I'm a female eighteen-year-old in the middle of my freshman year at college. I've been having trouble making friends and meeting new people.
posted by athenadanae to human relations (36 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Before I start, I know, I know, this situation is just so typical. Somewhat extenuating circumstances: I've never been in a romantic relationship before, am extremely wary of starting one for some reason, and truthfully just have kind of crap social skills overall.
There's probably several reasons for my difficulties in making friends. I'm going to school at a public school in a small-ish town which is much, much more conservative and homogeneous than I'm used to (I'm from Portland, Oregon). As such I feel like I don't have much in common with other people and I don't want to feel like I have to adapt in order to fit in better with the lowest common denominator. I'm not talking about specific people, I'm referring to standards about appearance that I feel like are more prevalent in suburbia (ex. highlights, going blonde, fake tanning) that I find to be restrictive and sexist. I don't mean to give anyone flack here, it's just that I don't want to feel pressured to look this way. I live in the pacific northwest, for goodness' sake, no one should be tan, lol. Anyway, it's a college town... there must be people of all walks of life and philosophies here, right? I'm probably belaboring the point. The main thing is that I'm not really clicking with anyone.
I'm aware of how I come off. I'm really tall (5'11 ish) but not overweight, I care about my appearance, wear makeup and have good hygiene. I wear somewhat fashionable clothing, to the extent that I can afford it. But I'm extremely quiet and passive and don't usually talk to other people first. Talking to guys happens, but I'm really awkward. There is one girl in one of my classes I might be becoming friends with, and I have roommates. Other than that, I just can't see how anyone could get enough of a good sense of who I am from this to like me or to want to try to get to know me better.
Anyway, so I've been trying to be proactive. My attempts at being more social, healthy, balanced etc. include:
-I started volunteering at a local thrift store
-I joined a weaving class
-I go to free cooking classes occasionally
-I also joined a therapy group. It's called "Self and Others" and the emphasis is on learning new social skills and how to interface with other people better.
Other than that, I basically do homework, cook, and go online to try to distract myself from being bored and depressed.
The group therapy has been interesting so far, but I'm still having trouble talking in it. It's a lot easier for me to respond to other people than it is for me to talk about myself, for some reason. It might have something to do with the incredible extent to which I am introverted, or it might be something else.
There's one thing I'm hesitant to talk to the therapy group, nay, anyone about, and I feel like it's weighing on my psyche, so I'll go over it here because I feel like it might shed light on the issues I'm having.
Towards the end of my senior year at high school and into the summer, I joined OkCupid because I wanted to take one of the quizzes. I was already on the site, and I have a sort of idealistic, romantic side which is quickly becoming the bane of my existence that led me to fill out my profile a bit. A guy messaged me and I started to correspond with him. He goes to school in Michigan (a billion miles away), so I thought of it like it wasn't a big deal.
It turned out to be a huge drain on me and a really negative experience in a lot of ways. He was suicidal--he had recently stopped believing in Christianity and believed that life was meaningless, had no good friends, didn't sincerely believe in his ability to truly love anyone, and was super narcissistic. It was one of those things where I knew continuing to write him was a terrible idea, but did anyway. He needed me to be there for him all the time, spend hours IMing him, etc. He didn't really ask a lot about me but I felt like he must have seen something in me that was special, which was basically why I kept writing him. There was also a massive sense of obligation and of owing it to him to write; he would talk about how horrible his family was, how they were fat and stupid and needed to divorce, being under the poverty line, his Christian guilt, etc. He said "I love you" and would put hearts on the ends of his messages, but also used emotional blackmail. I reciprocated with hearts to reassure him but never typed "love." I still have no idea why he picked me to write to. I think I must have been getting off on the sense of being needed, or something like that. Again, a very bad experience for me.
