When you start investing in your own self-development, you might find that the existing people in your life are not all as supportive of your growth as you would like them to be. If that’s the case, you might need to make some new friends who understand your journey and will cheer you on.
Why your current friends might resist your growth
Change can be uncomfortable for others as well as for you. You learning to set boundaries may mean that you no longer accept people treating you like a doormat, which could make them feel threatened by the change in your relationship.
Or perhaps they simply don’t understand or value things like mindfulness and self-reflection and are dismissive of or uninterested in the inner work that you’re doing.
Why it’s important to have supportive friends
Having the right kind of people in your life means much more than making sure you are not being taken advantage of.
You might have heard motivational speaker Jim Roth’s oft-quoted claim that we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Your opinions, beliefs and behaviours are indeed shaped by those around you.
For example, if your friend becomes obese, you have a 45% chance of doing the same over the next two years! Recent research has shown that the influence of our friends goes beyond these 5 people – the friends of our friends also have an impact on our lifes.
You don’t have to ditch your old friends
Unless the relationships you have are toxic, there’s no need to abandon the people you enjoy spending time with and who love you for who you are.
The point here is that you might need to expand your network so that you have access to people who understand the journey you are on. People who will be there to give advice, cheer you on when things get tough or give you helpful feedback and sanity check your ideas and frustrations.
So where do you find these important relationships?
How do you make new friends to support your growth?
There are many places you can start looking for people who have a growth mindset; those who are committed to learning and developing to get more from life and to being able to offer more to the world.
Here are 8 ways to make new friends to help you thrive:
1. Expand your professional contacts on a personal level
If you are a professional or run your own business, there are a ton of networking groups within specific niches, and specifically for businesswomen, both online and in person. These are not only a valuable source of business contacts and opportunites; they can also lead to mentorships, mastermind groups and lasting friendships.
To get the most out of such networks, remember to give more than you take. Offer support and advice to fellow members where you have something useful to contribute. If you do put a call out for help, be sure to thank those who took the time to support you.
Over time, you are likely to spot familiar names and faces and to get a feel for people you might wish to develop a closer relationship with – perhaps they face similar struggles or have overcome the ones you are facing. Get in touch and ask how they feel about meeting, either virtually or in person, for a chat.
2. Find an accountability buddy
Whether you are working your way through a self-development programme or trying to form a new habit, it’s really helpful to find someone who be there for you when you feel like quitting or you got blown off course.
Life gets in the way of the best of intentions so it’s important to not give up at the first hurdle. Having an accountability partner who will cheer your successes and motivate you to get back on track if you get derailed can make a huge difference to your long-term success.
Being that person for someone else also keeps you motivated.
If you are working through a group programme, ask if anyone in the group would like to buddy up to work through it. You may not start off as friends but over time, you’ll get to know more about each other’s lives, struggles and strengths and many a deep and lasting friendship has sprouted from being a buddy.
The beauty of having an accountability buddy that you don’t already know is that if things aren’t working out for whatever reason, it can be easier to end or fix the partnership without hard feelings than if it’s a close friend.
You can also join our Midlife Women Connecting For Wellbeing Community and ask for a buddy. The other members are also currently working on improving their well-being and some will be in a similar life situation to you.
3. Take an art class
I didn’t think I was any good at art and so I’d never really explored this side of my creativity as an adult. Until recently, that is! Since September of 2020, I’ve been “playing with paint” and absolutely loving it.
Having taken a few online art courses and joined the respective Facebook groups, I’ve been impressed at how supportive these communities are.
People like me who are in the dabbling phase and are brave enough to post their creations from following tutorials in the group will get constructive feedback. Yes, there’s a lot of “That’s so beautiful, don’t change a thing!” but more experienced artists will also make helpful suggestions if they can see a way of improving a piece and generously share their tips for specific techniques.
Not only do you get to see and be inspired by lots of other people’s art, the atmosphere is kind and supportive. One that I particularly enjoy is Abyssimo Open Studio.
