Why don't I like new people and how can I get over it and make friends? Long snowflake details inside.
I guard my emotions a lot and it takes quite a bit for me to open up to people. Even many close friends I have a hard time expressing myself to. This is complicated by the fact that I'm not a very introspective person, so even if I want to I have a hard time articulating my emotions because I haven't put them into clear thoughts. Every time I try to I can't really come up with anything concrete, or anything that seems "important" or pertinent to my day-to-day life.
Oh wow, this is going to be a long one.
I've seen vaguely similar questions on here before, even this one on the earlier today (out of which I got a fair amount and used to frame this) covers some of the same territory, but nothing that I feel is close enough to that I'm experiencing or that covers all the bases.
Backstory: I'm a 25 year old guy living in New York City. In middle school I made friends with a handful of people and have been coasting ever since. I would become friends with their friends rather than meeting new people from outside of my immediate social circle. That sort of kept snowballing to the point where I haven't really had to make brand new friends in over twelve years, I've always just met someone who was friends with a friend and got closer to them. In high school I had a fairly large friend group who were mostly friends with each other, and a sizable chunk of us went to the same college. After college, about a year and a half ago, I moved to NYC where I had several close friends already established, and everyone else scattered across the country, as is typical for post-college. Within the past year or so, my handful of NYC friends moved across the country. I keep in touch with them and quite a few of my middle/high school/college friends by text, sporadic e-mails and phone calls, and an occasional visit to go and see them, but I miss how close I felt with many of them and how much I enjoyed their company.
In the meantime, I've made two or three new friends, but nobody that I would necessarily see myself becoming as close to as many friends in the past, or whom I actively seek out to hang out with more than once every two weeks. Now this generally isn't that bad, as I really enjoy being alone, much more so than most people. This can be great when I'm in the mood to just be by myself, work on my hobbies, watch movies, etc, but sometimes it also leads to crushing loneliness when I don't have any real human contact with anyone outside of work for a week or two at a time.
Now, the problem is twofold: I don't like anyone, and nobody likes me.
Now that's a gross exaggeration, but I've been told (and have myself observed) that it typically takes a few meetings for somebody to "get" me and start to like me. I've had some really close friends who said that they didn't really like me the first couple of times we met, but none of them could really seem to pin down why. I don't think I'm particularly abrasive, annoying, or have any major qualities which would immediately turn people off, but I am shy and it takes me some time to open up and feel comfortable around somebody new. It's possible that sometimes I overcompensate for this shyness by talking too much about inane things or making bad jokes, or just get flustered and all my thoughts get scrambled and I come off looking like an idiot. I think I fake it pretty well sometimes, but my guess is that I seem boring and bland the majority of the time when meeting new people.
The other part of that equation is that most people I meet just don't interest me. In situations like school where you have a lot of peers around, I was able to meet far more people and really cherry pick the people that I liked and who excited and interested me. Even then, though, I had a problem taking it past the "classmates who get along well inside class and seem to be compatible" stage. Even grabbing lunch with that person just somehow doesn't translate to friendship down the line. I've been slowly getting better at this with saying things like "How do we hang out again?" if I meet somebody at a party and getting their phone number, but unless it's a date I don't really know how to follow up unless we have something specific in common (i.e. we both like live comedy and I say "I was thinking about going to this show want to come.")
But now that I'm in NYC and meeting far fewer people, I can't even get to that stage most of the time because I just don't seem to care for anyone I meet. In the past I've had a tendency to be judgmental, which I'm sure is still a big part of this, but I don't really know how to fully snap out of that. But half the time that isn't even the problem, as it's not that I dislike someone, but just that I don't like them. I see nothing there that interests or excites me, or makes me want to hang out with that person again. Maybe I would if I got more exposure to them, but as it stands there just isn't a "hook." I just feel completely apathetic about most people as it currently stands.
There are, though, definitely times where I can still see that I'm judgmental. If somebody keeps quoting movies and TV shows at a party, if they show a lack of judgement, or they make comments that I could see as vaguely misogynistic or homophobic (for example, saying "no homo!" jokingly), I tend to write them off right there.
I've tried to get to know people who have similar interests by taking classes, but even if I end up liking someone in that class I have the problem of not knowing how to take it from "Hey let's get some drinks after class" to "Hey, want to hang out this weekend?" Another problem in this vein is that I tend to have vaguely nerdy interests, but everybody seems either way too nerdy for me (to the point where it becomes their lifestyle rather than a hobby/interest, or they can't talk about anything else), or they aren't interested in that sort of stuff at all.
The simple fact, as it seems to me, is that nobody seems to excite me anymore. I very rarely see someone and go "I want to be friends with that person." Sometimes I feel like just giving up and becoming a hermit, but I'd just miss the human contact too much.
Some other things that may have something to do with this:
I'm also not interested in dating anyone right now, but probably for the same reason: nobody's excited me enough. This has been a problem for years, too, as I've dated some very sweet girls in that time but have ended the relationships because I just wasn't stimulated and it didn't seem fair to them. I've tried meeting dates online but I tend to lose interest before we even meet up in person. I also don't feel like I want the compromise involved in a relationship at this point in my life.
I have a lot of Anxiety, with a capitol A. I've been put on different medications for it in the past, but nothing worked and I was able to work on it to the point where it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Sometimes this takes the form of social anxiety.
Sometimes I dread or am not looking forward to things that, when I get there, I actually really enjoy. This can be a date, going out to a certain party, etc. So maybe if I forced myself to talk to people more the same thing would happen?
I have a below-average sense of self-worth. It's possible that I don't feel I deserve to hang out with people that I find cool, or don't think I'd be able to if I tried (the latter I kind of feel has been reinforced a few times). So it's definitely not that I think people aren't interesting/cool enough to hang out with me.
At times I can be selfish, and I tend not to be very self-aware when it comes to other people's feelings. This is something I've really started to work on over the past year, but it's taking time since I don't have many close friends around me.
With those being said, I have had (and do have) quite a few close friends in the past with whom these sorts of things haven't been issues, I'm just trying to make a list of things that might be contributing factors - I may have come off as overly critical of myself, but I generally don't think that way day-to-day. A lot of these things I'm perhaps overstating the degree to which they're true or affect my life or psyche just because I think they may provide additional information.
Are my standards and expectations too high, as was brought up in mhm407's post? I don't feel like I need someone to completely match me or have the same things in common with me or agree with me politically, just to be interesting to me. If those expectations are too high, how do I change them to start liking people more and get over myself? Is this issue of not wanting compromise for a relationship becoming the same in my friendships? If so, how do I get over that? And a thousand other questions.
I think I've lost perspective and don't really know where to go from here. I'm guessing all the pieces are laid out but I just haven't figured out how to put the puzzle together yet. Like I said, I'm not very introspective so even getting all this out in as clear of a manner as this was a challenge. Even just typing all of this out gives me an idea of what might be going on (I sound like a colossal, judgmental prick on paper apparently), but I still don't know what to do with that and I'd like to hear some outside thoughts.
And sorry about the essay length!
posted by gregoryg to Human Relations (21 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite