A Problem Shared: Finding your tribe

A Problem Shared: Finding your tribe

a month agoPosted in Other

One of the most common issues that used to appear on our ‘egg anonymous’ days was loneliness. Given that egg was born out of a desire to bring women together, we decided it was high time to investigate. Why are so many women in their 30s, 40s and 50s feeling lonely? And what can we do to help each other make new and lasting friendships?

Before we examine what we can all do to help women struggling to find their tribe, let's take a look at the stories some of you have shared…

Anxiously introverted

One member in her 40s confessed she’d always been an introvert. “I’m both far too comfortable staying home and at a complete loss how to find ‘my people’, she said. “Anytime I think about trying to go somewhere, I come up with 20 reasons why it’s not worth bothering. Logically I know this is stupid and is all about anxiety but I’m not quite sure how to overcome it.”

Relaxing at home

WFH woes

Along with hundreds of helpful suggestions of groups and clubs our anxious introvert could join, there were also many comments from women who could relate. “I feel similarly”, said one member. “The office and occasional social interactions were always sufficient for me. But now that we’re WFH, that has stopped and I know I have a tendency to keep to myself, especially if I’m feeling a bit blue. I feel like I’m now stuck in a huge rut. I’d like to start getting out a bit more, but as an introvert, the thought of going to a ‘club’ of people I don’t know is my worst nightmare!”

Stuck at home

Then there was the 50-something member whose social life had never quite recovered from lockdown. “It wasn’t always the case but the last few years have taken their toll and I feel completely isolated from the outside world,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong I have a lovely husband and family but they’re the only people I speak to. My life was very full a few years ago, but now it feels like 4 walls, the TV and me.”

Behind the veil

If television was a true reflection of reality, each of us would be cosetted by a supportive and ever-present network of loving friends. Shows like The Motherload and Workin’ Moms may have been praised for shining a light on the mental load of middle-aged women, but does anyone else watch them and feel envy rather than affinity? Where is our tribe of kooky mum friends? And what if we don’t have kids? Are the childless doomed to a life of loneliness? Of course not.

Part of the problem could be that false assumption that we’re all doing just fine. We’re all so desperate to convey the idea that we ‘have it all’ that we don’t let people know when we’re feeling lonely. And of course, this can make things worse.

Girl reading

Have we reached peak loneliness? Loneliness tends to be something most of us associate with old age, but could we have it all wrong? According to The Office for National Statistics, 30% of adults aged between 30 and 49 have reported feeling lonely often or always. The figure is lower amongst both younger and older groups, suggesting that middle age is effectively peak loneliness.

“There are so many milestones that happen in middle age that can cause friendships to fall apart,” says Alisoun Mackenzie, an Edinburgh-based Life Coach for midlife women, who runs an online friendship course. “You've got new relationships, you've got relationships breaking down, you've got people having children, people not having children. You've got people changing jobs, moving out of town, looking after ageing parents. Those friendships which we previously had lots of time to nurture can become a lot more functional, and often fizzle out. Most of those friendships will have been with people we met at school, university, or in the workplace when circumstances allowed friendships to develop naturally over time. And when we lose those friendships in middle age, it’s harder to build new ones.”

This problem has of course been exacerbated by the pandemic, and a subsequent move towards working from home. As well as the loneliness that we may feel day-to- day without our work colleagues nearby, those opportunities to build friendships over lunchtime stroll, or after-work drinks have disappeared. So how do we make friends now?

“The reality is that most of us don’t know how to make friends at this age, because when we were younger, it just happened as a result of our circumstances,” says Alisoun.

“Understanding how to make friends consciously, and with the right people, takes work. I always say ‘make friends with yourself first’; you have to figure out who you are before you’ll know what type of people you want to make friends with. Then, it’s really about getting out there, and putting yourself in situations where you will meet as many new people as possible. They won’t all become your friend, but you will learn to spot those who you do have a connection with. You can’t let fear of rejection hold you back. It’s a numbers game. The more people you meet, the higher the chance you will find that friend you’re looking for.”

Quality over quantity According to Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at the University of Oxford , we may need less friends than we think, but the value of just a few friendships is life-changing. “We have shown, for a very large study across a dozen European countries, that your future risk of symptoms of depression is minimised if you have five close social contacts,” Dunbar said.

