Skip

But really, how *do* you make friends in a new city?
January 21, 2012 11:00 PM   Subscribe

No, but really, how do you make friends after college?

Today was supposed to be my birthday party, except that nobody came. This was devastating but not surprising, because I knew nobody would. Why should they? I have people who say they're my friends but to whom I don't matter enough for them to talk to me more than rarely or invite me out at all. I have acquaintances, to whom I don't matter at all. I've lost touch with almost everyone from college, a fact that's upset nobody who went to college with me; when I hosted some college friends at my apartment a while back, they didn't even invite me to their dinner reservations. I have one close friend left, and he lives several state away. Meanwhile, the only other person I talk to regularly is an ex-boyfriend, whom I'm friends with because nobody else bothers to talk to me, but he always ends up saying things that hurt me and then going to sleep, leaving me to be even more upset than I was when he started talking to me. As should be fairly obvious, this happened tonight as well.

The problem is, you're not allowed to not have friends. You're not allowed to spend most nights alone unless it's by choice; you're not allowed to spend your Saturday nights watching Netflix unless people can see you say that and know that there were at least three parties you turned down or that you could have called up twenty contacts in your phone. So I lie. I have nothing in common with my roommates (Craigslist); I just pay them rent and lie to them about imaginary parties I might go to when they ask why I'm not going out on weekends. Enough of these lies and they might not ask me to be their roommate anymore, but I can't afford a studio. I spend so much time hinting at the social life I don't have, and I'm sure it's completely transparent to people, but more to the point, it's killing me.

If you read all that, I'm sorry, so here's the point: how do you make friends in a new city after college? It's a major city, if that changes things, but still: nothing is working. Meeting people isn't the problem, it's having meeting people matter. I meet lots of colleagues through work, but they never want more to do with me than acquaintances or friends-in-name-only. I'm involved in some groups, but I get the distinct impression that people wish I wouldn't go to their events, and I certainly wouldn't call the people there friends. I've tried going to events by myself, but it is expensive, embarrassing and has never even resulted in a conversation, let alone a friendship. I've tried going to website meetups, but they are either meetups in name only, attended only by the staff and their close friends even though the link's posted publicly, so I feel like I'm crashing a party, or they're places where I meet a lot of people for an hour or so and never see anyone else again.

Oh, and caveat: Please don't mention meetup.com. I was at a UCB show not too long ago that had an extended segment making fun of people who used the site, and the entire (packed) room found it quite hilarious. I don't want to be one of those people. Plus, the only meetups for my area - seriously, I just went on the site and checked - are for moms, addiction support groups, new-age bullshit, fitness fads or wannabe tech-scene meetups (as opposed to the real ones, which as I understand it happen organically and elsewhere). The entire site is depressing. I feel like a lot of people who recommend it have never actually used it.

Thanks again. I'm sorry I ask so many idiotic questions like these. I'd ask friends if I had them.
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (122 answers total) 160 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't have a great answer for you...I'm extremely slowly making friends through work and a few acquaintances. Everybody I've talked to says to join clubs. While I've got plenty of friends from my hometown area and from school, we've already scattered, and I'm convinced of the need to make new friends where I am.

For what it's worth, what you describe is even worse if you moved to a suburb. The population of people around your age with similar interests is dramatically smaller. I don't know what to tell you, because I don't care for bars and am unlikely to share many interests with people at bars, so I'm having to rely on happenstance and continually trying new things and hoping it will take. I'm told Philly has a lot of great museums, but regrettably, I don't actually care for museums that much and as I have plenty to be doing with my time, I'm less likely to venture out to places alone, though I do so to work on my photography, other projects, or just for a hike.

On the other hand, if you're a woman, you have the option of trying online dating, where the numbers will very much favor you (especially if you're even modestly attractive) and you can go on dates almost at will. Probably not at all what you want, but at least then you have a social life, or a reasonable facsimile of one, that you're not faking.
posted by Strudel at 11:16 PM on January 21, 2012


Oh, and the other thing: please don't mention online dating. I realize some of you might be fortunate enough to not have heard me talk about this, but long story short: the numbers do not favor me, and I cannot go on dates at will.
posted by dekathelon at 11:24 PM on January 21, 2012


Oh honey. First of all, I am so very very sorry about your birthday party. That would deeply upset anyone, anyone at all. Happy birthday, and know that while there may not be people in the same room surrounding you with birthday wishes, there are people out here wishing you a wonderful next year.

Second of all, making friends as an adult is very very hard. It is. But in your case, I can't help wondering if the problem we all share is being exacerbated by something more - perhaps an anxiety or depression issue? Because as gently as possible, your post has warning signs that are pretty clear:

I just pay them rent and lie to them about imaginary parties I might go to when they ask why I'm not going out on weekends. Enough of these lies and they might not ask me to be their roommate anymore...

I'm involved in some groups, but I get the distinct impression that people wish I wouldn't go to their events...

I'm sorry I ask so many idiotic questions like these...

that had an extended segment making fun of people who used the site, and the entire (packed) room found it quite hilarious. I don't want to be one of those people.


Just looking at the last one even... you don't want to try something that might result in friends because a bunch of people you'll never see again and are not friends with laughed at it one time? That indicates a truly, truly painful level of self-conciousness and poor self esteem. My heart hurts for you.

Your questions are not, by the way, idiotic in the least. They are incredibly common, as many past Ask questions indicate. There are a lot of suggestions there for how to make friends, but my concern is that they may not pan out for you the way you hope if you need and don't address some of the underpinning personal work your post makes it sound like you need. So, my round about answers to your questions are the most common Ask answers: therapy, and/or the Feeling Good Handbook. I'm sorry that isn't the direct answer you wanted.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:28 PM on January 21, 2012 [42 favorites]


Some advice I've heard from others:
**become a "regular" customer somewhere--use that as a low effort way to talk to some people regularly.
**take a daily walk in your neighborhood
**be of service to your community-- is there an annual fair or community event? volunteer to help out--just be sure you volunteer for events or efforts that will get you into a group of people.
**organize a new meetup group for your area

And take some time to consider what DarlingBri has said.
posted by calgirl at 11:39 PM on January 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hey, you're not allowed to be so mean to yourself!

Okay, I'm in a similar situation as you are. I moved home after living abroad, leaving my entire social circle oceans and continents away. I have exactly two friends where I live now, and most weekends, unless I make an effort, I'm at home, doing nothing. Although, by nothing I usually mean watching Doctor Who and exercising on my step machine. :)

Listen, you're going to make friends. Have you ever made friends before? You have! So you will make friends again.

By the way, I love meetup.com because it really forces me to get out of my comfort zone. I try the ones that are geared towards activities that I like (or think I like), such as hiking, or practicing Mandarin, etc. I've met some really great, friendly people through meetup--not sure what is so weird about it that UCB would make a point of mocking it. I do think it is hard to make real friends through meetup, but the important thing is that you need to do things regularly and get to know people slowly. Let your friendships develop organically, it sounds like you suffer from both a combination of overly high expectations and low self-confidence. I am very sympathetic because this is my usual self too.

Take care of the low self-confidence first. Stop lying to your roommates. Be honest with them. Invite yourself to events. Making friends after college is like dating after college, it's way harder. But don't worry, this is the case for EVERYONE, especially as you get older. And stop with the negative self-talk!