I lived with my stepmom (not my dad, they're separated) and mentioned the situation to her but didn't really talk about it a lot. She saw me once when I was writing online guy and said I looked like my sister. (This was a huge insult. I have a twin sister who was living with my biological mom at the time, and she's been a perpetual example of what not to do in my life. It's like a bizarre twin study or something: she lived with my mom, I lived with my stepmom, I have life skills now, she doesn't. There's family issues there obviously, but it's a lot to go into.) I developed a guilt complex about how writing him was making me a bad person, and said I would try to slowly lessen the amount of attention I was giving him until I could drop him.
Obligation to him made me not want to do this though, and I had the brilliant idea to keep writing him but hide it from her! This didn't work out, for obvious reasons. I would be so guilty I'd literally be shaking by the time she came home. I'm a terrible liar. One day, when I was at school, she went on my computer, found the huge mass of email we had traded, and pretty much flipped out and threatened to kick me out. I think she said something to the effect of, "I thought you weren't like the rest of your family, but I guess I was wrong." (My dad abused her and probably has narcissistic personality disorder.)
It shattered my ego. I felt like, if she didn't think I had potential as a human being, who the fuck did? It was like discovering that the one person who had actually loved you unconditionally had been wrong about you all those years. Really terrible. I was apologizing for days. She didn't kick me out, and I was still able to go to college. (She later took back some of the judgment, since she had been going through a breakup at the same time and was maybe a bit more pessimistic and emotional than she would otherwise be. We haven't talked about it for months.)
So I've been making an effort to not be a horrible person and, well, here I am.
This might all seem like it's not related to my life now at all, but I think it is. I actually created another OkCupid profile (after having deleted the old one for obvious reasons), out of boredom and loneliness. I've been chatting with another guy. I said on my profile that I'm NOT interested in hardcore getting-to-know-you or dating, and that I'm there purely for fun. This other guy messaged me because apparently I seemed unpretentious, and we've been talking about philosophy and art. There is no romantic subtext (he's 29, which is way the fuck too old for me anyway). The problem with this: I still have tons of leftover guilt. I don't know if he would want to message me if he knew it had so much unintended significance on my side of it, and I'm feeling threatened by the situation. My stepmom doesn't know that I'm on the website again and I don't know what her reaction to this would be. (But should I really live my life wondering whether authority figures approve of what I'm doing? How is that healthy?) My explanation for why I'm on OkC again: I'm so lonely! The idea that there are like-minded people in the world that only have to be scouted out, secret people who are the ones who will really appreciate me, well, it's comforting.
I know this is bullshit. The only thing that's in my way of making friends with people in real life is being really shy and having trouble disclosing anything to people. I feel too vulnerable, and it's hard for me to feel like my opinion or even presence is valued. Being a twin with a narcissist parent, there is an almost comical amount of projecting and mirroring going on all the time. I also believe that my early family life has taught me to expect a role in friendships to necessarily include being narcissistic supply, which is very worrisome. It's a pattern with my friendships--all my friends are assertive and want me to go do things with them and not the other way around, as part of a posse almost. It's not their fault that I'm bad at reciprocating in a normal way, I'm not saying that. My own behavior is what I need to change. But I still really value being singled out... even if it's because someone wants to leech off me. Ugh.
I brought this up with the guy I'm currently talking to, who reassured me that I should never, ever feel pressured to talk to him and that he's definitely not in a place where he needs to leech off other people to be happy. Emotional maturity is such a relief to find in people, I'm serious.
I feel that being able to make friends on the Internet makes it easier for me, as an introvert, to feel comfortable. It also allows me to think about what I say so I don't focus too much on the other person. Still, I wish I knew if there were some reason that's not occurring to me why this is incredibly unhealthy, so that disaster (if it's forthcoming) can be averted.
I want to learn how to be easier to get to know and more open to people. I want to come off as a more interesting person, and I want to be healthier. I want to know how to talk about myself without feeling like I sound like a selfish asshole. This is all the bullshit that's standing in my way. So, any tips, experiences or advice? And yes, I realize that I am young and inexperienced and that everything takes on a distorted significance because of isolation. Any useful thoughts for handling this would also be very appreciated. And sorry the explanation is so long!
tl;dr female INFP introvert here. I want to learn how to stay away from narcissists and make friends who like me for who I am! Any advice?