It’s always been hard for me to make friends. It’s difficult for me to jump into conversations with groups of people and my fear of saying something awkward or embarrassing myself prevents me from really connecting.
Recently I’ve found myself involved with a social group I really like hanging out with though. However, my usual fears of not fitting in completely still linger. I always assume that if they ever hang out without me that it means that they actually don’t like me and only invite me to things out of a sense of obligation. I keep going out of my way to try and prove that I’m a worthy part of their group but every time I do it feels awkward and forced.
I’m worried that eventually they will just ditch me entirely. What should I do?
The Awkward Friend
Dear The Awkward Friend,
When I was little my mother’s favorite saying used to be, “You are the only unique you.” She even had painting of it done and hung it in the hallway outside of my bedroom. At the time I would walk by it on a daily basis and roll my eyes – it’s such a mom saying, you know? Anyone who has attended public school has first hand knowledge that being unique actually isn’t that great, it’s an excuse to get picked on. “You are the only unique you” goes right up there with “you are so special” and “they are just jealous” on the list of ridiculous things mothers say to try and make us feel better and we ignore them because clearly they just don’t know what’s going on.
Another annoying “mom” saying is “You’ll understand when you’re older.” And awkward, just like the sayings in the first paragraph, it is just as true. We grow up so badly wanting to be popular, to fit in with a group instead of just being ourselves. Being yourself is really, really hard. It means being vulnerable and honest and open to the world – whereas fitting in means comfort and companionship. It means never having to be alone. It’s only when you get older that you realize fitting in with a fake version of yourself is a much lonelier fate than you think it is. What you need is a group of friends that accept you for you.
It’s possible that you already have that, darling. The fear of losing it is natural because finding people you really click with is difficult (you have to sort through the other fakers!), but I think your head is getting the best of you. Have you ever expressed interest in the things they do without you? Sometimes we think other people are mind-readers when actually most people aren’t psychic. If they knew you were interested, they probably would have asked you to go.
You can also be proactive. I know it’s scary putting yourself out there, but do you invite them to things you like to do? Treat them as you wish to be treated! I feel that your fear of doing something awkward may make you seem closed off, where if you invited them to an event or to do something that you enjoy maybe you’ll feel more comfortable, and they’ll probably like it too! It’s one more thing to bond over. And don’t feel defeated if they aren’t as into it as you are, sometimes friends have differences and that’s totally okay. I promise it doesn’t mean they hate you.
What you need Awkward Friend is to drop the pretense and have a little faith. You are the only unique you and that is a worthy, awesome thing to be. Let them love you for that and then you don’t have to worry about trying so hard.
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