Why not try being a friend to yourself first?

Tonight I spontaneously (literally about an hour before it started) went to a swing dancing night. I had no expectations for this. In the past, when I've gone to events like this, my self talk usually sounds like this: "You can't dance. You're unattractive. No one is going to ask you to dance. No one is going to talk to you." etc. Tonight I just shut that bitch up and had a fantastic time. I didn't sit out a single dance unless it was by choice; either I asked guys or guys asked me. It was great, and 24 hours ago I wouldn't have said that I could be that brave.

Finally, happy birthday! I'm sorry that your friends suck so much--I've also had people do this and it is awful. But I'm out here in LA, home on a Saturday night, and I am wishing as hard as I can that your next year will overcome its lackluster beginning.
posted by so much modern time at 11:41 PM on January 21, 2012 [20 favorites]


I'm sorry about your birthday party, too. This is not an idiotic question. Making friends as an adult can be damnably hard, for all sorts of people.

Here's what immediately came to mind upon reading your question (and looking at your previous questions, which you make reference to, so I hope that's okay.)

Name five things that you like.

Name five positive qualities you value in others.

Name five positive personal qualities that you already possess.

And they have to be things you actually like and are actually positive; no cheating with "I like not doing stupid things" or "I like people who don't bullshit me." They must be things you actually like and qualities you actually appreciate in yourself and others. They can be as goofy or as profound as you like: maybe you like collecting vintage bakeware; maybe you like Shakespeare. Maybe you value loyalty and compassion; maybe you value the ability to tap-dance. If you don't want to post them here, that's fine; write them down for yourself.

I am suggesting this exercise because the ways in which you frame yourself, your life, and the people around you are almost unrelentingly negative. This is not a criticism; just an observation. (And, quite likely, a symptom of depression, about which more below.) The next observation that usually follows from this is that it's hard for people to want to get to know someone who is negative, and while I think that's generally true, I don't even think that's the most important starting point. Don't start with the outside (other people) looking in (how they relate to you); turn it around so that you start with how you relate to the world and to the people in it.

What do you enjoy? What brings you pleasure? Can those pursuits be done in a way that allows you to meet others? What are the best qualities about people you want in your life? What are the best qualities about you that others, in turn, will be glad to have in their life? These are the guideposts to creating meaningful relationships with others -- and, more fundamentally, a meaningful relationship with yourself.

I know this isn't some magic shortcut to making friends. Making friends, among adults post-college, can be a sort of mysterious process. In the 20 years (gulp) that I've been out of college, I've made my friends in a wide variety of ways -- through political activism, taking classes, online dating, work, Metafilter meetups, and random conversations with neighbors, among other tactics. And the times I really connected with people in order to create good friendships with them were the times I felt connected to myself.

This gets back to the depression thing. I believe you've said previously that you don't have health insurance. Would you consider looking for a therapist in your city that works on a sliding scale? Many community mental health centers have counselors that work on this basis, and who can help you address your depression, which in turn can help you in becoming more open to connecting with others in a way that's mutually rewarding, and with yourself in a way that's more nurturing and loving.

I wish you the best.
posted by scody at 11:42 PM on January 21, 2012 [43 favorites]


On preview, Darling Bri says it better but.... It seems like a lot of your question dwells on embarrassment and fear of being lumped in with people or groups that might be seen to be foolish. That's totally normal but it can really hobble your interactions with the world. Have you looked into therapy? It might help you analyse specific encounters to see how you might worry less about how you think you're supposed to act. I don't mean to dismiss what you're going through as some thing that's entirely your own doing. It's not easy to build friendships and there's a lot of luck involved.

Also, you might consider that lots of people you know might just be more practiced at appearing to have friends.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:43 PM on January 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, there's nothing idiotic about these questions. There is a whole lot of negative self-talk in here. First step is probably to stop beating yourself up. Get ok with yourself, by yourself. Ain't going to be many friends if you're covered in "hate me, I do!" signs.

Yourself ought to be at least tolerable company. Lonely, sure; but not loathsome. When that's true, my experience is that finding people is mostly a matter of exploring existing social networks (friends-of-friends, friends-of-colleagues, dates that didn't work out as dates, old friends of the family, whatever) to sniff for people with similar attitudes and passtimes.

Occasional "cold call" socializing also works -- meeting people in structured activities, clubs, politics, music, art, etc. -- but you do have to force that pretty consciously, can be hard if you're shy. I find more "casual" connections via existing connections. Even existing connections I do not especially connect with, themselves, can still introduce me to someone else.
posted by ead at 11:46 PM on January 21, 2012


Play a sport you are good at. There are leagues you can join. Volley ball is easy and really fun.
-----

I was going to write, "I'm so sorry, blah blah" - but that's not going to help. You don't need my pity!

I have a secret to tell you. EVERYONE is likable, unless you're a sociopath. You don't sound like a sociopath. At all. You're ex doesn't sound so hot, tho, and you SHOULD stop talking to him.

You're not giving yourself any credit, and on top of that, you're being really mean to yourself.

Step #1:

Stop feeling guilty for lying about your social life. YES. Find another way to deflect those questions about how you spend your free time. Lying IS bad for you. But please please forgive yourself here.


Step#2:

Find a way to like yourself.

I get the feeling you are really down on yourself. If you weren't, you wouldn't keep talking to someone who treats you poorly (the ex.) Anyway, it's annoyingly true that no one will like you until you like yourself.

-----

I'm going to tell you another secret. In 2005 I was in a completely new city and re-started my life from scratch. I knew nobody. I've never been good at friendship. I'm much better now. Long story there.

I spent the majority of a few years completely alone. I didn't trust myself at the time to make good friend choices. I spent that time reading non-fiction books about self-improvement, hiking, meditating, and yoga. The last year of all that I randomly made a personal and private commitment to be helpful any way I could, to anyone who needed help, without being asked, without ever EVER expecting any thank you, no strings attached. I pledged never to do any favor that put me in at a financial disadvantage, but if it was reasonable, I made a pledge to always say, "Yes."

Whenever I feel like I am getting off-track in life today, I try to go back to being helpful, monitoring my thoughts to make sure I'm not being unkind to others, even strangers, and just generally put myself out there and practice altruism in the purest sense - just for the act itself as a vote for positivity in the world, not caring at all about the results. You have to not care about the result.

----

You need to perform some powerful Juju to get over this negative programming you have. I hope you try some or all of my suggestions. It's OK to realize you can not go on as you were, it's not OK to keep implementing the same behaviors that got you to this point.
posted by jbenben at 11:51 PM on January 21, 2012 [23 favorites]


Make friends with your roommates? Meet their friends and see if you click with them? Hang out with coworkers? Do martial arts? Ultimate frisbee? Drink at a quiet bar and talk to the bartender about police brutality? Whatever.

That being said, you have such an unhappy outlook on life, and that would rub off on me and make me unhappy. Please see a therapist. Oh and drop the ex.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:56 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


PS happy birthday!
posted by oceanjesse at 11:56 PM on January 21, 2012


One more thing!

You must train yourself to stop caring what other people think of you. It's none of your business what other people think of you!

The only thing that matters it what you think of yourself. Do everything you can to think well of you.

Wayne Dyer taught me that, FWIW.
posted by jbenben at 11:58 PM on January 21, 2012 [11 favorites]


What city do you live in ?
posted by PinkMoose at 11:59 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


"The problem is, you're not allowed to not have friends"

This paragraph worries me. You shouldn't need to lie about not having a social life just to avoid embarassment. Anyone that gives you shit for having had less luck social is an asshole. I don't have many friends nationwide and none within a 7 hour drive of. There's only one person I text with on a regular basis (almost daily. She rocks). So you and I are in a similar boat. I worry all the time about whether I can make friends. My coworkers don't seem interested in getting new friends. We've had lunch once together and I've been here since September.

My solution was to try taking dance lessons. Which is expensive, but I am thankfully able to afford it. It hasn't yielded friendly fruit yet, but going out and socializing with people seems to be helping me. I'm trying and I think that's the important thing. One of the few friends I have kept from college was having similar issues. Her solution was to join roller derby. Her first day she hit it off with another newbie and they're now friends. It can be done.

I think the important thing is to find a subgroup that you want to identify with and then do what you need to do to get into that subgroup yourself. For me right now that's dance lessons and for my friend its roller derby. Other people have drinking or sports. Its that old cannard about having hobbies. I wish it were easier but its not and we both will need to work hard to get the friends we want in life.
posted by Green With You at 12:08 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Leaving college is hard.
Moving to a new city with few friends is always lonely at first.
Freelance work-from-home is isolating (unless you take strong steps to stay connected with the outside world).

You are right in your perceptions of these things; they are very tough. It is very common to be in roughly the situation you're in - new place, new life, not enough people and connections yet. So at least you shouldn't beat yourself up by feeling like there's something wrong with you because you don't have ten invitations for every night of the week - very few people live that super-social life. Most everyone has a hard time with this transitional period.

But also, read over your post - you are, as scody points out, framing everything negatively. (can't do online dating, can't do meetup.com, supposed friends don't like me, exes don't like me, etc) It is understandable to feel down if you had a crummy birthday -- but try to consider honestly. Is this a temporary low? Or have you been feeling consistently low and negative about yourself, and about the possibility for anything to improve, for more than a month? It looks like it, from your past questions.

That suggests a larger project: start to pull out of depression. You say you can't afford therapy, ok. There are some basic common-sense things you can do in your own time. Try them, try making them a priority

Take two weeks and implement some changes in your routine, and then think about another unit of two weeks.

In your first two-week interval, do
-Buy and start taking vit-D and vit-B12 supplements.
-Do some exercise each day, which can be just vigorous walks around the block.
-Get outside and get some sun each day. Especially true if you're yoked to your computer inside. Get out a few times a day, even if only for long enough to go get a coffee or walk around the block.
-Try to catch yourself when you're having negative thought spirals. Practice turning some of those thoughts into positive or neutral ones. (Lots of good books with exercises to try - and they'll have copies at the library, so freelancer salary is not a reason not to get them.)

The way to make new friends, unfortunately, is to get out in the world doing things, and then you'll meet other people who are doing the same - and very gradually that acquaintance can lead to friendship. But you need to keep up your own internal reserves of energy in order to do this. So boosting yourself up from the low place is something you have to do at the same time -- and you CAN do it, it's just going to take a bit of doing. It's worth it.

And happy birthday - please believe it does get better, you are just in a tough spot right now, but it's temporary. It's very possible to build toward what you want, with small very achievable steps.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:17 AM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think living with people you get along with would really help, for starters.
posted by redlines at 12:21 AM on January 22, 2012


I love that a mefite with the name "BitterOldPunk" advises you to open your heart and love everyone as hard as you dare.

Anyway, you are way too negative and that's going to make it challenging for people to enjoy being around you. You say that you don't matter to people and that people can't be bothered to talk to you. This sort of self-pity needs to stop. And it sounds like you're expecting people to do the work of being friends with you - that they have to think you matter, and they have to bother to talk to you. If that's what you think friendship entails, I'm not surprised you're having a hard time.

I get that you've put in effort to get yourself out there. But it's really your attitude that counts too, and the vibe that you give off. Do you like yourself? Would you want to be friends with yourself? Why not ask your out-of-state friend for some advice? And why are you still talking to your ex if all he can do is say hurtful things to you? Do you feel like you deserve this somehow? Do you feel you're the type to want negative attention?
posted by foxjacket at 12:23 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I think that you're putting way too much energy into caring about what you might look like, or what other people might think, and generally ruling things out without giving them a fair shot.

Like the meetup.com thing — so a roomful of douchebags at UCB somewhere don't like it. Who cares? Fuck those guys. I've met some cool people and done some cool stuff via Meetup events. It may be that there's nothing on there right now that interests you in your area, in which case no problem, just check again in a few weeks or months and see if anything changed. But don't rule it out just because somebody said it wasn't cool enough for them.

And while I don't know you enough to say for sure, it's possible that your attitude may be seeping through to your interactions with others, and it's part of the reason why you're having trouble building relationships. You may be pushing people away with self-consciousness, which isn't a trait that is generally considered to be tons of fun, and a lot of people find tiring to deal with. (Highly self-conscious or self-critical people often unwittingly come across as judgmental or unfriendly.) So that's something that I'd try to talk yourself down from, especially when in social situations. And if talking yourself down isn't doing the job, then I think others' suggestions to seek some professional counseling might be in line.

I'm a pretty firm believer that friendship — of the more-than-casual but not quite burying-the-body level — is typically rooted in shared activities. So the more you do the better. Volunteer / service organizations have always led to a lot of social activities, more so in my experience than running clubs and casual sporting leagues. I'm not sure why that is, and it might be just sample bias on my part.

But you need to ramp up the level of contact with other people slowly, so that you don't come off too strong or needy. Some people may be uncomfortable with the idea of going over to somebody's house that they just met, or only know very casually. So rather than jumping right to inviting people over, I'd always start by suggesting something easier and lower-commitment, like going out for drinks (which could be coffee, if it's something where alcohol isn't appropriate) or a meal after an activity you're all doing anyway. Then from there, you can float ideas for other activities, only if there seems to be interest and chemistry. If everyone else is new to each other too, it might take a few casual group meals after another activity before there's interest in doing something that requires its own time commitment.

Also, I think you're probably being too hard on your existing acquaintances, particularly your roommates. I've lived in random-Craigslist-roomie situations and while I don't count any of those people among my close friends, we had some fun times together and still occasionally get in touch. I'd try to end the act that you've been putting on for them, and see if you get some invitations to hang out — and when you accept them, to whatever it is, go with an open mind and be ready to have a good time.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:46 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I notice that you are talking a lot about other people and not much about your own agency (actions, choices, etc). Given that you say you're trying to make friends, I don't want to say that it looks like you're not putting in an effort; I think the depression suggestion explains it a lot better actually.

Just one example: Going to events by yourself "has never resulted in a conversation". What does this mean? All I can figure is it means you were never able to get the guts up to walk up to someone and introduce yourself - but you say it like there's something wrong with all the other people there who are not doing the same thing you're not doing. Go talk to someone! Conversations don't just fall out of the sky. You might be used to friendships sort of happening for you because in certain environments (college, some religious groups, etc) there will be a lot of people who are trying to meet people, but when most people already have a routine you're going to have to be the one who takes initiative.

