Friendship: Is it ever too late to build friendships?

Since we were young, the topic of making friends has been heavily promoted in our families and in school environments. As children, it came naturally for us to explore our world by interacting with people in society, especially our peers. At a young age, children are exposed to potential playmates through attending school, family gatherings, and even public places. 

A well-known psychologist, Erik Erikson, emphasises the importance of social experiences throughout the lifespan and how it can impact one’s growth and development in his theory of psychosocial development. Starting at the age of 3 years old, children will begin to be curious about their power in society through play and social interaction. This stage may lead to the development of willingness to interact with others in the next stages of life and leads to a sense of purpose. It becomes apparent how important it is for humans to engage in social interaction and build friendships as it brings significant impact on one’s well-being and health.

Building friendships may seem to be a natural thing for humans to execute as we are social beings. Having a friend who will be there for you through life’s ups and downs can be beneficial for your well-being and theirs. However, we should also acknowledge that building new friendships and maintaining existing ones can be difficult as time goes by. 

Have you ever wondered why? 

This is explained through the socioemotional selectivity theory, where the purpose of social interactions is heavily driven by the perception of time. When we were younger, the purpose of interacting with our environment was to explore the world around us and gain knowledge to build and expand our identity. As we get older and perceive time to be more limited, we pursue social goals that are more related to the regulation of emotion. Hence, selecting which friendships to maintain and which to build becomes more crucial when we reach our mid-twenties and above.

So, does this mean that when we get older, we don’t need to make new friends? 

Well, going back to the notion that humans are social beings, we need to have social connections to maintain our well-being. Regardless of whether the social interaction is gained through new friendships or from maintaining existing ones, it is crucial to have these relationships embedded in our lives. Getting older does not mean that we don’t need to put effort into friendships because this does not happen organically. Friendships that don’t involve effort from both parties are more likely to lead to loneliness than connection.

Engaging in a new friendship may also lead you to explore a new aspect of your identity. So how do you start? Just take the leap and initiate the conversation! 

You may be experiencing anxiety or fear of rejection. However, you’ll never know if you never try. If you’re ruminating on self-defeating thoughts, it may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It may be that you need to speak to someone professional to help you get past those emotional barriers. You can start forming new friendships with people you know from school or work settings whom you’ve never talked to, or an old friend whom you haven’t talked to in a while. If you want to broaden your connections even further, you can try volunteering, attending community events, and trying new things in a new environment.

Fauzia is an Art Therapist Trainee with The Nest Asia – TOC’s Training Wing. 

To meet with a professional psychologist or counsellor, call The Other Clinic at 8809 0659 or email us