I need to stop measuring success by how many friends I have

September 25 | Guest post by LibbityLoo42
By: Tracheotomy BobCC BY 2.0

I've never had an easy time making friends in my life. I had a bit of a meltdown about this recently, thinking about how I have so few friends. I lamented, "I wish I was just at the stage of my life where I didn't care anymore. Where I didn't measure personal success by how many friends I have."

I was feeling like a failure because, when I sat down a couple of months ago and listed the people who I absotively posilutely wanted at the wedding we're planning, I could only list 30 at the very most.

There are some amazing people who have 100-300 guests on the list that they absolutely cannot possibly trim back any further. And I have 30, at the very most? What does that say about my wedding? What does that say about me?

My future husband nodded, patted me, and hugged me as he does so well when I'm sad, and then I said, "Oh shit, wait — you have fewer friends than I do. How do you cope with this?"

His answer…

"I just don't care. I've never really had friends. I've never really needed friends."

And then it hit me. Why should I care?

Lives aren't measured by the number of people in them — it's the quality of those people. You might be one of those folks who have 100+ people who you adore in your life, and that's absolutely fantastic. A little part of me is jealous there are so many wonderful people in your life. I don't have that many wonderful people. And yes, it does make me sad sometimes, but being sad about it isn't going to multiply those numbers magically.

And wanting to add more numbers to a guest list to "validate" myself won't help anything either. If the number of friends I have is "too small" that doesn't make my life/wedding/relationships any "less special."

The quality of my life doesn't depend on the number of friends I have I count my true friends as people I can be fully myself around and people who understand that socializing isn't really my jam most of the time.

And you know what? That's okay!

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  1. My wedding had about 45 guests in total. That included all the extended family (on both sides) and all the friends we could muster, and everybody got a plus 1. With all that we only sent out about 65 invitations…..and it was beautiful and perfect!

    I'm the same way. I've always been better in small gatherings. Always been uncomfortable at big parties (unless I was drunk). And also, always been a little bit uncomfortable with it. So I feel ya! And I appreciate you words this morning! It hits me in just the right spot! 🙂

    12 agree
    • OP here! Yay! I'm glad I'm not alone in the "small wedding" circle.

      I'm the same, I used to have a real problem with overdrinking at parties to socialise. I don't recommend it, the hangovers are not worth the nonsense conversations you had the night before. 🙁 Glad you enjoyed the post, thank you for commenting! 🙂

      6 agree
    • Another one for the small weddings. We made a list of everyone that we really wanted to be there and it came to 25.

      My husband and I are both more comfortable in small gatherings. For his recent 40th birthday I invited everyone that he would want to be there and we had a lovely day with 8 people (including us). Small groups of people that mean a lot will always be preferable to big groups that I hardly know for me. 🙂

      4 agree
  2. Some of the people who have huge weddings include their parents' friends, coworkers, their entire church congregation, entire book club, entire recreational sports team, etc. All those people aren't always close "friends."

    I would say just embrace it, figure out what is really important for you at your wedding, and go with it. You might also be able to consider different (and possibly more intimate) venues with a smaller crowd, anyway!

    9 agree
    • OP here! That is a very good point. We're not allowing for our parents invite friends because that's a whole can of worms we don't want to deal with on our wedding day.

      I think part of what made me really sad (that my original post addressed but was trimmed a bit here) was I just recently left a job where I thought I had tonnes of friends. I've tried keeping in touch with those people, but they just do not play ball. I was going to invite them to my wedding, but if they won't hang out with me outside of the wedding, then screw 'em! Smaller guest list = more money on other awesome things for the wedding.

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      8 agree
  3. My Facebook friend list looks puny compared to other people I know. My neice for example has 800 "friends." My cousin has about as many (her case some of those are probably her ex-students from when she taught 2/3rd grade for 5 years and are now grown up). My cousin though actually does about about 10 people she would classify as close friends and she has always been like that. To me I don't get how you can have 10 close friends. Maybe 2 or 3, but 10?! These are the same group of girls she has known through H.S. College, and life in general.
    Me on the other hand, I have people who I would classify as friends and even go to the mall or window shopping at one of our fave historic towns we like to go to. But past the generic innocent hanging out at the mall kind of things, we don't really talk too much about deep stuff. But it is not the fair weathered friend thing either, if that makes sense.

    4 agree
    • OP here! I used to have way more Facebook friends than I needed. Both my siblings have upwards of 500 and I've barely got 200. But I prefer it that way, I'm not a huge user of Facebook.