You're beating yourself up over this, but something you should know is that friendship doesn't 'just happen' for people generally. And the people who'll tell you it does 'just happen' are people who have habits like people have mentioned above - always being helpful, being curious about strangers, arranging social events (something I've started to do even though it's against my nature because, hey, if I'm not willing to do it, I shouldn't whine about it not happening). So there are things you can do that will help.
posted by Lady Li at 12:54 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay. Since you brought up your prior questions, I'd like to address something from your last question, because it's extremely relevant to this question, and it's been relevant to all of them. You wrote this about not having success dating, but I think you are having problems making friends for the same exact reasons:

Of course, nobody tells you what you're doing wrong. They just let you keep being wrong.

It can't be my job, because I have an awesome job. If it's my hobbies, I like my hobbies quite fine and am not in the market for new ones. I don't know whether it's my personality, but that's rather difficult to change, it's served me quite well in life so far, and if it was, again, nobody's bothered to tell me what about it is the problem.

So what am I doing wrong? Please be brutally honest.


All right, I am now bothering to tell you what about it is the problem; I'm not interested in bring brutal to you because your desiring that is a huge part of the problem.

All of your questions are absolutely dripping with self-loathing and self-consciousness. Abject self-loathing and self-flagellation make many people really, really uncomfortable and want to shrink away. And self consciousness to this degree is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable too, I'm afraid. I deal with it myself, probably most of us do, but when it gets bad enough, it's impossible to be around that person. They never have fun. They never relax. They can't even connect with you because all they are thinking about is themselves and how they are coming off. It can become a form of major self-centeredness even if the person doesn't mean it to be in any way. And then, there are all sorts of fun activities that the person won't do because they are afraid of how it would look or what people would say. If you do anything with them you are restricted to the narrow range of their comfort zone. Hanging out with that person becomes all about trying to make them feel okay. Rather than just enjoying each other's company and the activity you're doing. Even if you really love and care about the person, it gets exhausting sometimes. If you haven't gotten to the point yet where you really care about this person, you just might never get there because of this.

Another thing that I keep seeing in your questions that I think is a big part of the problem, is framing various situations as something that's being deliberately done to you. Someone or something is deliberately and malevolently doing this to you, putting you in these situations, forcing you to do certain things, making certain things happen. Sometimes when you do this, it's denying your own responsibility and agency. An example of this is how you say you're not "allowed" to not have friends. No. There's no entity controlling you and disallowing you from not having friends. Why do you frame things this way? In this particular example, why can't you just say the plain truth, that you feel that people judge you for not having friends? Why do you have to change the framing to this being something you're not ALLOWED to do by some unknown outside force, like if you dare to do it you will go to jail or get your allowance taken away or whtaever? To be perfectly honest, I think it is so that you don't have to face up to the fact that it's not anyone else stopping you or allowing or disallowing you in this particular case, it's your own self-consciousness.

Other times when you do this, it's about something that nobody has DONE, that situation just happens to be what it happens to be. It's just the way it is. And acting like someone has done something to you personally, like you have been deliberately targeted, is just really off-putting. It just comes off as victimish, as looking for justifications to feel wronged and be angry. I am not saying this to be mean or harsh. I am trying to tell you that acting this way is really off-putting to people. I have never met you in person so I don't know how you act IRL, but if you act victimish, angry, or wronged by the world, people are not going to have fun around you. And people want to be friends with people they have fun around.

You know, honestly, sometimes we are wronged by the world. Sometimes, many situations suck. Sometimes our lives suck overall. Sometimes we are depressed. We have the right to our feelings. However, that doesn't change the fact that it is really, really hard to make friends while walking around feeling and acting like everything sucks. People for the most part will shirk away from someone acting like that.

The last thing is, all these people that you talk about, you don't seem to like any of them at all. All you say about the people who say they're your friends is that they rarely talk to you or invite you out. All you say about your acquaintances is that you don't matter to them at all. About your ex, the only person you talk to regularly, you say you're friends with him because nobody else bothers to talk to you. About your roommates, you have nothing in common with them and they're from Craigslist. I mean it comes off like you really aren't that interested in any of these people and don't like any of them, but just want to feel like someone cares about you and wants to talk to you.

That is missing a really key step. Rapport. You often need spend a long time building up a lot of rapport before people are going to start caring about you. People are going to want to talk to you, as friends, for the following reasons usually: you have interests in common and you both enjoy spending a lot of time talking about those interests; you are fun/amusing/entertaining. With most people it never moves past that stage, but with SOME people, then you slowly edge into closer and closer friendship and caring. Slowly. And not with most people. And it is going to need to be mutual caring. If it becomes too one-sided, to be blunt if you are too needy, that is usually not going to work.

I'm not including any advice here on where to find people because it sounds like you completely know how to do that already. You said "Meeting people isn't the problem, it's having meeting people matter," and I agree with that.

Go to a therapist. Ask first about working on self-loathing, self-consciousness, and coming off as a more fun, happy person when you meet other people. Do I think this will be easy or fun? No, I do not. Do I think you SHOULD have to do this in order to make and keep friends? No. But that wasn't your question.
posted by cairdeas at 1:45 AM on January 22, 2012 [73 favorites]


As a board gamer, I literally cannot avoid making random friends and more often suffer from too many people pestering me to do things than a lack of people to hang out with. It's a hobby that allows strangers to sit down and have friendly, productive interactions in seconds with no awkwardness at all. Furthermore, it's a community that accepts grating personality quirks, if that's secretly a problem here, with some kindness and understanding.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:21 AM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


Happy birthday!:)

How I got a best friend:
- we were just acquaintances
- I was single
- she was single
- we met once, talked a little and exchanged email addresses
- she emailed me about exhibitions, concerts and events
- I said yes to all of them!
- so she continued to hang around with me, we went places, and took classed together, and had a lot of fun, and so we became best friends.
- the end:)
posted by leigh1 at 3:05 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Years ago, when I was just out of college, working at my first job outside of DC, I had the same problem. It had been so easy finding interesting people to hang out with in college and once we all moved to different corners of the US (and outside the US for some), it wasn't the same.

The truth is I was pretty miserable for a couple of years. I don't take to the bar/club scene very well and I didn't have small talk skills.

What it took for me, and as always, YMMV, was admitting that I was miserable and that I'd have to do the things that people kept telling me to do - yeah, those meetup kind of things (there was no meetup back in my day). I started volunteering and I started going to the regular pickup ultimate games that were associated with the place where I worked. It took a lot of gritting my teeth and forcing myself to do it. And initially it was kind of miserable and I had to have more than one of those stern talks with myself ("Sciencegeek, get your butt out there or and stop being a bloody idiot about it." There was much sternness and definitely some eye rolling.). And I did go to a bunch of things that were really wrong for me - museum seminars weren't the right crowd, and so on - but things got better. I also took a couple of classes that were relevant to my career and ended up meeting a friend who is still very close. Do people at work go out for a drink after work? Go with them. Are your non-friend housemates doing something that sounds cool? Ask to tag along. My sister got involved with her alumni association (something that would make me quietly scream inside) and ended up meeting interesting people. She also joined the Sierra Club and went on hikes and camping and found some friends there. I think that a language class would be a great place to meet people. Runners are actually pretty social.

I find that purely social gatherings are kind of painful - choose something where you're doing something. This metafilter place seems to be full of strange and wonderful people - go look at IRL and see if there's anything in your area.

