Jessica Brown

The upsides to being a bit of a loner

It’s taken a while, but now I know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me that makes me incapable of friendship

Share

A new survey has found that we have the most friends – an average of 80 – when we’re 29 years old. I'm sure I'm not the only one surprised by this figure. The only way it can make sense is if you have a very loose definition of ‘friend’. I think of a friend as someone you can completely trust, someone who knows you really well, can share silence with you and hated all your ex-boyfriends long before you did. Do most people really have such a high number of people in their lives who answer this definition?

The survey got me thinking about my own friends. Although I'd never admit it to you in person, over recent years I haven’t had many. It’s not much fun having to go through difficult times without someone to listen to your complaining, answering your call in the middle of the night or turning up at your door unannounced with your favourite chocolate. After a while you crave the closeness only a best friend can offer, and you start vetting everyone you meet as a potential friend to begin filling the void Friends help us figure out who we are and give us the confidence to be that person. They make us feel important just by giving us their time.

There’s no doubt we put pressure on ourselves to have a giant friendship group, but the pressure isn't just internal. I was recently working with a colleague on a project that targeted people my age.

For a painfully long couple of weeks, she’d ask: “What would your friends say about this? If you were on a night out with your friends, what would they think?” If my imagination were a muscle, I would have strained it. But she can be forgiven, because loneliness is not the kind of thing you’re aware of unless it’s affecting you.

Not having many close friendships can eat away at your self-esteem: it’s difficult not to take it personally when everyone else around you seems to have loads of friends.

But as important as they are, having 80 friends really doesn’t sound very appealing, quite aside from the fact that you’d be at a birthday party every five days. It’s taken a while, but now I know there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with me that makes me incapable of friendship. And if you ever find yourself in a similar friend drought, it’s very likely there’s nothing wrong with you, either.

In fact, there are some upsides to being a bit of a loner. You can be selfish: think of how many times you'd have to do something you didn’t want to if you had 80 people to placate. You don't have to compromise, or pretend to be interested in three-hour conversations about interview outfits. You don’t have to go out when you feel like staying in, or settle for your second-favourite restaurant.

The survey found that adults make most of their friends at work due to longer working hours. But despite our busy lives, we mustn’t forget the importance of alone time – which is something you won’t be surprised to learn I have in abundance.

Getting on with life without the incomparable support of friends makes you resilient, self-sufficient, self-aware and brimming with stories from when you were looking at the world around you rather than texting. In other words, it makes you the perfect friend.

So I will embrace ageing and look forward to reaching the age of 29, just in case the survey is right. But despite verging on buying a fish just so I have someone to talk to, I hope I never have 80 friends. A friend is way too special to have in such vast quantities.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The victory of the NO campaign was confirmed at 6.08am on Friday morning  

Scottish referendum: Partisan fallout, Gordon Brown's comeback and Elizabeth, the Queen of unity

Jane Merrick
The central concept of Death Row Dinners is an interesting way  to make us think more about our food  

Out there: A death row diner, the other musicians taking a leaf out of U2's (i)book and rolling up my CV for a smoking hot job opportunity

Simmy Richman
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam