You know that your friends are already important to you. As you grow out of childhood and into adulthood, you’re learning how to make social groups with people who aren’t your family. By this stage of your life, your friends’ opinions and ideas probably have greater weight than your parents’ or teachers’. This is totally normal!
As a young entrepreneur, your friends are an important part of your team. They’ll pick you up when you get down on yourself, cheer for your accomplishments, and act as built-in therapy when you need to vent.
But making friends as a teen can be, well, challenging. We’ve got some tips for finding – and keeping – good friends.
TELL ME WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE, AND I’LL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE
Creating a life for yourself where you spend more time with the friends you choose than with the family you were born into means you need to choose wisely. As you meet new people and welcome them into your life, ask yourself:
- Does this person make me feel good?
- Do I need to “prove” myself to them?
- What are their other friends like?
- Do I feel used?
- Have others who know me well say that they don’t know me anymore?
- Is this person happy about my successes and understanding of my failures?
While you’re still learning who you really are, make sure you don’t allow your friends to turn you into someone you wouldn’t like.
GOOD FRIENDS HELP YOU COPE
This study out of Australia shows that teens who have good friends cope with stressful situations better than those without close, quality friends. Whether it’s getting a lower grade on a test than you were hoping for, getting into a major fight with a parent, or being dumped by your sweetheart, friends help you build resilience, so you learn how to bounce back.
Once again, when we talk about friends as a source of resilience, we mean good friends. The ones who are willing to listen to you vent. Who can relate and maybe offer advice. Who will remind you how great you are. And, for young entrepreneurs, who can help you get back on your entrepreneurial journey.
YOUNG ENTREPRENEURIAL FRIENDS “GET” YOU
By joining a program specifically designed for young entrepreneurs, you’ll surround yourself with built-in peers. These are teens just like you who are college-bound, ambitious, bright, and full of energy! More than anyone else, they know exactly what you’re going through on your entrepreneurial journey. They, too, have to learn how to balance school, activities, and running a business. Whether they are your teammates on a summer project or your opponents at a competition, these teens are the closest peers you’ll find at this stage of life. Nurture those relationships, as you’ll need each other moving forward.
FRIENDS ARE GOOD FOR YOUR FUTURE MENTAL HEALTH
When it comes to predictors of your mental health in adulthood, those of you with a few really good friends (rather than a large group of so-so friends) are ahead of the curve. Close friends in your teen years can help boost your sense of self-worth and help you keep anxiety in check. As you hit your early- to mid-twenties, this translates into overall better mental health.
This, yet again, is why it’s important to pick a few quality friends instead of a large quantity of friends. Even if you’re part of a large social group, try to have one or two go-to friends you know you can count on no matter what.
FRIENDS TEACH YOU HOW TO BE A PERSON
As you navigate the ups and downs, the dramas and situations, the roller coasters of friendships, you’re learning how to navigate the bigger world around you. Young entrepreneurs, especially, need to develop strong leadership, problem-solving, and networking skills. While you’re trying to diplomatically guide two friends through a fight, you’re hard-wiring your brain to see both sides of a situation, engage empathy, and find solutions. When the members of your social group can’t agree on which movie to go see, you show leadership by making a choice so that at least a decision gets made.
WHAT IF MAKING FRIENDS SEEMS TOO CHALLENGING?
Humans have evolved to be social creatures. It’s what kept us safe from predators back in our hunter-gatherer days. Social groups helped raise children and take care of one another. Teens, especially, need socialization. Not just online socialization, either. You need friends IRL.
But what happens when making friends doesn’t come easy to you?
If you’re not already a member of a club or organization, consider joining one. That’s probably the easiest way to make friends because everyone there has the same interests you have. No club at your school that catches your interest? Ask a member of your school’s administration how you can start one! Even if only one other person joins, that’s one person who likes your idea.
Going with that same theme of surrounding yourself with like-minded people, think about volunteering somewhere. Animal-lovers will find each other at places like shelters or veterinary hospitals. Those of you who want to work with kids can make great friends by spending a summer working at a nearby camp.
Is there someone at your school who keeps trying to be friends with you, but you keep pushing them away? Ask yourself why you’re doing that. Is this person toxic, or are you just too concerned with your social image? If someone wants to be your friend, see if you can at least give them a chance.
Finally, help a classmate – and ask for help in return. When you work together to solve a problem, you form a connection that can lead to mutual understanding and respect.
Remember that it’s totally normal to have friends drift in and out of your life right now. You’re changing by leaps and bounds every day! Don’t close yourself off to new friends, focus on positive people, and be a good friend in return.
Click here to learn how the Kantner Foundation helps young entrepreneurs by offering college scholarships to Florida high school students.