I'm still not very good about getting out there and meeting people, but I go running with a group, I go to metafilter meetups, and I go to talks associated with my career. I have to force myself to do a lot of these things, but every time I do, it gets easier. You kind of have to hold your nose and take a bite and you're going to have to do a lot of tasting to find something delicious. Or at least palatable. There's definitely an activation energy to this process. Sometimes it comes easily but the vast majority of friendships take effort to start.

I think it sucks that your birthday party didn't happen. I also think that if you live in a big city and you want a crazy party with crazy people - put up an IRL beacon and metafilter will respond.
posted by sciencegeek at 5:10 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I would absolutely endorse what cairdeas has said and would only want to add that now is the time to be honest with yourself, as well as with others - do you go to events or walk into places or engage with roommates and co-workers with a smile and an open expression, making eye contact and taking the time to engage in small talk (irritating though you may find it) as part of an attempt to grease the social wheels and help others relax in your company?

Or is it possible that you employ closed body language, a neutral or closed facial expression, secrete yourself in a corner or even start verbalising your discontent and discomfort? Do you find your default conversational setting is a negative one - are you picking holes in things or complaining because you feel so awful generally - I know I have been much more negative when I've been depressed and I'm sure it's rubbed others up the wrong way and made them less willing to engage with me (and some of the more honest / less avoidant ones have gently rebuked me for it, which actually hurt at the time but helped in the long run as I could consciously make more of an effort to avoid that thought process).

People won't know the difference between a sigh that comes from a place of great self-loathing and one that comes from a person who feels this is all a bit beneath them - all they'll hear is someone apparently not having a good time (which you're not, but not for the reasons they might think).
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 5:10 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Join some social organization, and then be patient with making friends. Something you are genuinely interested in, so that right off the bat, you and the others in the group have some mutaul insterest.

An adult sports league, a bowling league, a book club at the library, a D&D / role-playing group, a writers forum, the knights of columbus, whatever - there are adult clubs/groups out there.
posted by Flood at 5:13 AM on January 22, 2012


Cairdeas said what I was going to say, only much better.
posted by ook at 5:34 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


You should stop lying about your social life. Why? So people will be more likely to invite you to things. If you make it sound like youve got three parties to go to, I'm not going to ask you to a 4th.

This is especially true once I notice you never go to the first three; why would I want to invite you out if you are very likely not to go?
posted by nat at 6:35 AM on January 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


I had no one show up to my birthday party once. My 21st. It was a HUGE wakeup call that the people I was friends with since high school were selfish douchebags with nothing going for them.

That was the straw that propelled me to get over my social awkwardness and go meet people (in my case, online, through a local livejournal community). A DJ kept promoting his nights on the community, so I finally met him and some friends randomly to play air hockey, thought he was cool even though I was SO SOCIALLY AWKWARD, and I started going to his nights, then dating him, then finding he had great friends, then we got married. I really am still socially awkward at heart, but meeting so many people in such a short time with alcohol as a crutch forced me to learn how to interact and make friends.

I don't know why you'd hesitate to meet people online. Go to MetaFilter meetups! Shoot, that's how I met zizzle and she's my friend now! Meeting people online is a wonderful way to get friends, seriously.
posted by kpht at 6:38 AM on January 22, 2012


I really feel you. You sound so much like me 10 years ago, and I missed so many opportunities to connect with people because I was afraid of a lot of the same things you're afraid of. And I still feel and act this way now, more often than I'd like.

Whatever you can do to let go of your fear of being "the loser with no friends" - do it. I am still afraid of that - I have no local friends right now and god, it is hard to make friends when you don't have a friend or two already. Here's what I *do* do:
  • Go out anyway
    • alone
    • with acquaintances who are not particularly likely to turn into friends but who are nice and/or entertaining people anyway
    • even, yes, to meetups, which can be just as ridiculous and sad as that UCB show made them sound but are sometimes really fun anyway, even if that one creepy guy does seem to attend EVERY group in my area
  • Reach out to the people who I care about
    • in little ways, like starting a game of Words with Friends with my sister
    • in bigger ways, like buying plane tickets to go see friends on the other side of the country/ocean
    • in in-between ways - phone calls, daytripping to a nearby city to meet a friend and see a show/exhibition/try out that great new restaurant in their city
And you know what, all of that feels hard sometimes. Sometimes even starting the Words with Friends game with my sister feels hard (why would she want to play with me - she's busy, she has her own friends, now she's going to know I have nothing better to do than play internet games with my sister and she'll PITY ME!). But I've gotten a lot better at shutting that shit down (honestly, typing it out like that helps a lot, because it lets me roll my eyes at myself).

One last thing: is the lying about having better things to do just to the roommates or to your other friends and acquaintances? Because that seems like a bad idea (even with the roommates - and I have done THE SAME THING with roommates and looking back on that now I realize that it probably prevented me from becoming friends with them, which I now see as having been pretty foolish - even though we didn't really have much in common, they were nice people). If you're doing it with other people, that's even more dangerous - you're sending them a message that says you don't want to hang around with them and you're willing to lie to get out of hanging out with them.
posted by mskyle at 6:38 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's perfectly alright to only have a few close friends, if that is what makes you happy. It's perfectly alright to have stay-at-home or not-suitable-for-activities hobbies if they make you happy. It's perfectly alright to be a home body and get more pleasure from reading books or watching netflix in your bedroom. This is what adulthood has taught me.

Honestly during my roommate-having days, I would have adored a roommate who mostly kept to him/herself, wasn't always coming home loudly shitfaced at ridiculous hours, wasn't constantly pressuring me to go out and do things I don't enjoy, etc., so you may be undervaluing yourself as far as roommate-hood goes. There are certainly people who would value your qualities, especially more mature people.

Maybe I am just dense (seriously, I can be) but it's not clear from your question, to me, that you actually want to change, or if you just feel pressured to do so for fear of what people will think of you.

To answer your posted question: I have made friends with people by being a regular someplace. For me, it was doing a sport activity every weekend for a few years. Even I eventually made friends then. This has worked for me with other activities, not just sportish ones. Good luck to you, and happy birthday. :]
posted by Arethusa at 6:42 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Step one: Like yourself. Step Two: Don't Panic. Step 3: Repeat going outside, over and over and over and over. Step four: Nurture the connections you do make. Step F3.5: Talk to people, or at least let them talk to you.

Find something you can go to. I volunteer; I started at the local natural science museum recently and got SWARMED by friendly, talkative, smart people. I'm going to talk to some, dislike others, and maybe after a while of knowing and socializing, become good friends with one or two. There is, however, a bazillion other things. Animal shelters, park cleanup, beach cleanup, museums, homeless, crisis hotlines, military support things/Veterans Affairs, big brother/big sister, church work, civic pride orgs, politics.... so many things I cant even come up with a tenth.

I also hang out with nerds. They are, generally, the most friendly and welcoming people possible. See what events your local college/s provide. Most college clubs dont require you to go to said college. I hang out at anime, video game, and especially board game clubs. Also, the Browncoats, if they have a group in your area. (google City Browncoats) Some are sometimes filled with the anti-social borderline Aspergers stereotype, but 95% of the people there are awesome, I find.

Toastmasters is pretty highly recommended.