      I understand what you mean. I either have super close friends or acquaintances, I don't seem to have a lot of middle ground, which I suppose is why it feels like I don't have a lot of friends.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. This may be a little off topic… if it is, my apologies. My husband and I had a relatively small wedding (in our eyes), with less than 100 people. And they're all family (immediate and extended), plus friends. We didn't want a 200+ event.

    My challenge now is a little different — it's finding some solid close connections again. I've had best friends in the past, and close friends I could call up or email and talk to about anything and everything. Over the last few years, that's changed. I have a year and a half old now, and that takes up so much time (and I love it). But I'm finding now that I'd like to connect with friends more outside of time we spend together as families. And in wanting to do that, I hold back because it feels like I'd be imposing on their life. Almost like I'm diminishing myself.

    But I want someone to reach out to me. My husband and I are the initiators of so much, and the hosts. I want someone to show they want to spend time with me without my inviting them. And time to talk about things that aren't daughter or family related. I've forgotten what that feels like…

    18 agree
    • Oh. Em. Gee. Them feels. I know them.

      I also had best friends in the past. People I could go shopping with, or go for coffee with or just hang out and chat. But then once in university, a lot of those friends dropped off and I didn't see them anymore, so I started making new friends…but they were friends I saw with groups of people with my boyfriend (now husband). I didn't have "my friends" anymore, I had "our friends"…while he still had "his friends". I would try to initiate stuff, but they would never pan out.

      Now it's hard just to see "our friends", we're always the ones initiating get-togethers (drinks at the pub, BBQ at our house, dinner party, whatever), and no one else seems to want to take charge of plans. Maybe it's because we have a 1-year-old now? But even when we didn't, we were the "plan makers". I told people often, "you know if you want to get together so badly, YOU can try initiating plans" but they never do.

      I know I don't need many friends. I mean, I have plenty of Facebook friends…but no "real-life" friends. I would like at least ONE or TWO close friends. Geez…how sad do I sound?

      11 agree
        • Thanks for these links, Ariel. They do speak to me, especially this one: http://offbeathome.com/2013/06/how-to-make-friends

          I think my struggle is how one-sided it feels at times, being the "instigator" so to speak, and not wanting the effort to feel one-sided. I think that's what Lauren is experiencing as well. We're happy to host, and it seems the only way our group gets together anymore, but it's only reciprocated by a small number. And I do often feel like an imposition when I have this need for connection because I know how busy I am, and hear how busy my/our friends are.

          Now don't take my original comment as not being grateful for the "our friends" that DH and I have, or for the people I do have in my life. I really am grateful for them. It's just one of those things that feels like I'm missing right now, and it comes and goes.

          Does this make sense?

          3 agree
          • Very true.

            I've tried numerous attempts to make friends, mom friends, etc. I'm the only one ever calling/texting and making plans, sometimes they work out and we all have a great time, and sometimes they don't. But it's only me making the effort. Which is fine and dandy to a point, but it gets very exhausting very quickly, and makes me think "do you even WANT to be friends if you would never personally call me up to do something?"

            With "our friends" I definitely let this fall by the wayside. I know people's lives are busy, as is ours now, it's just a fact of life. And people do have more than one group of friends. I just wish I felt more of an effort on their part (some people do try, and others…well I haven't seen them for almost a year because they're too busy being hermits and trying to re-live their early 20s)

            4 agree
  5. You are totally right, it's about the quality of the people not the number but I'm still not sure that having a list of 30 friends is so very unusual….

    I'd be willing to bet that within a 100-300 person guest list each half of the couple might only have 30 or so actual friends, ie not family, not people family wants, not co-workers. I also suspect those large number weddings are everyone can bring a date types, so that increases bodies but not friends as such.

    Family can be a real distorter of numbers too, whilst you can choose who to invite (interference not with standing) you can't choose how much family you actually have in the first place. If my wife had invited all her cousins she would have added about 15 to the list, if I had done the same it would have added about 35 to mine, which would have totally distorted my overall guest number.

    What I'm trying to say is that I think the number of real connections we can sustain is actually quite small, I consider myself quite social but I'd struggle to have real connection with more than 30…. There are some people that seem to have huge numbers of acquaintances but there is usually a reason for this other than they are just better at friendships, ie things like they have moved around a lot or had many jobs (anyone who freelances at anything seems to have lots of friends) etc. Those acquaintances are not the same as friends though, they are not lesser just different. A friend of mine, one of my real real friends, said once that when we compare ourselves to others we tend to compare our backstage with other people's front of house. We can't of course see other people's backstage, ie the inner workings and reasons we don't know about behind other people's appearances but that doesn't mean they don't exist, something you'd think we'd know and remember given that we know that for ourselves there are all sorts of reasons why we are the way we are!

