Never in a million years did I think when I started The Social Project that it would give me the opportunity to connect with talented, brilliant boss babes all over the world. And yet there I was in London, England hanging out with Gemma from How To Make Friends and it felt like I had known her for years. I think the craziest part for me was Gemma doesn’t even live in London, so she travelled quite a distance to meet up with me, and I am so so grateful that she did. A little outside of The Social Project norm, we hung out on the rooftop patio of my London Air BnB, drank wine [of course!], and chatted for HOURS! It was a total blast and I already cannot wait to go back and visit her.
I just love Gemma’s story so so much, her mind thinks in creative ideas and her passion for life is truly admirable. Read along to hear what we chatted about and find out more about Gemma and her How To Make Friends project. You can also check out some of my favourite photos of London that I took on our trip!
Gemma I am so happy to have you here, thank you SO much for travelling to London to hang out. Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
So the social world knows me as How To Make Friends, and actually I’ve recently quit my job and am just fully doing How To Make Friends now. For so long I worked basically doing content creation for an online company, completely unrelated to the How To Make Friends project I started for myself. I would literally wake up at 5am, work for a few hours on the HTMF blog, go to work all day, come home and just blog. It was just mad, and it all just went so well with HTMF like I couldn’t have dreamed it any better. Then I just thought that I had got the blog to such a good place that I couldn’t get any further on without more time so I just went for it. Something not many people know is I do photography as well, so on my weekends or some evenings I am shooting engagements or weddings.
So you have just recently quit your job and are just doing this full time? That is so exciting!! And how does that feel?
It’s been about three weeks now and it feels so natural. I thought it was going to be this crazy high or crazy low, you know? But it just feels like a natural progression, it’s been really good.
I recently read your blog post about your journey with How To Make Friends and how you had marked your one year milestone, can you tell me more about the project and how you got started?
It all started with my own friend project, which as you know has just recently finished because the year is up. What got me started was I am in my late 20’s all my friends are married now and have babies – and you know their priorities changed and I wasn’t one of them anymore. I was just super lonely, I thought I just need to do something I need to go meet new people and move forward. So I just thought I am going to do this friend project and try to make new friends. I told everyone about it, you know I told my friends about it, and actually the more people I talked to everyone was like “oh ya I could do with making some new friends actually”.
I totally get that. And think it is a refreshing perspective. You wouldn’t stay in a physical relationship if you didn’t connect anymore so why do we all feel pressure to keep friendships if they aren’t working out!
Yes! Things change dramatically. Within weeks, within months, let alone years. And I feel like people get stuck in feeling like they need to be friends. But if you don’t connect anymore it’s fine to move on and make new friends.
Now was your initial plan to work on making new friends in your area or sort of globally?
I think more locally to me to begin with. I remember the first ever thing I thought of was what if there are five particular friend types that are your perfect friends. So I was thinking like for example if you have a daily friend – you know the one that just drops by. If you had a long distant friend, if you have a friend you go on holiday with, you know. And so I was going through these types of friends you could have and it really changed quite quickly in terms of the friends I thought I wanted and the friends that actually made sense to fit into my life. Because I always thought oh ya I’d love to have a friend that just pops by and you have tea and stuff, but then I thought I would actually hate that. I would hate someone knocking on my door and I’m thinking oh shoot I have work to do, I have this and I have that. So you have to think of what actually fits into your lifestyle. So at that time I found myself single and just wanting to go out and have fun, so I needed people that were on my wavelength that could do spontaneous things with me. I think a lot of people just rely on friends that just happen to be people who cross their paths, but it’s not.
Yes absolutely! I am totally resonating with this. I don’t often share too much during these interviews but I remember the last time I came to London, I was feeling super lonely back home – all of my friends had either moved far away and I was trying to maintain these long distant relationships, or the ones closer to home were in relationships or school and just didn’t have time. And I was single, in my early 20’s and craving that spontaneous girls night out connection. I don’t think I would have ever at the time admitted that I was feeling lonely, because people attributed my loneliness to being single. But looking back I was just lonely in general, and would have given anything for that one friend to just call up and get together with for a drink or a movie. So in an attempt to do something I bought a plane ticket, and flew to London by myself for the first time ever. And spending that much time with myself, touring round the city alone – having lunch and drinking wine on Covent Garden, it was such an eye opening experience that I will be forever grateful for.
I love that. And that is the essence of then going on to make new friends. You have to be your own best friend first, and people completely miss that point. People who won’t give up those friendships that don’t serve them anymore because they don’t want to be alone.
Yes! And honestly you have to like hanging out with yourself in order for someone else to like hanging out with you to.
