What I Wish I Knew About Making Friends in My 20s
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What I Wish I Knew About Making Friends in My 20s

I often think back to a specific day in my early 20s: I was on the train home sometime during my first internship in the city, bawling my eyes out. The sheer veracity of my tears must have had other passengers thinking I’d just been fired from a job, or had my heart broken, or received news about a loved one’s death.

It was none of those things. I was crying because of Taylor Swift. 

You see, it was around this time that stories of Taylor Swift and her “girl squad” of actresses and Victoria Secret models were everywhere. I’d open Instagram and there’d be a picture of Taylor at some red carpet event amidst a fresh breakup, with Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid and Lena Dunham as her dates. I’d open Snapchat News and there’d be a story about Taylor having a girls’ sleepover with Camila Cabello and Selena Gomez.

On the aforementioned tear-filled train ride, I had been scrolling through a news article about her latest 4th of July bash, which was adorned with photos of Taylor and her girlfriends posing in matching Americana bikinis, and it hit me like a truck: I didn’t have any girlfriends.

Cue the waterworks. I was filled with sadness, envy and even a little bit of shame. The fact that I didn’t have girlfriends wasn’t for a lack of trying. For weeks, I had tried to form friendships with the other girls I was interning with, but nothing seemed to click. I began asking myself what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make connections with other girls? Why did no one want me to be part of their squad?

Remembering my 23-year-self like this still sends a pang to my heart. I wish I could go back in time to that day on the train and give her a big hug and assure her it gets better… because now at the age of 31, many of the best and closest relationships I have in my life are with other women.

Today, my girlfriends are some of my biggest cheerleaders and most faithful confidantes. They were there for me through a terrible breakup in my late 20s. They cheered me on every time I moved upwards in my career. They’ve given me a safe space to cry, rant and laugh about certain things that, really and truly, only other women would understand. 

So, if I could go back in time to 23-year-old me on that train and give her advice on making friends with other women, it would be this:

Embrace vulnerability and let people in

I’m an open book. My willingness to share with my coworkers when I’m having a really bad bout of anxiety, or a breakthrough I had in a session with my therapist, might be deemed as “oversharing” by some, but it’s helped me turn some really wonderful workplace friendships into friendships outside of work, too. I also find that I gravitate towards women who do the same.

There’s this pressure on us to only show up as our most perfect, “most acceptable” selves. This was further exacerbated by the age of social media that encourages us to give others a very curated and filtered peek into our lives.

But what’s bonded and brought me closer to my girlfriends isn’t the perfect photo of us clinking glasses of Chardonnay on a beautiful rooftop patio. Instead, it was the times we cried together about feeling like we weren’t doing enough in life, or empathized with one another about comparing our bodies to those of Instagram models. 

Opening up like this isn’t easy, I know. It’s scary to think about letting people into the very real and sometimes messy parts of you. I promise you though: all it takes is for one person to be brave enough to put themselves out there like this, and others will quickly follow suit, allowing the richest, most loving and most meaningful connections to form.

Celebrate and uplift other women, loudly and proudly

I think a lot of younger women struggle with this, and I don’t blame them. We’ve been conditioned to compare ourselves to one another as if there isn’t enough of what we want for ourselves to go around.

If we see another girl who’s really pretty, we feel jealous, as if her beauty takes away from our own. If we see another woman killing it in her career, we start to think of her as standing in the way of our own success.

At one point early on in my career, I remember asking an acquaintance about a job opening at her workplace. She dissuaded me from applying, and I later found out that she ended up securing that role for herself.

Not gonna lie, my initial reaction was somewhere along the lines of,Okay, bring it on, bitch.” But I quickly decided that I didn’t want to move through life that way.

Instead, I made it a priority to find ways to help other women shine, whenever and wherever I could. I’d bring up the names of other women who’d be perfect for work opportunities I’d hear about. I’d use whatever platform I had to shout-out the hard work and wins of those around me.

Soon enough, I found myself surrounded by women who would happily do this for me too.

Work on your own self-love, self-compassion and self-understanding

This kind of ties into my previous tip, because it’s hard to genuinely celebrate and feel happy for others when you’re at war with yourself.

One of the hardest realizations that came out of years of therapy and healing work, was that  most of the jealousy and insecurity I felt towards other women was fueled by the fact that I didn’t love myself. 

It wasn’t until I started speaking more kindly to myself that the thoughts I had towards others became kind as well. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling like I was unworthy that I no longer saw other women as my competition and, instead, could start seeing them as friends, sisters and allies.

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