    8 agree
    • OP here! Thanks for your comment. 2/3s of Fusband's guests are family. Mine consist of 5. My family has weird politics, so I'm not inviting anyone in my family outside of the people I used to live with and grew up with (parents and siblings).

      This is very true. I kind of go through phases of using and not using Facebook because it makes me feel bad, but I'm just seeing their highlight reel. 🙂

      2 agree
  6. If I were to plan a wedding right now, I would have a grand total of four people to invite. Two are my parents. The other two would probably be in the bridal party. (One of them might not even be able to come; she lives in Norway.) I have coworkers I like, but we're not close enough to hang out outside of work, so I think of them really more as work friends. It used to bother me in high school that I never seemed to have enough people to invite for a large birthday party. It's taken me years to accept that I'm just not social. It used to make me really lonely until I figured out that in reality, I'd rather be at home reading or sewing than spending time with people in most cases, anyway. And there are times when I rather like my situation; Christmas shopping is a total breeze every year.

    10 agree
    • OP here! I've never really had a proper birthday party. That always made me sad. My 18th birthday (bigger deal in NZ than in the states) was me piggybacking off a much more popular friend who I share a birthday with.

      We just need to remember that not everyone's measurement of success is the same. 🙂 One size does not necessarily fit all!

      3 agree
  7. I have yet to get married (it's in the pipeline, but 2018 is a while away), but in some ways I have put it off due to how big it will be. There is one very simple reason for this: I'm Irish and thus come from quite a large family. My mum is one of 11, my dad one of 7, so you can imagine how many aunts, uncles and cousins I have before I even think about friends or anyone else. My OH's family in comparison is tiny. And before anyone asks, I actually am quite close to many of my extended family – more my mum's side rather than my dad's, but that is mostly due to age differences. Every so often my OH asks me to sketch out a guest list, but I'm afraid of giving him high blood pressure! Some times a "large" wedding is not something you choose, it chooses you!

    1 agrees
    • Yep, my mum is one of 10, my dad one of 5….. I am one of 5 so what with my sibling's partners and kids there are enough my immediate family already!

      My wife's family is smaller so she had her immediate family and her special aunt and uncle and that was the same number as my immediate family. Also her family live in another country so we didn't want to ask too many to travel. Keeping my family group balanced with wife's numberwise gave a good rationale for not inviting my aunts uncles and cousins. Which also meant I didn't have to choose between them, there was no way we could have had all of them and none of them lived close enough for evening only attendance.

      1 agrees
      • I know it makes sense to be ruthless with the wedding list. However, I have such fond memories of my aunt's weddings when I was younger, they were wonderful family gatherings. Since my maternal grandmother passed away and the family have gotten older those types of family gatherings don't seem to happen as often. I like the idea of some of the younger family members having my wedding as a similar happy memory of all their relatives celebrating together. Does that make sense? Or am I just rationalising?!

        2 agree
        • Totally makes sense! I too remember many big family events that just don't happen as often now. My sister had a big all family wedding about 10 years ago and it was one of the last in my extended family. As the families within in the family keep growing it's just not really possible to include everyone anymore, the last few cousins who got married, like me, had to limit. My sister's wedding was barely possible at the time, she did it at my mum's farm and we did EVERYTHING for it, plus no one needed to stay overnight.

          Most of my cousins who married recently just chose the cousins, aunts and uncle they were especially close to and so this is now a well-established practice with my family. Even so I just couldn't face it so went with the more unilateral rule of no extended family. I had my parents (they are divorced so that's two sets) siblings, their partners and their kids which total 11.

          I also knew that, for me, even if I could wave a magic wand and have all my family and my wife could have all hers, mine would so outnumber hers so much that it would have just unbalanced things for us. My lot are wonderful, rambunctious and crazy and having grown up with it I love it, but they tend to somewhat dominate and my wife's shyer not-much-English-speaking family would have been swamped.

          It was sad to take that unilateral decision but once I did it was kind of a relief. For my lot, (may well be different for you and yours) those times of everyone being there have gone, even if we had the biggest budget in the world we couldn't have re-created it without it bringing up other issues. I never quite got why people think of getting married as saying goodbye to family, I kind of do now although it's not so much saying goodbye as making a new combined one and accepting inevitable re-prioritising. Guest list planning is stressful because it's not just about the event, it's the new must have list for your whole life really. I still love my aunts, uncles, cousins etc very much but the new additions in my life means that, in instances in which I have to choose, they won't be able to be as near the top of the list as they once were.

