Move to an environment that aligns with your interests and be active.
I used to ask myself this question a lot, during my university days where I’d spend most hours alone in my dorm room. I kept myself busy with YouTube, 9gag and my dear PlayStation.
My life seemed crap, I really thought I’d work myself into a grave and nobody would care to be friends with me, ever. These internal thoughts were a downward spiral into depression. Internal is the key word here.
I recall being out with a friend one summer in 2012. I had more fingers on my hand than I had friends. This guy didn’t speak much. I was the same. There was a time where we drove from London to Birmingham, ate at a KFC and returned to London. The only time we spoke was when he asked “do you want Pepsi?”
Back to the story, I was out in central London, scrolled through my emails to see that my university was advertising the last entrance call for a one month language program in China. I had never thought about China before this happened. I’m not sure why but I completed the online form anyway to register my interest. Two days pass, I receive a call, I’ve been offered a place and I have a very short time to get my affairs in order. Preparing a visa, passport photos, explaining to my mother why it was okay that I travel thousands of miles away…alone…for the first time as well as cleaning dishes in a restaurant to make extra spending money.
I was a shy kid, didn’t want to trouble anybody but I was curious about everything. China was the first chapter of my new life. China was amazing. I felt accepted. Perhaps it was their welcoming culture, I’m not sure, but people were extremely kind. I wandered around Tianjin, youngsters would approach and say hello, and the elders would offer tea. For the first time, my existence felt important.
It was because I was putting myself out there. Exploring with no fear and being open. I made friends from all over the world on the language program; they were all like me, adventurous, independent.
From those days on, back in the UK, I went on to take piano lessons and Chinese lessons. I speak to 100+ audiences at my university offering career advice to upcoming grads.
Last year, I returned to China and made my very own music video. I’ve almost stopped caring about what people think. I simply do whatever pleases me. I initially thought that it’d transform me into a super social guy, having experienced tremendous things. No. I’m still slightly introverted, that’s how I am.
However, one thing has changed, I’m super confident now. I’ve met 100s of people since 2012 but made one or two friends, confidence in yourself means you’ll understand that it’s about quality and not quantity.
Since China, my view on the world has changed. I used to wonder why people wouldn’t approach me and become my best friend. Lame, I know. However, I now wonder, “what if that guy over there is lost and needs help?” I would now go over and make sure he is okay. It’s all about perspective, I thought the world owed me something but I didn’t fully understand that I could create my own reality.
I no longer wonder too much about people and their thoughts. I now think, “She probably wants me to talk to her”, so I walk over and introduce myself.
To answer your question, my friend would say “be interested and be interesting”, which is vague. We can’t be interested or interesting unless the other individual already shares those interests. Otherwise it’s fake. We’ve all been there.
I would say, stop wasting time asking yourself this question, like I did for 20 years. Whatever it is that you want to explore (writing, kayaking, travelling, solving problems), go do it! You’ll end up bumping into people that are just like you, you’ll have plenty to talk about and soon realize that it took you a while before you found the right place to look.