Monday, October 8, 2018

Monday Motivation: If You Want a Friend, Be a Friend

Image by: Nagi Usano
When I permanently migrated to the United States from the Philippines, I knew one of the biggest challenges I'll face is making new friends. And it wasn't about replacing my long time friends back home, but rather the clarity that I will continue to need, perhaps more than ever, the energy that can only be given by female bonding. I was a newly-married, newly-transplanted adult and I knew my sanity and yes, to a certain degree, even my happiness depended on it. I needed new friends to hang out with so I can unwind; friends I can vent to and who would understand and not judge; just simply someone I can relate to, trust, and feel comfortable with, other than my husband and family. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that the task ahead demanded a lot of patience and humility. I can't even tell you how many times I thought of quitting and convinced myself that I didn't need friends. But I knew it was a facade, a lie. Sure I was okay. I was functional. But I knew something was missing and it was that energy that one can only get from being with your kind, your tribe. I'm an introvert, and for me to say that I have that need says a lot. It's not about having a big group, but just to have a handful of people I can really talk to, be silly with and still be accepted, even loved.  

Finding new friends as a married adult takes a lot of work. First you need the humility to admit that you need friends. Without that step, nothing will jolt you enough to push you to make any effort. And it does take some effort. You have to want it to get it. And to want it means you need to be a friend. You need to allow yourself to open up bit by bit. You need to make time, carve out time to spend with others so that you get to know them better, otherwise you'll always be stuck with making excuses not to put yourself out there. I get that parenthood is a challenge and maybe sometimes it's easier to convince ourselves that our children need us so bad that we really can't find time for ourselves and (potential) friends. If you find yourself thinking that, then just be honest that you are making excuses. Been there done that. I know it. But when I looked at my situation honestly, I knew it was just that I didn't want it badly enough which led me to my default lame excuses. 

Don't ever delude yourself that you don't need friends. Science has shown that having friends (real, not virtual), social connections and support, positively influence both mental and heart health. 

An interesting article from The Atlantic likened loneliness to hunger. John Cacioppo, a University of Chicago psychologist and author, said that the lonelier one gets, the more likely you are to interpret social situations negatively. He noted that lonely people's brains tend to spend more time searching for signs of social threat. Just as evolutionarily, humans are wired to be more sensitive to bitter tastes when they are hungry because 'bitter' translates to 'possibly poison', lonely people tend to more easily interpret social cues as negative. They find it safer to detect 'foe' instead of 'friend', for self-preservation reasons. No matter how hungry you are, it's better to stay away from, or spit out, what might possibly be poison (heightened sensitivity to 'bitter'), than take a chance and keep engaging ('chewing'). As such, their isolation ends up begetting even more isolation. 

Any human connection is a risk. But don't allow yourself to get to the point of extreme hunger because it will only further heighten your sensitivities and possibly give you even more excuses to stay in your shell. Open yourself a little while the appetite is there. You have to want it to take that first step and keep moving forward. You can't expect people to want to be around you when you don't seem open enough. You can't expect trust when you aren't willing to trust.
A handshake only happens when both people are willing to extend and open their hands. 


You cant stay in your corner of the Forest 

waiting for others to come to you. 

You have to go to them sometimes.

---Winnie-the-Pooh


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