          1 agrees
          • A cousin of mine is getting married in November and he has decided to go with more family than friends. I was quite close with him growing up so I'm delighted to be invited. I think the bride-to-be comes from an equally large family so the issue of being out-numbered isn't there.

            I don't know what way it will go to be honest, I suppose it depends what things are like in 3 years time! I hold out hope that we'll be able to have as many of them there as possible, but I'm sure a great many of them would understand if we did go small.

            It's a very interesting conversation to have! My OH was the DJ of the one and only goth night in Dublin for many years, so how you define a "friend" is a tricky one there too – so much to think about!!

            1 agrees
    • OP here! This is very true. I have a veeeeerrryyyy small family. Like, 6 people who I really want at my wedding. I do have other relatives, but I don't want them there. So I'm being pretty ruthless with my guest list. Sorry 'bout it, great aunts and regular aunts.

      2 agree
  8. I think something to keep in mind is that what people consider "friend" varies. It sounds like you have a very large dividing line between the difference in "friend" and "acquaintance". That doesn't mean you have less people in your life, in general, or less people you're friendly with, but just that you wouldn't cross them over into your intimate circle of "friends".

    Some people would consider the person they chat with every day on the elliptical at the gym to be a friend, but you may not even begin to cross that threshold with them. Yes, you may see them every day, and you may give each other support if you notice the other is in an "off" mood, but would you call them when a parent went into the hospital? If you needed a place to stay if something happened at home? So, one person's friend may be another's acquaintance.

    I don't think it means one person's friends are less valued or less important, just that those people tend to have degrees. They'll have "close" friends, then an "inner circle", then a couple "best" friends — whereas you might have the inner circle, and everyone else is an acquaintance or that nice woman at the gym, Linda, or whatever.

    tl;dr version: the way you categorize who a "Friend" is may be different than the people who have what seems like 1mil friends and counting. And that's ok. You be you; let them be them. 🙂

    6 agree
  9. That's funny because I've been dealing with just the opposite. I've been weeding down my Facebook friends' list over the last few weeks because I realized that there were people on there who a) never post, b) never comment, c) I don't know very well at all, d) I disagree with violently and can't be arsed to argue with them, e) only ever ask me to do things for them and ignore me otherwise. Stuff like that. You're right. It is the quality of friends that matters. If you have just one or two people who will stick by you when the crap hits the fan, you're better off than a lot of people.

    2 agree
  10. I've never had many friends….lots of acquaintances, but not much in the way of true friends. I've always been pretty ok with that, but it's funny how my long time boyfriend (12 years now!) doesn't quite get it (though he's getting better about it). He's definitely the social butterfly of the 2 of us and is still in regular contact with many friends from previous jobs, college, high school, and even several from elementary school!! I can't imagine how uneven our guest lists would be for "my" friends vs. "his" friends….!! (Family is a different story since his can literally fit in a minivan [and nearly half of that is no longer welcome], and I have so many aunts uncles and cousins, that I've never even met them all, and many I haven't seen since I was 7….I'm not close to most of my family either, so "my" list would still be pretty short).

    My boyfriend has slowly come to grips with the fact that I have very few friends and that it's perfectly ok! I'm the low-maintenance friend kind of person…I don't socialize often, and just because I haven't talked to one of my friends in MONTHS, doesn't mean I don't still consider them a good friend. True friends understand that about me and don't feel abandoned or neglected.

    4 agree
  11. Weddings – I had two tables worth of "obligation invites" as I thought of it (my parents paid and these people had invited my parents to their kids weddings so of course my parents had to return the favor) and I almost had even more (coworkers) but they definitely wouldn't count as friends. I also have a disproportionately larger family than my husband, which skewed the numbers too.

    Friends – I read recently that part of the reason it seems harder to make friends as an adult is that you're not in school. In school you spend hours a day around others who are in your same stage of life and have shared experiences with. As you get older some people get married and settle down, others may have a new boyfriend/girlfriend constantly and love to go out clubbing till the wee hours. You also have work, a home to maintain, and oh yeah sleep, so you have fewer hours and less energy to expend on other people. I've decided to make a priority in reaching out to my friends that I don't see that often, but I'm not going to put any effort into making new friends. I just don't have the bandwidth for "new" and I'd rather have fewer, stronger connections.

