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Gala Darling explains the power of prioritizing friendships (whether you’re single or not)


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gala-darling-radical-self-love-excerptAlthough she started as a fashion blogger, Gala Darling‘s trajectory shifted dramatically when, after what she describes as a “massive personal transformation,” she decided that she’d rather focus her work on people themselves, rather than the clothes they were wearing.

From there, her philosophy of radical self-love was born, and she’s made it her mission to help women bridge the gap between how they see themselves and how they want to see themselves. Since then, the Kiwi (now based in New York City) regularly shares her teachings through her blog, her insanely color-coordinated Instagram account (you can take the girl out of fashion, but…), and now, her debut book Radical Self-Love (out via Hay House this week).

Here, she shares an excerpt that tackles loneliness—and how we can find self-love not through romantic relationships, but rather through the friendships we make.

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Loneliness is not just for people who live in cabins like hermits or who never leave their houses. A lot of us are lonely and hardly even realize it, because loneliness can manifest in many different ways. If you often find yourself feeling excluded or like no one really understands, or if you find it hard to talk to people about what you’re feeling, it could just be that you’re lonely.

Sadly, loneliness is part of the modern human condition. We spend so much time in front of our computers and staring into our phones, and while we might be “talking” to our friends or peers all day, we’re lacking the deep, connected, face-to-face personal interactions that used to be an essential part of life.

One of the hardest things to stomach is the feeling of loneliness while you’re in a committed relationship. We’ve all bought into the fantasy that our perfect partner will tick all our boxes, as well as be a riveting conversationalist and a great listener and share many of our interests. This is so rarely the case! It is, quite frankly, mad to expect one person to be able to provide us with everything we need from the outside world. That is why most of us have a variety of people we spend time with or go to for advice. Our friends all bring something different to the table.

In a lot of ways, you get out of friendship what you put into it: you have to make the effort and put yourself out there.

I have some friends I talk to about business, some who love to riff on spirituality, a bunch who consider themselves sexperts, and a special few I can talk to about absolutely anything. That’s the great thing about friends: they bring diversity, breadth, and width to your life.

The good news is that if you feel lonely, ironically, you are not alone. A lot of people feel that way, and it’s totally okay. They don’t all go off the deep end! Even better than that, with just a simple switch in your thinking (or belief systems), you’ll realize that the world is full of people who can supply you with those things you crave. Want someone you can talk with frankly about your sexuality? Desperate for some political debate? Hankering for a feminine role model or mentor? Even if you just want someone you can go and get a manicure with, or someone you can send frantic text messages to about whether your outfit works or not, there is someone out there who will fill that gap, someone who can be that person for you. You just have to find them!

The idea of “making friends” can make us all feel a bit coy, a bit juvenile. I mean, how are you supposed to make friends as a bona fide adult?! Awkward!

Except it’s not awkward at all, or at least it doesn’t have to be. It’s as easy as putting on a smile and approaching someone with a friendly tone.

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Female Friendships

When I was younger, I was guilty of putting my boyfriends first. In fact, I didn’t have a lot of female friends, but that is probably no big surprise. Since I was always best friends with my boyfriend, his group of friends became my group of friends. The only women I really knew were dating his male friends. I didn’t seek out female companionship, and I was okay with that.

But when I moved to New York City in 2008, that all changed. I didn’t have a boyfriend to rely on, and I started to meet people under my own steam. I began to discover all of these amazing women who had their own businesses and blogs, were doing their own thing, and were kicking major amounts of ass. It was really inspiring to meet women like this in the flesh, and as time goes by, I value having these women in my life even more.

I prioritize spending time with my girlfriends; it is essential. It’s like having a genius girl coven who get you, who love to laugh with you, and who can give you advice and lift you up when you need it.

A lot of women don’t have many female friends, and that’s okay, but if this is resonating with you, I’d encourage you to seek out more babes to spend time with. We’re constantly being taught to see women as competition rather than people who need you and can make your life better. We are so much more powerful when we’re together!

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Making Friends

Don’t be intimidated by the name of this section. Keep in mind that you are already surrounded by people who know you, and so you don’t need to go out and meet a new slew of weirdos in order to form great friendships or have a banging social life. In fact, if you made a list of all the people you already know—relatives, workmates, friends of the family, people you once worked with, members of groups or religious organizations you’re a part of, people you went to school with, their families, etc.—you’d be quite shocked at the vastness of your social network.