Churches, while probably not your thing, are also very welcoming. I've been to Baptist and Unitarian churches, and while the Church bit was of varying interest, the people have been super friendly.

Now! Now that you have picked a thing or two to do from the massive, overwhelming list.. commit to going to it, say, 5 times. In a row, if at all possible. (obvious exceptns for the truly not good for you, IE, kitten sacrifices, ex, etc) People will start to learn your name, a little bit about you. If they invite you to something, try to accept. You will go to some things you like, some you don't.

You might be starting to see some people repeatedly, know a little about them, and like them. Invite them to do stuff. Some will say no, some will say yes and not show up, some will. In general, for a decent group, my rule of thumb with my friends circles is to invite 10 to get about 5-8.

GOOD NEWS! (everybody) The process, once you start it, is pretty self sustaining. You meet bob, bob introduces you to dave and steve, dave introduces you to mary and sue, while steve introduces you to xavier, who introduces... and so on.

tl;dr: try, try try again. And again. Calmly :)
posted by Jacen at 7:01 AM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Friendship is really not so much a matter of accretion, but a matter of casting a wide net, and winnowing down to your core group of favorites.

When you started school, you met everybody, all packed into one convenient location, but it wasn't long before you had a group of acquaintences down to a manageable size, and before long I'm sure that you really had it whittled down to about five (or fewer) really good friends. I'm sure the group also changed over four or five years. It took time, and you were forced to be in the melee every day, so you took it in stride.

The river doesn't run past your house anymore, so you are going to have to go find the river, and start casting a wide net, and throwing back what you don't want to keep. Get a part-time gig with some face time (retail, breakfast F&B, museum docent) so you interact with WAY too many people for a limited amount of time each week, and see what happens.

FWIW, I think birthdays should be very personal affairs. I always set up the day so I do something that ONLY I would enjoy doing, and do it. So reschedule with yourself, and go do it. Happy Birthday!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:09 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is there any chance of reconnecting with those college friends you lost touch with? Conversations over email, IM, or phone are still a way of getting human contact, plus you can ask for introductions if they know anyone in your area.

Seriously, don't be shy - it's ok to say, I just moved here and don't know many people, do you know anyone cool that I should meet? I've done it a number of times and while I don't hit it off with every friend-of-friend, it happens enough to make it worth asking for introductions.
posted by jetsetlag at 7:15 AM on January 22, 2012


I'd like to reinforce those who have recommended volunteering. Many communities have volunteer resource centers that compile opportunities based on area of interest, time of day/day of week. It really is a great way to meet like-minded people, and it can help get you out of the house and out of your own head.

Here's a link to the Hands On Network, which oversees affiliates across the U.S.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:19 AM on January 22, 2012


Making friends is hard for most people. It requires putting yourself out there, again and again, and staying optimistic despite not getting results. It's a lot like dating, except even harder, because friendship is "supposed" to evolve naturally and thus we can't jumpstart things with friend-dates or friend-matchmaking sites. It sucks.

It's understandable and normal that you're frustrated about this. The problem is that it's just totally gotten to you. I know, of course it gets to you, how can it not? But it's gotten to the point where you're so ashamed that you lie to your roommates about your social life, and you're so desperate for companionship that you reach out to your ex who always treats you badly and you know it. C'mon, you know you deserve better than that. Even on your darkest, saddest days, you know without a doubt that you don't deserve shitty treatment.

You're a good and likeable person with nothing to be ashamed of, so start acting like it. If you don't believe that, just act like you do anyway, until it sticks. If you can't get to that point, find a therapist who can help you get there. Stop suffering fools like your ex, and stop thinking your social life has to conform to some sort of standard, because guess what? A lot of people are spending their Saturday nights watching TV alone, and ain't no shame in that. Who cares if your roommates or some anonymous guys in the UCB audience find something to laugh at you about? No one is universally liked. No one is universally considered cool. It's okay to be uncool. Haters gonna hate. Cultivate an attitude of "it doesn't matter what other people think," but don't go so far as "because they're assholes" because that'll just put you back in the bitterness zone.

Also, you seem to be--metaphorically speaking but very close to literally--standing behind potential dates and friends and breathing down their necks, growling "Well? Do you like me or not? I know you don't like me. Just tell me already. Just fucking tell me you don't like me!" Presented with that attitude, most people aren't going to be inclined to like you, no matter how lovely you are.

I was a lot like you at 23. I've known people like you, too. We tend to be generally likeable people once that chip is knocked off our shoulder. The problem is, once that chip is there, you can't just brush it off. You have to break it into pieces and dig up the roots and salt the earth and a lot of other mixed-metaphor things.

Start liking yourself, and stop worrying about whether other people like you, and it will make you more likeable.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:26 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, and caveat: Please don't mention meetup.com. I was at a UCB show not too long ago that had an extended segment making fun of people who used the site, and the entire (packed) room found it quite hilarious.
Ok, you're confused about how comedy works. It isn't that comedians identify some species of loser and point at them, and everyone laughs and laughs at the pathetic loser. Sometimes comedy is funny because the comedian poses bullshit in a funny way. Sometimes people are laughing at themselves: they're confident enough in their own basic non-loser-ness that it's funny to make fun of the aspects of them that could be depicted as goofy or pathetic. Sometimes the laughter is defensive: "I'd better laugh really hard at this joke about how all people on meetup.com are losers, or else people might think I'm lame because I go to six meetups a week." Or maybe, although I would say this is unlikely, those people 100% agreed that everyone on meetup is a loser, but the audience was full of jerks or people who didn't understand meetup.com. Sometimes you just have to do what works for you, even if other people will laugh at you.

If you have access to it, you might consider looking into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which is about rewriting the negative scripts in your head so that you can view situations in a more useful way. I think you'd be funner to be around if you could stop viewing every situation as evidence of your loser-ness. And it isn't. This is a really common problem, especially for those of us who are introverted and/or insecure.

I actually had a really hard time making friends in college, which was super embarrassing, because it's supposed to be really easy to make friends in college. I didn't really make good, lasting friends until my junior year abroad, and I spent a lot of Friday and Saturday nights studying during my first two years. (And that was a blessing in disguise, because I got super-awesome grades that got me into the grad school of my dreams.) After college, I've had to develop new friend groups a couple of times, and I've found that what works for me is to glom onto a single self-confident extrovert and then co-opt that person's circle of friends.

One thing I've gotten a lot better at over the years is being resilient. It used to be that when something didn't work, I'd think "I'm crap at this thing, and that means I suck." Now, I'm much better at thinking "ok, that didn't work. How can I tweak my approach a little bit before I try again." But I think it might be hard for you to do that right now, because you're feeling so bad about yourself. And that, again, is where the CBT might be helpful.
posted by craichead at 7:26 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, be a regular. Being a bar regular isn't that healthy or fun, but it's a start. Nice cafe in the museum or art gallery after work every Tuesday and Thursday, for one cuppa? You become a passive presence in people's lives and have the opportunity to approach them, or even just be on nodding terms.

Also, be one notch friendlier than you have to be with all those casual connections. Friendlier than that could come across as a bit strong, flirty, or desperate. Replacing "Thank you" with "Thank you so much, that looks delicious" in a cafe acts as a slight catalyst for approachability.

Anyone who might consider getting to know you now knows where you are and that they won't be coldly rebuffed. You also get to know who's around and who seems friendly.

