How can I feel more confident socially and build close friendships?

Our Spill therapists share some tips on how to build confidence in social situations, recognise your value as a friend, and build closer relationships

I feel like I don't have any close friends. I have groups of friends that I see socially on occasion, but none I would consider "best friends". It makes me feel low in confidence, like I'm not fun enough or nice enough. What should I do?

First therapist's response

It might be that your doubt about your own value as a friend is the only thing that prevents people from getting closer to you.

When we hold doubts about our value and feel we may not be interesting to others we tend to give off that vibe. It isn’t something tangible but when we fear being rejected by others our boundaries tend to be higher making us somewhat unreachable.

We want to be close to people but our suspicion that they won’t want to be close to us makes us fearful of letting them too close and so we prevent the very situation that we most want.

In order to change this you need to suspend your self doubt.

You might fear that you are not “fun” or “nice” but I very much doubt that this is the case. If someone asks you about yourself do you tend to try as quickly as possible to turn the conversation back onto them? If so, this is an example of you not really letting people in.

What if you are actually someone people really would like to know better? You might be depriving them and yourself of the close friendships you’d really like.

Practice opening up a bit more. Be prepared to stand in the limelight and share your own thoughts and feelings.

Try connecting with friends with whom you discover shared interests and ask them if they’d like to do something together with you.

Join a new group or club that centres on an interest you have.

There are many ways to put yourself into a space where you are mixing with like minded people. These are your tribe but in order to get closer to them individually you will need to take a risk and open up more of yourself. I know that will probably feel scary.

My guess is that people want to know you better but experience difficulty finding the way to get in. Tell and show people who you really are without being hidden behind the unwarranted fear and I suspect you will find they come in more easily than you had imagined.

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Second therapist's response

I’m sorry to hear how you’re feeling. Us humans have an innate drive to connect with other humans and sometimes, our connections aren't very strong or they get disrupted. This experience can leave us feeling isolated or lonely, even when we’re surrounded by other people.  This feeling doesn’t sound very nice but listen to it because it’s possibly showing  you something that you’re in need of: connection.

I’m wondering if you are feeling:

Disconnected and in need of  more connections
Disconnected and in need of stronger connections
Connected enough but comparing your connections to other people’s so assuming you’re lacking

You are the expert in yourself and what you think you need. You could try a few different things and see what helps.

If you need more connections, who could you talk to or hang out with? Connections don’t need to be intimate and heavyweight – you don’t need to bare your soul. They can be lightweight and fun – such as smiling at the shopkeeper when you buy milk; doing a quiz with colleagues; watching a funny movie/playing sport/walking with another; baking something for another, joining a group/club. How can you create more connections in your world?

If you’re seeking a stronger connection, who would you like to see more of or become closer to? This is likely to be an already established friendship that you could strengthen or it could be a family member you’ve drifted from. Be active in asking them to get together and including them in things you’re doing. Message them or talk to them more. Good friendships are built on all the little bits that form the glue, rather than the big events in between. Or maybe you’re seeking a partner or intimate companion? Would you like to go on some dates? Or, if you’re in a relationship, does this need some attention at the moment to strengthen it?

Whatever is going on, I would invite you to explore it further with a therapist, if therapy is something you can access either through your work or privately. This is because you may already have what you need but not realise it because you are comparing it to how other people design their social systems. Don’t let how others connect reflect in any way on how you choose to and how you go through the world. Do what makes sense to you. There is no right or wrong way to create your connections. You don’t have to have a “best friend” to be loved and important. Therapy can also help you to build your self-esteem and confidence, as well as learn skills in building and maintaining friendships if you feel this would be helpful.

Let’s not forget that, for some of us, Covid really messed with our connections as we were unable to see people as we used to and at times not see anyone at all. This left us feeling very disconnected and things haven’t completely returned back to how they were. Connections are made by all the small interactions rather than just the formal meet and greets, and these are missing in our world still a little at the moment.

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Third therapist's response

You feel that you are not as close to others as you would like. This is making you feel bad, and it sounds like it is hard to understand. You want advice on what to do.
The following are tips that may help:

Reflect on if you have any fears of relationships and intimacy. This may not seem to be the case but sometimes we hide our fears even from ourselves. Often when people do not have close relationships it is because unconsciously, they are avoiding them rather than that they are ‘not fun’ or ‘not nice.’

Be willing to share information about yourself with others. I imagine you worry about how you come across to others and this can make people feel like they have to be perfect in social situations. Be willing to share the silly, awkward stuff about yourself as this is often where friendship is born.

Set a goal around friendship. If you could wave a magic wand what would be happening? I would guess that you would have a best friend ideally but maybe there are other goals you want to set to build up to that.

Commit to improving your connections with others. Strong relationship connections have physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Read ‘Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness’ by Shasta Nelson or ‘That Sounds Fun: The Joys of Being an Amateur, the Power of Falling in Love, and Why You Need a Hobby.’

Be kind to yourself. There are people that you can have close friendships with and who will love your company. I bet you just need to practice skills and put yourself out there a bit more.

Get feedback from someone you trust on what might be happening like a family member or a friend who has been in your life a long time. Ask them to be sensitive but honest.

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