Absolutely! Ab-so-lutely. And that is completely the essence of what I coach people with.
What was the biggest thing with your friend project that really made you feel like this is something you wanted to continue?
It just all happened so quickly. It literally, as soon as I started telling people “oh I felt a bit lonely” and people were like oh ya me too. And just the sheer amount of people who were feeling lonely too, I just couldn’t believe it. Admitting you feel lonely, no one likes to do it, it’s such a taboo subject. But why? You’re allowed to say if you feel a bit lonely, so I wanted to normalize that feeling. I originally just thought I would blog about my project and how my journey with making new friends was going and then I would be done with it, but within a month of the blog it was all for other people. It was just mad, but I love it and was ready to lead the way for everyone who was feeling lonely, or shy.
And what would you say was the biggest shock or revelation after you started?
I took it on as my own thing and suddenly I was telling everyone else what to do and giving advice. It took a weird shift. And actually I realized I was so much further along the process than so many other people. I think the biggest thing for me was getting used to doing things alone, and now its become so natural for me to go out and enjoy spending time alone.
So what is your favourite thing to do just with yourself?
I love a breakfast. Going for breakfast is just the best.
Well this is all so exciting. And I think everyone could benefit from reinventing themselves – I know you recently started offering something called the Make Friends Club, can you tell me a bit more about that?
I get messages all the time from people wanting to make new friends, or if they just feel a bit lonely, so I thought what if I came up with a program that people could do and enjoy and go on a transformation journey. So i just decided to go for it, and I thought 12 weeks lets do this. And then I thought actually if people do this together, if there is a group of us all in this journey together, so I opened it up to a total of 10 women and that way you almost have a whole circle of friends instantly and how good is that! So just from doing my own project I can take all the bits I would have wanted and all the bits that would have made my life easier and give that to all of these people now. It’s all booked now but I will be launching the next club in the new year so stay tuned for that!
I love it! Okay since we are in London, and I am not normally here, can you tell me your favourite place in England?
So I am from Suffolk, and Suffolk is really beautiful I am actually really lucky. I spent my whole life trying to get away from the place because it is countryside and rural, and when you live somewhere like that you think all of the fun stuff happens in the city. But then when you’re in the city you often just want to escape from the countryside. As I got older and spent more time in Suffolk I really love it, I really recommend it. There the coast, and all of these little lovely seaside towns!
And since you love breakfast, I have to ask – where is your favourite breakfast spot?
So there is this place called Suffolk Food Hall, and the food is incredible. It has the most beautiful view – there is this big bridge in Suffolk called the Orwell Bridge and this place is basically under that so you have the bridge and the water to look at. It’s really lovely and it just has a nice vibe.
I will certainly have to check it out!
So as we wrap things up, what is your biggest piece of advice to someone who is feeling lonely or might be a bit shy?
The first step no matter how introverted or extroverted you are is to spend time alone. And that is literally the key, that is the place to start for everyone. To actually figure out who you are and what kind of friends you want. Not everyone’s after loads of friends, some people like to have a really small friend circle and that’s great, but it’s good to figure that stuff out before because otherwise you’re always looking for things you don’t necessarily want. Sit down and think, if I was looking for inspiration from someone who is the friend I’d go to, if I was looking for someone to go out on the weekend with who is the friend I’d go to. Ask yourself questions that mean the most to you, and if you cant fill that answer then that is the friend you need to go out and look for. It’s so important to know what you are after, and building that self love by spending time alone is where your confidence will come from. Never be afraid to talk to people, just spark up a conversation with anyone you come across with – just small little conversation starters, that way when you do meet someone you really want to strike up a conversation with it will feel natural. If someone looks at you weird and doesn’t want to talk I mean you havn’t lost anything, just move on with your day.
I love it! Thank you! Alright, and lastly, if you could describe yourself as an animal what would you be!?
I’d be a horse. I find them to be a bit anxious and honestly I’m a bit anxious. But they are also pretty cool. I just love horses, they like to eat, I like to eat.
Did we just become best friends? Yup! Don’t you just love Gemma, seriously give her a follow and on Instagram @howtomakefriends_ – her stories are my absolute favourite way to start my day. And she just recently started a podcast which I am SO excited for.
Thank you so much for following along with The Social Project. As always, I want to leave you all with a question and a challenge – who did you inspire today? Who could you inspire tomorrow? Or maybe you need the inspiring? Whichever or whatever it is get out there and create, spread some empowerment and truth around and lift each other up! You never know what might be brewing, or what magic you might create.
If you’re interested in being a part of The Social Project, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,