As a teenager, connecting to the right friends was one of my biggest challenges.
I grew up with my mom in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and my mom was very strict about how we chose friends since most of our neighbor’s teenagers had become pregnant, escaped from their homes and/or got involved in other inappropriate activities. I disliked my mom. In my little mind, I thought she was blocking my freedom to have as many friends as I wanted. But as an adult now, I appreciate her a lot. It is because of her strategies to keep us safe from the turbulent environment in which we were in, that I and my siblings were able to complete school without getting into trouble.
By following some of the strategies that I learned from my mom, and some as a transformational coach, I’ve been able to connect to and choose the right friends over the years.
Here are some of the tips that you can use to connect to the right friends.
1. Become your own best friend.
Before you can understand what friendship really means, you have to love and appreciate everything about yourself, including your flaws. You have to be your own best friend. If you don’t like yourself, you will always look for validation from your friends to define who you are. And that will be disappointing because no one has the power to define who you should be, or how you should feel about yourself. It’s up to each one of us to determine who we should be, and how we should feel. Therefore, be your best friend first, such that when you connect to friends, you are not looking for validation. You love yourself as you are.
2. Define what friendship means to you.
It is extremely important to establish what you want to achieve from whatever you do. It’s about being purposeful. Defining what friendship means to you implies that you establish what you expect from friends; what they should expect from you as a friend, and what you will not tolerate from them. This also means that you have to develop personal values and standards below which you won’t be anyone’s friend. For instance; since you are already your own best friend, you have to know how to be friendly to yourself. This means that you respect your body by eating the right foods; you exercise and do not indulge in anything that would abuse your body—such as drugs and/or immature sex. You keep your word. You communicate clearly about what you want, and don’t want, assertively. You respect your parents/elders. You keep your environment clean and safe. In a nutshell, you love yourself. As a result, you seek to connect with friends who also love themselves and most importantly, friends who will not negatively affect your self-love. They respect and appreciate who you are. They don’t try to influence you, except if it is for positive change.
3. Become friendly.
If you want to connect to friends you have to be friendly. This means that you don’t make judgments about others because of their looks, origin, social group or religion. You communicate to others freely and attentively as you take the time to examine if these people also love themselves. You become present with people—meaning that you listen attentively to everyone you meet before you determine if that person could be a friend.
I believe that if you embrace these tips, or even add other personal tips that you’ve learned, you will be able to connect to good friends.
Dr. Jacinta M. MPALYENKANA specializes in counseling for abuse and co-dependence on alcohol or drugs and is based in Los Angeles, California. After completing two PhD’s, one in Counseling and another in Philosophy, Jacinta chose to become a personal transformational coach, mentor, and public speaker. Her mission is to help make a positive difference in the world by counseling, coaching and empowering women.