Monday, July 15, 2024

Why You Don’t Need Many Friends to Be Happy

Why You Don’t Need Many Friends to Be Happy


“Introversion—along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” ~Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’ll be honest, I don’t have many friends.

And it’s something I’ve always felt a level of shame about.

In fact, I recognize it’s a self-limiting belief I’ve been carrying around since secondary school: I don’t make friends easily or have a big circle; therefore, I’m unworthy or there’s something wrong with me.

That’s not to say I’ve never had friends. I’ve had friends from childhood I’ve drifted apart from. I’ve had my share of intense, toxic friendships. And I’ve even had a few healthy friendships that withered and eventually died because I didn’t nurture them enough (incidentally, this is probably why I can’t keep houseplants alive, either…).

In all seriousness, is it okay not to have many friends? Does that make me ‘less than’? And just what is a ‘healthy’ number of friends, anyway?

Understanding the Traditional Tropes Around Friendship

Let’s be clear here—I’m not denying that friendships can have wonderful benefits.

Friends provide emotional support, create a sense of belonging, and allow us to build meaningful connections through shared experiences.

In studies of the Blue Zones—regions where people live the longest and healthiest lives—friendships are often highlighted as one of the main factors contributing to longevity.

On the flip side, the experience of loneliness or social isolation has been linked with a higher risk of early mortality.

Human beings are a social species. Historically, the survival of our ancestors relied on forming close-knit social groups. If you became an outcast from the tribe, you were highly likely to die. So, in many respects, the need for friendships and social acceptance is hardwired into our DNA.

While I don’t think that anyone can exist in a vacuum, it strikes me as important to note that you’re not going to die anymore if you don’t belong to a group. Just like having children used to be an inevitable part of life, forming friendships is now something we have more of a luxury of choice over in a 21st-century world.

The Moment That Hit Me

“Have you got a lot of friends?” Steve Bartlett asks out of the blue.

“No,” Molly-Mae Hague looks uncomfortable. “That’s a blunt question! Straight up, no, no, I don’t. My circle is minuscule… And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I work, I spend time with my boyfriend, and I go to bed. That is literally my life… I don’t really drink, I don’t party, I don’t go out, but that’s because I actually don’t enjoy it.”

“So you don’t actively want more friends?”

“No,” Molly-Mae asserts more confidently. “It’s time-consuming, trying to make people happy… I’d rather focus on the things that are going to elevate me.”

“I ask that question in part,” Steve says, “because every successful person I’ve sat here with doesn’t have a lot of friends.”

If I’m being truthful, I was unfairly judgmental going into this episode of Diary of a CEO. I can’t say I was expecting to get many pearls of life wisdom from a former Love Island contestant.

But I think that’s why this was such a lightbulb moment for me—because Molly-Mae strikes me as exactly the type of popular girl in school who would have had a huge, tight-knit friendship group.

For years, I’ve berated myself for just not trying hard enough when it came to making and keeping friends. Even my family and partner have commented on it before. It’s made me feel like there’s something wrong with me for not wanting or needing friends as a strong presence in my life.

But perhaps the issue was never my lack of friends, but rather my belief that it was a problem in the first place.

7 Reasons Why You Don’t Need Loads of Friends to Be Happy

1. Being introverted is a superpower.

I’d always seen my introversion as a deficiency.

Why was I not like other girls who wanted to get ready for a night out together and paint the town red?

In true rock’n’roll style, I’d much rather be snuggled up in my PJs with a book and a cup of tea at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night.

But when I strip all the layers back, I see that it’s simply a matter of valuing different things. And just because it looks different, doesn’t mean it’s not valid.

While introverts may not have the loudest voices in the room, we are gifted with vibrant inner worlds. Our natural disposition toward self-reflection, creativity, and deep thinking are remarkable strengths worth celebrating.

2. You get clear on what you truly want.

When you spend time with other people, you’re like a sponge. The psychological concept of mirroring is testament to this—an unconscious tendency to mimic the gestures, mannerisms, and expressions of those around us to establish rapport and empathy.

There is also an unavoidable level of compromise in friendships where you can’t help but go with the flow (unless you love the exact same things).

Fewer friendships, on the other hand, mean less social pressure to conform to expectations or engage in activities that don’t align with your values or interests. This enables you to better understand who you are, what you value, and what you want out of life.

This singlemindedness is probably why Steve Bartlett sees a strong correlation between ‘success’ and fewer friends.

3. Popularity doesn’t equal self-worth.

The idea that I could use my perceived popularity as a barometer for my self-worth is something I’d subconsciously internalized for years. But it should go without saying that there is no link here. You are not defined by social status or external validation.

I’d also point out that it’s so easy to fall victim to comparison. In the past, I was particularly sensitive to social media portrayals of people with the ‘perfect’ group of friends.

But remember that Instagram is a highly edited version of someone else’s life. Most people don’t have as many friends as they’d like you to think they do.

4. You are whole and complete.

First and foremost, your number one relationship in life is with yourself. People come and go, but the one constant you can always rely on is you.

I’ve been through some of the hardest times on my own. Maybe I’d have found it easier leaning on friends for support. But, in many ways, I think I only found out how strong I was by understanding that I could get through things alone.

In this sense, loneliness can be transformational. Relying on yourself to be your own best friend encourages independence, self-reliance, and insane personal growth.

5. You don’t indulge in toxic tendencies.

When I was younger, I wanted more than anything to be liked and accepted, so I inevitably ended up trying way too hard. I’d go along with what other people said and did because I was so desperate for their approval. And in the process, I completely eroded my own sense of self.

I recognize countless times where I’ve lacked boundaries, entertained drama, or gossiped and bitched about other people, despite deep down hating how it made me feel.

Instead of clinging to toxic friendships for fear of being alone, you are 100% better off without these people in your life. Integrity and authenticity are worth so much more.

6. Family can be your support system.

I recognize that not everyone is blessed with a strong support network, but it’s worth pointing out that close-knit familial relationships can often provide a foundation of love and trust, especially among siblings.

Alternatively, we may find much of the emotional security we need in our significant other.

The unwavering presence of family or a life partner can be reassuring. Having a space where you feel heard, can be unapologetically yourself, and aren’t required to make small talk provides a haven where you can regroup and recharge at the end of a long day.

7. Quality is more important than quantity.

When it comes to friendships, the old saying “quality over quantity” holds true.

Investing in a handful of genuine, supportive friends is far more fulfilling than having lots of superficial acquaintances. If you’ve ever felt intensely alone in a room full of people, you’ll know exactly what I mean by this.

As humans, we crave deep, meaningful connections that create a safe space for vulnerability and allow us to be our true selves. So, when our circle is too broad, we risk spreading ourselves too thin and diluting the quality of our relationships.

All relationships require work and commitment, so make sure you’re investing in those which genuinely add value to your life.

Embracing the Power of Introversion 

For those of us striving to live more intentionally, it can be difficult to identify where there is genuine room for improvement and where we simply need more self-acceptance. And in this area, it was a case of reframing my perspective to come to peace.

So, for all the guilt-ridden introverts out there, I want you to know that it’s okay if you find yourself going through life without many friends. So long as you feel happy and fulfilled in yourself, you don’t need to try harder to be someone you’re not.

Who knows, perhaps I’ve simply not found my tribe yet. Ironically, now that I’m not clinging or wishing things were different, I may allow more of the right people into my life.

But you know what?  I’m perfectly content either way.





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