And finally it's OK to fuck up socially. More than once. The last time I did it was last night! I felt like an ignorant boor and wanted to crawl into a hole in the ground, but this morning I woke up and it was Sunday and the sun was shining and I met someone new for a coffee and I didn't fuck up. So, I guess, the final piece of advice is keep fucking up! If you let that deter you, you'll never get anywhere, so let it spur you onwards instead.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:33 AM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


1. Persist. The more people you know slightly, the more other people you will know slightly, and eventually, you will click with someone. Plus, the more you make yourself socialize, the easier it gets. If you don't like meetup (I've made some great friends through meetup), then find other ways to get out. Go to the neighborhood bookgroup. Look at fliers at a coffeeshop to find events that'd interest you. Be a regular, as others have mentioned.

2. Stop being so negative. The way I (mostly) overcame tons of anxiety about whether people like me is to always, always ask myself: Well, do I like them? This is how you choose how you hang out with. You do NOT choose who to spend time with by thinking "do they like me?" Make yourself proactive. Ignore the fact that people aren't inviting you out--tell yourself again and again that it's not about you, because in many cases it's not--and invite people out. Keep inviting people out. Email everyone you know sometimes to ask people to join you. But really, turning that "do they like me?" question around was one of the most profound, useful changes I ever made in my social (and love) life.

3. Remember that it is, actually, okay if you stay home and watch Netflix all Saturday night. Don't pretend that you have friends and parties to go to when you don't. People probably know that you're lying, and that makes you off-putting. I know that it's trite, but man, please just be yourself and like the things you like and do the things you do.

4. Pay attention to what people who you admire do in social situations. How do they talk to people? What do they talk about? Also, start noticing that even those people say dumb things sometimes and make jokes that fall totally flat or even sometimes cringe a little after something awkward happens. That is true for everyone, ever.

5. Stop being so negative--again--in the way you are just so sure that you know for sure that nothing works and you're doomed to be miserable and blah blah blah. You've got to work on this to have a happy life, period.
posted by hought20 at 7:36 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and one thing about meetup.com is that the reason it can be made fun of is that the people who only ever socialize through a meetup group can be, yeah, kind of awkward. What you do with meetup, or online dating, or whatever, is that you use it to increase your circle and then you transition to simply hanging out with friends. I do know people who ONLY EVER set up a social occasion through meetup, and it makes me roll my eyes, so I get that it's funny. But what I've done, instead, is met people through going to meetups (particularly when I'm new to an area), and then I get email addresses or phone numbers and find ways to hang out with the people I like (rather than the freaks who always show up at meetups eventually) and make friends.
posted by hought20 at 7:40 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been where you are, so I know how much it sucks. For me, the best place to make new friend has been volunteering. I volunteer through onebrick.org. Check to see if they have a chapter near you. The thing about volunteering is that usually the people you meet there are kind. The other way to meet people is through hobbies. My brother and my father have both made all of their post college friends through writing groups. They both have a lot of friends because they share a passion with those friends. I'm going to have to stand up for meetup.com too. While volunteering last Saturday (see? You have to be consistent about it. I met the members of this meetup the organizer is engaging and funny and he has a wait list when he hosts potlucks-- not exactly a guy who is hurting for friends. If you really can't find a meet up that suits your interests start your own. One thing that helps in making friends is being the organizer. Once I started being a member of the management team at one brick I started making more friends. Something about having responsibility makes you more invested and more likely to meet people.
Finally, I'll recommend the Unitarian church. I think in most big cities they have groups for young people 18-35. They're pretty welcoming of all religious beliefs including non believers.

I think that finding the right group is like finding a spouse. You have to be persistent and you have to not let the duds get in the way of finding the right ones.
posted by bananafish at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I said "not allowed," I mean that if you don't have any friends, people will think poorly of you, and the last thing I need is for people to think more poorly of me. Like just now. That part about people who only socialize through meetups? That would be me. I'm the awkward person. I'm the creepy person. I'm the freak who always shows up at meetups eventually. This is how people see me.

And then there's the part about this making people feel uncomfortable, which, no shit. That's why I tell people I have a social life, so they don't feel uncomfortable. With my roommates, it's so they don't see me as the terrible, creepy roommate who stays in her room all the time, even though I am, and with acquaintances, it's so they don't see me as the terrible, creepy person nobody wants to be around, even though I am. I mean, when you mention this, people ignore you and dislike you even more. I've been told to shut up in this very thread. This is what I mean when I said you're not allowed to be in this situation and certainly not allowed to be upset about it.
posted by dekathelon at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of great advice on here. My two cents:

Do what you like, and find a way to make it semi-social. I like music, so I made friends volunteering (weekly) at a community radio station - it's a fairly solitary pursuit, but there are interactions. A friend of mine likes hiking, so she made friends by joining an outdoor adventure club (weekly meetings, monthly outings). Another friend likes science fiction, so he made friends going to every (monthly) special event a local movie theater puts on featuring sci-fi. This becomes something you do, and through it you meet people who a) share similar interests and have spare time in which to enjoy them, and b) invite you to do other things you enjoy (for me, going to shows).

Also, if someone seems to always have other plans, I don't invite them to do things with me. If, on the other hand, I know that one of my new acquaintances is looking to hang out more and meet new people, I'll try to always remember to invite them. I never assume that what I'm doing is more interesting or more exciting than what my friends have planned independently, but if I think someone *might* be looking for something to do, I'll feel less self-conscious about offering my plans as something they may be interested in joining. I'm not creeped out by people who are looking for ways to connect - I'm *intimidated* by people who are not (or seem to not be), who already have full social calendars (or tell me they do).
posted by pammeke at 7:56 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gather from your question that you suffer from some self-loathing.

It is vital that your work on your dislike for yourself. You will never have true friendship, or intimacy with others, until you love and accept yourself.

One of the best things you can do for your self-esteem is to stop lying about your social life and own your story. Let others in. It can be very difficult to let others see the real you but you must do it. It doesn't have to be a dramatic breakdown. You let others in (vulnerability) by simply telling the truth. The next time someone asks you if you have plans, tell the truth. The lying, the chronic embarrassment, the shame -- they all cause a low-level chronic depression. No, I am not a mental health professional but I have found it to be true for myself. If you are chronically embarrassed you are probably ashamed of who you are.

Even though you are upset that nobody came to your birthday party (I am sorry. This sounds very painful.) you are isolating yourself by lying about your social life. You are isolating when nothing is good enough for you: meetups, certain activities, etc. People who isolate consider themselves defective. The pretending and lying is a dead giveaway that you don't like yourself. This self-loathing and shame will crush you and rule EVERY aspect of your life if you don't take steps to work on it. It's not easy. It can be a long painful process.

Be very careful about blaming. You are blaming by saying your old friends don't care that you have lost touch. You are blaming society, or some imaginary belief, that you're not allowed to have less than twenty friends and watch a movie alone on a Saturday night. You are blaming your ex-boyfriend for claiming that he always says hurtful things and leaves you more upset than when you were before. Stop playing the victim and blaming others. If the ex-boyfriend is that terrible, stop associating with him. Own your life. Own that you are contributing to the problem with the ex-boyfriend. Own that you may have not been so good about staying in touch and nurturing friendships. Own that you probably didn't know how to nurture because you are incapable of nurturing others if you dislike yourself.