Don’t judge a book by its cover too much! If you ask the right questions, you’ll discover that anyone can be fascinating! If ever you want to tap into that pool of people, it’s as easy as making a phone call or sending an e-mail. The situation is never as dire as you think!

I have met people in the most unlikely places. Once I responded to the Craigslist ad of an American man who was in Auckland for a few weeks and wanted an activity companion. Friendships have blossomed in Las Vegas over buffet dinners, I’ve had fascinating conversations with people on airplanes, and I’ve met girls online who later cuddled me through heartbreak. In a lot of ways, you get out of friendship what you put into it: you have to make the effort and put yourself out there.

Realistically, making a friend is as easy as starting a conversation . . . but here are some things that will make your quest a little easier!

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Practice smiling.

I know this sounds a little bizarre, but seriously: do it! Practice smiling at people when you pass them in the street, when they get into the elevator with you, when you order your food. You will find, overwhelmingly, that most people will respond in kind. (Those who don’t are probably just having a bad day, so don’t take it personally!) Smiling makes you feel good and is like getting your training wheels in being social. It’s a way of breaking you out of your comfort zone, which needs to happen if you want to start meeting new people!

Practice saying hello.

This is like adding an extra step into your smile practice, and now you’re involving your vocal cords! Again, you’ll discover that most people will say hello back, and some will even enter into conversation with you.

Give compliments.

Everyone loves a good, sincere compliment! It’s a fun thing to work on, too, because it trains you to look for the positive in people, even those with whom you might think you have nothing in common. Start with the little things, like telling someone that their skirt or shoes are cool, and move on to giving compliments about personality or intelligence. The old saying “Flattery will get you everywhere” is more true than you can imagine.

Take off your headphones!

As much as I understand the glory of walking around the city with your own personal soundtrack, try to look at it from the point of view of a potential friend. If you go to the supermarket, gym, or library with your headphones on, no one is going to attempt to talk to you because you look unapproachable! You look like you’re in your own little world and you don’t need anyone else. Now, maybe none of these things are true; maybe you just can’t get enough of the swelling symphonies being piped directly into your brain. Trust me, I get it! I am a music obsessive, too. The problem is that people who see you on the street don’t know these things. There is no context. They might think you look interesting, but because you have headphones on, they don’t want to be a bother. And so it goes!

Avoid bars.

They’re just not the best places to meet people. I mean, if you’re looking for a casual fling, it’s probably a good place to look, but if you’re trying to unearth a potential new best friend, you’ll find it more difficult. The only thing people in a bar have in common is that they want to get their drink on, and unless that is your number one interest, there are much better places to find people with obsessions like yours. The likelihood that you will have something in common with the person you’re standing next to at the bar is low. Don’t sweat it if you haven’t had much luck in bars, pubs, or clubs. It’s not really the most fertile ground for anything valuable.

Place an ad.

This sounds a little odd, I admit, but I speak from experience when I say that it’s really fun and worth trying. Years ago, I had broken up with my boyfriend and was low on friends. I decided to submit an ad in a local paper that had a Looking for Friends column.

I can’t remember the specific details, but I’m pretty sure it described me as a “22-year-old enfant terrible and picnic enthusiast,” and that my favorite book was Lolita. (You can only imagine the kind of people who came out of the woodwork, right?!) I ended up with a lot of interesting responses on my answering machine!

These days, you could easily use an online service for something like this, although to me, there’s nothing like seeing it in print. It’s fun to see who responds, and it’s an excellent way to meet people outside of your normal social circle.

Remember that most people are really pretty simple.

Everybody wants to be liked. Even if the person you’re speaking to is spouting off all kinds of rubbish, see if you can find a grain of truth in what they’re saying and go along with it. This makes for a much more pleasant conversation, not to mention it is good practice in trying to see another person’s point of view. Always remember that people want to feel loved and accepted, and they want to be made to feel special, too. If you can really focus on them—eye contact and being really present in the moment help a lot here—they will think very highly of you.

The world is full of people, and all of them have something wonderful to offer, even if you can’t see it immediately. It’s worth making the effort and trying to get to know strangers. You never know where it could lead! We should all be honored that people want to spend time with us and get to know us. As long as the people in your life make you feel good about yourself, you’re on the right track.

From Radical Self Love by Gala Darling. Reprinted by arrangement with Hay House.

Need a bit more help with that self-love thing? Try this guided meditation, which will remind you just how awesome you are.