    1 agrees
  12. When I saw a psychologist back at university for stress management, she told me that people, even the most social of people, really only need 3 good friends in their life to be healthy, but that a lot of other students stress about how needing 50 or 100 friends, largely due to the extra pressures of things like facebook showing quantity rather than quality. I had three best friends at the time, and definitely didn't feel wanting. Now I'm down to two, and sometimes I do feel like I could do with more, but mostly because sometimes I really just need to talk and both of them are working at the time. When it came to the wedding, those two were there (I was marrying one and the other was one of the witnesses), and the rest of the attendees were obligatory family. It did smart a bit around the wedding, realizing that there really were only 2 at that point, but I'd rather have those two amazing friends in my life than 20 people to call friends, but who I wouldn't rely on in a crisis.

    2 agree
    • OP here! That's a great observation.

      I used to have a lot more friends than I do now because I had a very social (but very toxic) job that I had to leave for mental health reasons. I tried to stay friends with people from there, but I've had very little luck, so I've cut the worst of them from the wedding list. I would say I only have one or two close friends outside of my Fusband. He's almost always everything I need, but sometimes I need a bit of girl time, and my close friends are either really busy or really flaky. It gets pretty disheartening.

      I think the media I grew up with had a huge emphasis on friends. Almost too much of an emphasis. Like, the people with no friends have something wrong with them and I internalised that in a bad way.

  13. I suspect my friend list was barely been 30 too- and my husband and I share a lot of friends since we grew up in the same town 0.0 Of course, then you factor in everyone's significant others and your parents' enormous list of friends and family and…whoomp suddenly you're at 150, haha.

    I felt really weird about the fact that I had not one single college friend at my wedding, and only one that I had met after high school. I still have regrets about how few friends I made in college (I made a few "good" ones and then stopped… and then immediately had a falling out with those good ones, and spent some semesters elsewhere, and poof. Bah.) Trying to make friends as an adult is an uphill climb too. But I've still got my small handful of good, old pals, my husband, and a couple of dogs (who, let's face it, I talk to more than any of the human friends.) And that's not so bad.

    1 agrees
  14. Just wanted to say that this article came at the perfect time. Our lives have changed drastically over the past few years and we have a much smaller friendship circle because of it. We've realised that our idea of friendship is very different to that of our friends and right now I'm at struggling to accept that the people I love won't necessarily put the same effort and commitment into the relationship that I will. "Why should I care?" is where I'm at right now. I can't quite get myself to the point where I don't get hurt and upset about it. I'm an innate people pleaser and I just want to be liked, be held as important as those people are to me. It takes me years to get over a friendship ending. I'm still grieving friendships that ended 3 years ago. Maybe that's why I'm so raw about recent realisations. It takes me a while to trust people and to open up. And it seems to take me longer to process these kinds of emotions. Weirdly having a smaller wedding hasn't bothered me. I've never been one for the 'show', the thought of being in the middle of a crowd of 100+ is frankly terrifying. For me the worry is will we always have to struggle alone, without people to turn to? Because you can't keep turning to the same people over and over. I don't want to exhaust those friendships.

    Sorry I've just realised what I intended to be a short comment ended up as some kind of therapy session!!

    1 agrees
  15. This hits home for me. I also seem to feel self conscious and a bit sad that I do not have a "best friend" beyond my husband. I've been in times of my life where I thought "So-and-so is my best friend" and then I realized that the other person… really didn't feel that way about me. I was just one of many in their social circle and nothing special.

    We also bought a house with thoughts of entertaining, and … we have had a total of 2 parties. And one was lame. Kind of sad. But I try not to dwell on it much.

  16. As a teenager I was a massive loner, with only one close friend at a time really. When I hit my early twenties I entered into a massive friendship circle where an average meetup was double figures and I constantly felt like I was drowning. Now I'm in my mid twenties, I've found myself a happy medium. I have very few close friends who I meet up with regularly, and then a wider network of people who I mainly chat to online. Sometimes I feel like I've taken a step back by having a smaller social circle, but then I don't see why so many people value quantity over quality. It's a little bit superficial and very similar to this whole 'perfect life' approach to facebook, instagram etc. Over the past couple of years, since I finished up CBT I've been looking into psychology and personality types, trying to understand my mind a little more. I've found out that I'm naturally introverted and that not only came as a shock, it also explained a LOT. I'd always thought of introverts as shy, but turns out I was completely wrong in that sense. I think some people are happiest when in a crowd, and so having a small network of friends won't fulfil their needs. Likewise some people are just happier with a more intimate network. I say just do what makes you happy, don't compare yourself or your life to anyone elses.

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