“The effect is stronger than anything else your friendly neighbourhood GP worries about on your behalf except smoking (diet, exercise, alcohol, local air quality, the medicines you’re on).”

That may be the case. But it seems that many of us would be happy with just one good friend. And who says a ‘tribe’ can’t be made up of two people? Just look at Grace & Frankie. Now there’s a TV friendship to be inspired by.

friends having fun

HOW TO FIND YOUR TRIBE

If you’ve read this far, well done. You’ve taken the first steps to overcoming your loneliness. Now here’s ten practical tips to help you find your ‘ride or die’…

1. Get to know yourself

If you’re struggling to find people you really connect with, could it be because you don’t know yourself all that well anymore? With the increased responsibilities that come with middle age, it’s easy to lose your own identity and forget what makes you feel good. Did you used to love to sing and dance with your school friends? Do you get a kick out of the great outdoors? Is yoga and meditation what your spirit is crying out for? Try to remember (or discover for the first time) the things that bring you joy, and it will help you identify ‘simpatico’ pals.

2. Join a club

Whether it’s crochet or axe-throwing, there are clubs for just about every kind of pastime, and pretty much all of them have a Facebook page so get searching. Some social groups our members have tried and loved include Brave Burds, WanderWomen, Scottish Womens Walking Group and the Edinburgh Bluetits.

3. Download an app

Meetup is a social network dedicated to helping people meet in real life. All you have to do is enter your postcode, list your interests and BOOM: a world of possibility opens up.

egg women on top Edinburgh with Grace Andrews and Sonja Mitchell

4. Try a social event

It can be challenging to go out on your own, but people rarely regret it. From gigs and supper clubs to cocktail tastings or distillery tours, there’s so much to choose from, especially in our fine city. And of course, there are our own egg events. With an ever-growing line-up of workshops and social gatherings, there’s something for everyone. Find out more here.

5. Identify your triggers

If social anxiety is an issue, take the time to sit down and think about the feelings you have when you do venture out to meet new people. Yoga teacher and egg member Alison Curran provided some great advice on this in a comment, recommending journaling before and after the event itself: “Write down the situation and list all the worries and emotions you have about what might go wrong. When you're home, reread what you wrote. Maybe use another colour pen - which of these happened? What else happened? List any positives and negatives,” she advised. “Taking a risk is the only way sometimes to realise it won't happen - your mind will gradually learn and anxiety ease.”

egg and co

6. Relocate your laptop

If WFH has left you feeling a little lonely, swap the kitchen table for a local cafe or co- working space like ours, where you can find good vibes, great chat, and even better coffee. Find out more here.

7. Do voluntary work

Not only will volunteering allow you to contribute to a meaningful cause, it’s also a great way to meet people who share your values. Look for local volunteer opportunities, whether it’s a food bank, environmental group or simply helping out at a community event. We’ve heard great things about Lothian Conservation Volunteers.

8. Make the first move

Initiating a conversation with a stranger can be daunting, but it’s usually worth it. When you see someone who sparks your interest, whether it’s at the school gates or the supermarket, simply smile and see if it’s reciprocated. A warm smile in return is your sign that it’s safe to speak. If you get the cold shoulder, try not to take it personally. As we all know, sometimes we’re just not in the mood to chat!

9. Don’t expect too much

When it comes to friendships, high expectations often lead to disappointment. Try to be patient while building your relationship. Allow your new pals space and understanding. They may be struggling with social anxiety themselves. Use social media, but don’t depend on it.

Social media can be a great way to connect (or reconnect) with people, but face-to- face interaction is what real friendships are built upon. If you’ve been chatting to someone online, don’t be afraid to suggest a coffee. Just like romantic relationships, friendships are all about chemistry, and you need to meet in person to feel those social sparks.

10. Join the egg community

Finally, remember, if you need advice or support, our lovely egg members are always there waiting for you on Facebook. Don’t be afraid to post. So many real friendships have begun within the comments.

With special thanks to life coach Alisoun Mackenzie for providing her top tips.

Enjoyed this story?
Share using the icons below!

More like this

Sorry, your login session had expired. We've logged you back in. Please try again.