When faced with a social situation in which you are engaging in conversations with people, always stop and think, “Am I being my true self?” Are you saying things that are true and line up with your value system? Are you sharing things about yourself that are honest? Are you holding anxiety about the situation or are you able to loosen up and feel somewhat comfortable with being who you are? Are you having fun? These are some of the things you can ask yourself in the moment if you are struggling with how to let the real you shine through! Consider this: you are not spending time thinking about what others are saying or doing and judging them because all of your thoughts are centered around yourself…..isn’t it fair to assume that they are doing the same?

Do what you like to do.

It doesn’t matter if you do it for work or do it for play, but do what you like to do. Sports, hobbies, hiking alone, travel, reading, collecting cigars, whatever it is, do it. You don’t even have to be super passionate about it, but if you enjoy it, do it.

For years I thought nothing was worth doing if I wasn’t Passionate-with-a-capital-P about it. But just enjoyment is enough. And spend the amount of time doing that thing that feel right to you.

Learn how to talk to strangers.

Every stranger is a potential friend, as they say. I’ve always been really shy, but when I focused on doing the things I enjoy, I started to get less shy, at least about those things.

It’s okay if you’re shy or feel like nobody understands you; just practice when you can. Learn that sometimes people don’t respond, and that’s okay. And sometimes you say something weird, and that’s okay. It really is.

Find other people who do what you like to do.

These days, with online social media and the Internet, you can pretty much find people who like to do anything you like to do. From knitting hats for cats to collecting particular kinds of rock, from listening to any kind of music to reading the collected works of obscure Romanian poets. If you like it, someone else likes it, I can almost guarantee it.

Find them, and introduce yourself. There is no rule that says “your people” have to live in the same town as you.

Participate, even if It’s scary.

Just because some people like what you like doesn’t mean they’re “your people.” You may have to keep exploring your interests for awhile, and keep exploring groups who share those interests. But when you find people who seem like they can handle you, step in and help out.

If it’s a group that meets in real life, volunteer your home for a meeting or offer to help out at an event; if it’s one person, invite him or her out to partake in the interest you share. You may feel awkward, but that’s okay. Awkward just means you’re stretching yourself.

Be honest and present.

Once you’ve met people that you feel you want to connect to, practice being brave enough to be open about that with them.

One of the first groups I thought were “my people” actually kind of intimidated me, and I never got up the nerve to be honest with people in the group about that. I ended up finding a related group that didn’t intimidate me as much, but I still wonder, if I had been willing to share my vulnerability with that earlier group, if I could have been able to connect with them more deeply.

Take up space with the people you think might be “your” people. Practice being open, saying what you feel, and being present with them. See how they react. The ones who stay with you in those moments of vulnerability, not judging you or criticizing you, are truly your people.