4. Volunteer for a cause that matters to you
Whether you choose to help out at an animal shelter, organise litter picks on the beach, work with disadvantages children or any of the many valuable causes that exist, the benefits are multiple. As well as making life better for other people or the natural world, you’ll be meeting people who also want to do good in the world.
You have a ready topic of conversation that you all share an interest in so even introverts or those who shun small talk can connect with like-minded people, some of whom could be potential friends.
As well as my own suggestions above, I’ve asked some bloggers from diverse fields to contribute their ideas for ways of making new friends to support your personal development.
5. Take up a challenging sport
By Claire from Ice Skating Passion
“Starting a challenging sport as an adult is a great way to grow and step out of your comfort zone. And, if taking a class, you are likely to meet people on a similar path to growth.
For example, why not start ice skating? This sport will really make you wonder whether you ever knew how to keep your balance. Ice skating is a sport with many benefits, and one of the best being the friends you can make at the rink.
All adults in the class are in the same boat, trying to challenge their body and mind – and trying to stay in the upright position on the thin blades of their ice skates. There is a great camaraderie. People will cheer for your first steps and every time you are successful with a new move: the first time you skate backward, or on one leg or for your first jump.
Everyone applauds you for trying new things. And they will also be here to help you get up when you fail, giving you a hand to stand back up.”
6. Take up yoga to make new friends
By Victoria from Guide Your Travel
“Finding new friends as an adult can be a challenge especially when it comes to finding people who will support your personal growth. People change and you need friends who will support you through your journey to wellbeing and self improvement. Finding those people isn’t always easy but the best way to go about it is definitely to look in a place where you’ll find people who like working on themselves.
If you enjoy working out and moving your body then why not try a yoga class? If you want to make friends try to go regularly and maybe even involve yourself in organising social events. You might feel awkward the first few times you go to a new yoga class but after a while you’ll get to know the regulars and start to feel more comfortable.
Try to come a bit early to class to chat to others or even stay late to talk to the instructor. You’ll make friends in no time.”
From my own experience of yoga, I’d add that it’s important to choose a class that a) suits your style and b) isn’t all about ‘making shapes’ and looking Instagrammable. If the group feels competitive or intimidating, it’s probably not right for you, nor is it likely to yield the ideal friendships so try another class instead.
Try restorative yoga for a deeper, more embodied way of working with your body. My yoga teacher, Justine of Sweetyoga, is brilliant at this and offers online classes with time for a chat/check in beforehand.
7. Join a hiking group
By Eva from Kids and the outdoors
“Finding new friends who support your personal growth is not always easy. Something that has worked for me is looking for friends in hiking groups to spend time in nature together or connect over this.
Spending time in nature and enjoying a beautiful view on a hike are things that are closely connected to personal growth. In my experience people who are on this path (quite literally sometimes) themselves are often very happy to support others as well. Spending time outdoors does also has many extra health benefits that can help you on your journey.
If you have a local hiking group, this might be a good start. But even if meeting in person is not an option, online communities that are centered around hiking are immensely positive. I am part of some groups on Facebook where members can set challenges for themselves and have seldom seen any Social Media spaces that are this supportive. People cheer each other on and have an amazing understanding of each person’s individual circumstances – these are really supportive spaces.”
8. Learn a new language to meet new people
By Clara from Easy Chinese For Kids
“Learning a language is a fantastic way to make new friends and grow. Learning a language encourages you to seek out people who are also learning the same language, or to communicate with speakers of that language.
Language group meet ups in your local area are a great way to make new friends with people and practice your target language. They usually involve practicing speaking in conversation groups, and immersing yourself in the food of the cultural language by having a chat over a meal at a restaurant.
They can also include activities like watching films and TV shows in your target language, and then discussing them afterwards. This helps you improve your listening and speaking skills as well as learn about other cultures. Language book clubs and language board game meet ups are other fun ways to practice a language and make new friends.
You can make new friends online when you are learning a language. Language exchange websites are a popular way to practice speaking. Reading and commenting on social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, are a great way to practice reading and writing.”
I hope some of these ideas help you extend your network and build relationships with people who will help you grow.
If you have any additional suggestions, please leave a comment below.