybe honesty doesn’t matter online when you’re hidden away in your little social media bubble, but when you’re interacting face-to-face with people you see every single day then it’s a different story.
Without honesty, we can’t trust each other.
So how can we build meaningful relationships with one another? How can we fulfil that most basic human instinct of feeling accepted by our ‘tribe’ (by which I mean, the people we see most often)? This takes time and not being afraid to be open. Hold your head up high and keep challenging that inner child voice.
I am still learning to accept that some assumptions I can’t control and it’s the other women’s insecurities, not mine. I will be honest, it does not sit well with me knowing I can’t fix someone’s perception but our time is precious in not needing negativity or jealousy.
Looking back, my move eight years ago has been a real journey of tears, lost friendships, expectations, and harsh learning, at times. There have been varying levels of how much others are willing to bring in a new person to a fold once they already have their established friendship groups. I have been lucky to have built a core group of wonderful women who I have met in different places – from the school gates, yes, but also randomly from shops or cafés, planes, and poolside –all women who have helped me grow as a person and mother, unconditionally and without judgment.
So, why aren’t we making it easier on ourselves? Why all this façade? Why aren’t we allowing ourselves to have open and honest conversations with each other? Can’t making friends as an adult be easier?
Perhaps these are reflections of our own days at school or are we being open to that level of friendship. For me, certainly, I felt constant expectations that pulled on my school-day anxieties. At work, we’re faced with the same people day in, day out, for eight or more hours at a time. At least at the school gates, we can walk away after mere minutes, go home to our families.
I have learned from my mistakes and funny conversations. Yet I do still wish that more chat openness could happen, as this is my daily ‘podcast’ and we should be talking more about life.
When you meet me nowadays, you will either meet the energetic Type A ‘let’s-get-things-done’ GIGI, or the much more relaxed Type B ‘did-you-know-crystals-can-heal’ GIGI. I am both of these people and give part of that over and that is the answer for me and am ready to adapt and change. I don’t know if this is correct to only show a percentage because it seems to me that there can be a happy medium if society can see past labelling people.
I’ve often asked myself whether two fifteen-minute chats at the gates, or in the break room, each day can be grounding for a true friendship. But it’s all we often have in this busy modern world. So surely that makes these time-limited interactions even more important for creating connections – a chance to chat openly, to seek help and support, to sound out advice from others; all things that are intrinsic to a woman’s emotional growth.
So I will finish with a few questions to ponder:
- Where do you find yourself making friends as an adult?
- How do you grow a friendship as an adult?
- How do you assess yourself, and do you celebrate what you find?
Words by GIGI