Why it's okay if you only have a small group of friendsJuly 1, 2022
On Instagram, as you tap through endless stories of weddings, group holidays, and housewarming parties.
On TV, as you watch diehard pals going through all of life’s trials and tribulations.
Even at work, as you hear your co-workers talking about all the stuff they got up to at the weekend.
It comes from all angles: the pressure to have a massive group of friends and a bustling social life.
It’s no wonder that many of us feel rubbish for being able to count the number of mates we have on one hand.
We feel like failures or social rejects, as if there must be something wrong with us for only having a handful of pals.
While it’s okay to crave a bigger social circle, it’s worth questioning where that desire comes from.
Is it out of a genuine desire for more friends? Or is it an answer to the idea that the quantity of our friendships is more important than the quality?
Perhaps before we look to desperately up our numbers, we should reflect on whether we’re actually happy with our more manageable friendship group – or if we’d be perfectly content once we let go of the pressure to be a social butterfly.
‘We are all individual when it comes to our preferences around the number of people that we have around us and how emotionally safe it feels,’ Dr Rina Bajaj, a Harley Street counselling psychologist, tells Metro.co.uk.
When it comes to friendship, people are different – and one way of approaching relationships is no better than another.
‘Some people like to have many friends,’ Dr Rina notes. ‘This could be influenced by their personality, such as being more extroverted and social, and this could fill some emotional needs, such as reducing any feelings of isolation or loneliness.
‘For people who like to have fewer friends, they may naturally be more introverted or they may feel more emotionally safe in smaller groups.
‘The advantage of a smaller friendship group is that there is the possibility to invest more quality time in building trust, communicating and intimacy in these relationships. It’s is likely that you will choose people whose values and interests align with your own.’
There are benefits to having both large and small friendship groups. The most important thing is that your friends bring you joy and support.
If you only have one or two close friends, that’s totally fine. It’s not the size of your support system that matters, but its strength in holding you up.
Dr Rina adds: ‘Having a good support system is an essential part of our overall health, including our mental and emotional wellbeing.
‘You can think of a good support system like a safety net.
‘When you have good friends this can be really beneficial to reducing feelings like isolation and loneliness, particularly when we may be facing challenging times.
‘Over time this can help us to manage difficult feelings or challenges, reduce stress and increase our overall levels of happiness.’
This also means finding the right friends, rather than just racking up as many as you can find.
Remember that the next time you’re comparing your friendship group to someone else’s – it’s all well and good to have 20 people popping up on your Instagram Stories, but will they all be there when you need them?
‘Like a romantic relationship, it’s important to choose friends who you feel emotionally safe with,’ Dr Rina advises.
‘This means that you feel comfortable to be yourself, express your thoughts and feelings without fear and you respect each other’s boundaries.
‘You are able to build up trust over time and, generally, the friendship is consistent and predictable. Over time, you learn to trust each other more.
‘You feel valued and cared for and you believe that your friend cares for you and has your best interests at heart.
‘A good friendship is not conditional and usually you will feel that you have equal power in the relationship, which also means that you give and take equally.
‘I like to say that a good friend will light you up and make you feel good, rather than drain you.’
In short: the number of friends you have doesn’t really matter. It’s all about having a few really good friends rather than a bunch of not-so-great ones.
‘With a good friend, there is more depth of connection,’ Dr Rina explains. ‘You feel safe, you trust them, and your friendship comes with less conditions.
‘You communicate well and you have a healthy attachment.
‘There is honesty, support and loyalty in our good friendships.’
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