I dedicated a year to making friends and these are the 10 lessons I learned:
Lesson 1: No one was coming to save me
I was newly single, moved back in with my parents and had no plan for my future. I was plagued with anxiety, I was nowhere near where I wanted to be at 27 and I quickly realised no one was coming to save me. My self-confidence, friendships and life goals were rock bottom, but I had no one to blame other than myself because I had let others dictate these things. It’s so easy to blame others, but I had to take responsibility for myself and my decisions. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing loneliness. Not a miss someone, bit bored, not sure what to do with myself loneliness, I’m talking a spiral of darkness that felt impossible to get out of. After a week of despair, I immediately knew the thing I needed to do was repair, build and make new friendships. I had the choice to mope around feeling lonely or go and do something about it, I obviously chose the latter.
Lesson 2: I had to learn how to spend time alone happily
Maybe not the most obvious way of making friends, but I knew I needed time by myself re-learning who I am, what I stand for and what makes me happy. On the first day of my friend project I went for a day out by myself. I didn’t enjoy it, my anxiety was through the roof and seeing groups of people enjoying themselves left me feeling even lonelier. But equally so it was empowering AF and gave me a boost of self-confidence that I can do this. I knew if I could get through that day alone I could get through this friend project. Since that day I happily take myself for meals, days out, trips and love it.
Lesson 3: I had to be my own best friend first
Spending time alone is not easy. My inner voice was full of toxic reminders of why I should hate myself, why no one would want to be friends with me and that I didn’t deserve anyone to care about me. This isn’t a sob story, this is what happens when you don’t look after your mental health. After years spent drowning out my inner voice with material shit that’s meant to make you happy, I realised none of that stuff ever did. No amount of pleasing someone else, doing what others think you should do or ignoring your dreams will EVER make you happy.
Lesson 4: There’s a huge difference between being alone and lonely
Weekends were the absolute worst; I even wrote this blog post. My friends have families now. They weren’t interested in dinners, cocktails and dancing. They had different priorities now. All I wanted to do was all of those things and not doing them made my loneliness worse. I realised that actually loneliness is just a cloud of personal insecurities. Spending time alone didn’t make me less worthy that any one else. If I could learn to enjoy it, my feeling of disappointment would be demolished. I would be unlocking personal potential of never having to rely on anyone else for anything.
In April I struggled with loneliness on Sundays
Lesson 5: Friendship doesn’t come from desperation
Being happy alone eliminates the desperation to have friends. I could finally create my own vibe to attract my tribe. This was a fresh start to let go of the friends who left me feeling negative and unworthy; not waste time and energy on people that didn’t meet my standards and aim to be friends with people that I thought were too good for me because they were so inspirational. I learned I needed to be the friend that I wanted.
Lesson 6: My vibe really did attract my tribe
I worked endlessly on creating a comfortable environment to hang out in my mind, overriding the inner voice with productive thoughts and growing into the person I was meant to be. I made the choice to get back to me…the confident, fun-loving, happy af (with a hint of anxiety) person that all my real friends knew… and it worked, well actually I faked it to begin with! But I loved feeling like me again, so very quickly I was back to the go-to advice giver, positivity loving and ever over-dramatic Gemma. This is when the magic happened. Opportunities flooded in, old friends wanted to hang out and new friends were appearing everywhere. In every meaning of the words I was the living example that your vibe actually does attract your tribe.
Lesson 7: Friend breakups are the norm
Ironically I have never had as many friend breakups as I have had doing my friend project. It empowered me to know my worth. Sometimes the most toxic people in life are disguised as family and friends. When I set my standards I realised there were a lot of people that didn’t meet them. Equally so, at the rapid rate of self growth I was going through I was outgrowing people very quickly too. To ‘normal’ people this might sound pretentious, but to a girl who was sorting her fucking life out once and for all, whilst reaching for the stars, this was absolutely essential.
Lesson 8: Friendships change ALL the time and they’re meant to
Who even came up with that best friends forever BS? (seriously it needs to be banned!) Friendships change all the time. Life events have a massive impact on friendships that again, no one talks about. Seeing my friends go through marriage and having children has had a massive impact on our friendships. It’s different now, but I have grown to love it. It’s difficult when a friendship changes not through your own choice. Our friendships have grown along with us as individuals and that is the true test for any friendship’s longevity.
Lesson 9: Friendship doesn’t cure loneliness it just helps
I am so incredibly grateful for the journey I have been through to achieve my friend circle of the most amazing, inspirational and supportive women. No matter where my life takes me next, I will always make friendships a priority. My biggest lesson from My Friend Project is that loneliness is cured within. I still have temporary feelings of loneliness, but I now realise it’s at a normal level. On the final day I didn’t celebrate with all the wonderful friends I have made, instead I disconnected from everybody and enjoyed time by myself anxiety & loneliness FREE!
The last day of My Friend Project… not relying on anyone or anything else to make ME happy.
Lesson 10: Curing loneliness and helping people make friends is my gift
My younger one-year ago self needed me now. Growth comes from pain and I have now found my gift that I was destined to realise and share with the world.
Since starting My Friend Project, I now know my purpose on earth is to cure loneliness and help others make friends. When I think back to the sheer despair I felt at the start of this friend project I get overwhelmed. Daily I was living in darkness, I was lost and my thoughts were toxic AF. I was alone, I was exhausted of fighting and considered if my life was even worth living.
But as soon as I started my friend project, I realised I wasn’t alone in feeling lonely… AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW THIS. Even my friends with seemingly everything; great jobs, lovely houses, Pinterest worthy weddings, husbands, babies etc were still feeling lonely. Ironically we all experience loneliness but no one likes to talk about it. No one wants to swallow their pride, sound like a loser, admit they have no real friends or be judged, well fuck that!! I decided loud and proud to be the girl that admitted she felt lonely, that temporary feelings of loneliness are normal and that we ALL have, do or will feel lonely as some point in our lives.
What happened? People agreed, people opened up, people told me things they ‘haven’t even told people they’ve been friends with for years’ and my biggest breakthrough was that my own friends started texting me ‘I feel lonely today’. Lonely is an emotion just like feeling happy, inspired, excited, sad, angry, annoyed… let’s just add it to the list and make it normal.
I started this blog to document my journey but I knew my message was way more important that that. This whole experience was so much more than me making some friends. I genuinely found something I am so passionate about and it doesn’t end here.
Roll the credits…
Thank you to the bullies, toxic friends, bosses & ex’s.
Thank you to Nixon for teaching me lessons no human ever could & that I could survive alone.
Thank you to my family for taking me back, years after ‘flying the nest’.
Thank you to the tiny part of me that always kept fighting, even when the rest of me was done.
Thank you to the temporary friends I made and lost, teaching me lessons along the way.
Thank you to my ‘old’ friends that consistently work with me to build and keep our friendships thriving no matter what life shit we are facing.
Thank you to my friend circle that are the most amazing cheerleaders.
Thank you to everyone that has supported How to make friends that has since been recognised in newspapers, magazines, radio and won a UK Blog Award.
Thank you to you for reading this far. No matter where you are on your personal or friendship journey – you’ve totally got this and I’m here for you.
The funny thing is…. this Friend Project taught me that friendships don’t settle, aren’t guaranteed and don’t happen by magic. My life will always be one ongoing Friend Project.
My own friend project changed my life and now I’m ready to help you do the same. The process of changing my life, overhauling my friendships and re-inventing myself was really lonely at times. That is why I decided to create a long term mentoring programme, so I can be here for you every step of the way.