I think it can be helpful to get out, let your guard down, and meet more people. But, be very careful about self-help books and tips that cater to fixing surface problems like meeting more people by joining clubs! Clubs are useless if you still dislike yourself.

The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to get into some therapy. Stop lying and stop pretending. Nurture the friendships you do have and tell your friends the truth. When you allow yourself to be vulnerable with a trusted friend or loved one it can be healing. The trusted friends and loved ones will validate your pain and accept you for who you really are.
posted by Fairchild at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just out of curiosity, how do you know how other people see you? How do you know that they see you as "creepy" and a "freak" and "terrible?" No one in this thread has called you those things (people have used those words, but I specifically checked to make sure that no one used them to refer to you, and they didn't.) Have people in real life called you those things? If so, how do you know that they're not the terrible ones who are mean to people and call them names, while you are perfectly fine and most people either recognize that you are perfectly fine, or don't have an opinion about you because they don't know you?

I suspect that the person who most frequently calls you names and judges your behavior and makes lists of what's acceptable and not acceptable and terrible and not terrible for you to do is you. I suspect that there is no one who feels as uncomfortable around you as you feel around yourself. But I can't possibly know that for sure, because I don't know you, and I haven't experienced all the things you've experienced. I can't know what you think and feel about you for the same reason that you can't really know what other people think and feel about you. What I do know is that in this thread and others, you've made it clear that you're really unhappy with the way your life is going and that you don't know how to make your life better for you. Are you open to the idea of professional help for that? Therapy? Medication? Self-help books? Support groups? Can you figure out what kinds of help you're ready to accept right now, and seek those out?

If you want to talk, feel free to MeMail me. I have some personal experience in this area that I'm happy to talk about further outside of the thread. In any case, I hope you're able to find what you're looking for.
posted by decathecting at 8:05 AM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


dekathelon, you seem to be mistaking adulthood for childhood. These two statements: "if you don't have any friends, people will think poorly of you" and "that's why I tell people I have a social life, so they don't feel uncomfortable"... is just not how it works. I don't think anyone in this thread has told you to shut-up; I think people have suggested you reject the constant narrative of self hatred. Those are not the same thing, by a long shot.

Again, I urge you to consider therapy because I think your self-esteem issues are the real problem here. I'm genuinely sorry you're in so much pain.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:13 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: being told to shut up: I guess it's been deleted now, but the post started out "Jesus fucking Christ. Shut up. Just shut up." It existed, I promise.

Re: what people think of me that I know: I learned through a college friend that another person in college thought I was so creepy she had nightmares about me, so there's that. As for the people I know right now, I'll never know because they'll probably talk about me in private, and the most I can hope is that they don't take that public, too. (This happens. Like, there are blogs run by successful but anonymous adults that I check every day to make sure I'm not being made fun on them. College had the same thing, with anonymous websites, although they were mainly used by fraternities and sororities so I avoided being brought up there.)

But the thing is, I was once out with some people - we saw each other at the same event - who spent the entire subway ride back completely trashing a lot of people I also knew, but even then, even the people they actively mock are worth hanging out with and getting drinks with. Apparently I'm not. This means two things: that whatever they're saying about me in private is probably even worse, and that there's something terribly wrong with me that I'll never know.

And just for the record, I don't dislike very many people. At all. The only person I've mentioned in this thread that I genuinely don't like much is one of my roommates, and he's moving out soon anyway.
posted by dekathelon at 8:20 AM on January 22, 2012


You say you don't have friends, but then you go on to say:
I have people who say they're my friends but to whom I don't matter enough for them to talk to me more than rarely or invite me out at all. I have acquaintances, to whom I don't matter at all.
Okay: the very same "I hosted a party and no one came" thing happened to me once, and I was thinking just like you did, that I had no friends. But then I thought some more and realized that no -- I had friends who were acting really shitty to me.

So I'm going to suggest that you do what I did -- I started calling them on it. I started reaching out to a few of them to say "look -- you didn't come to my birthday party. And actually, that's not the only thing that I've tried to host that you've flaked out on me for. And you have to know that that really, REALLY hurt me and makes me feel like you don't care about me. So can we talk about this?"

Now, it didn't really work in a couple cases. But in other cases it did - they apologized, and one explained he had a really hellish slave-driver boss that made him stay late spontaneously, and another acknowledged it was a bad habit that she was going to change. Another friend who lived out in the middle of nowhere explained how hard her commute was to get to me sometimes, and said she'd be a lot more able to come out to things if I simply went to restaurants that were closer to subways. But all of them knew that they'd been hurting me, and that I noticed it. And, I got an assurance that it wasn't just them not caring, it was something else that they were going to really try to fix now (or something I could help fix).

And that honestly made a big, big difference - not just to the attendance at parties. It also made a big difference for my own confidence; rather than blaming myself, I spoke up, and it made a tangible difference. That convinced me that "wait, no, it's not my fault after all." And that made me feel strong enough that when the acquaintances also blew me off, I could just shrug and say "oh, well," and I just stopped inviting them to things. But some of those acquaintances became friends.

I have a hunch that you're in a similar situation -- you don't need to make new friends so much as you need to have a talk with the friends you do have. It could make a big impact. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironically, the people who would think less of you for not having friends are the very people you wouldn't want to have as friends - because if they could do that, they are shallow and unpleasant and not worth your precious time. You are in a terrible self-sustaining cycle of hurt and I feel very sorry you're going through it.

"That's why I tell people I have a social life, so they don't feel uncomfortable."

With genuine respect, I would suggest that people may feel uncomfortable about you in these circumstances because they can see you're not actually going out and doing the things you're saying you are, and THAT is what's making them uncomfortable - you're lying and instead of making them feel better around you, it puts them on their guard and makes them wonder why you aren't being honest.

On preview, those people don't sound very pleasant and aren't mature, but they are not everyone you will come across in your life and it isn't necessary or worth your while basing your interactions on pleasing people like them.

I used to be very like you - really, even down to the bit about worrying about what these people were saying when I wasn't around. I came to the conclusion that if I didn't hear it, it didn't affect me, and that as long as people were polite to my face that would do. You really can't live your life worrying about what people like that think of you. I know that for a fact. And when you're not around them, they really aren't thinking about you - you're doing all the heavy lifting of worry and anxiety and they've moved on to their next set of shallow and meaningless perceptions. If the people they were slagging were people you thought were nice or worthwhile, then doesn't that mean that it's likely you or whoever else they slag are likely to be as well?

There's not much wrong with you - you know some silly and immature people.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Your statements that people are made uncomfortable by people without friends or people who don't socialize are completely counter to my experience. I'm a loner. I'm very happily a loner. I've found very few people who really understand this desire of mine to be alone, but I've never been treated like it was some horrible kryptonite. What happens instead is that I get repeatedly invited out by my coworkers. They don't understand why I'd want to spend a Friday night alone and they want to remedy this by giving me something else to do. Over time the invitations have become far less frequent because everyone's realized that I am serious about enjoying my alone time and that I never accept their invitations. That said, if I decided that I needed something to do next Friday night, all I'd have to do would be to mention this and someone at work would undoubtedly extend an offer and be overjoyed that I'd decided to come out of my shell.

Over and over in this post you're stating assumptions that do not ring true, and they've been dissected in detail by other commenters. If you are unwilling to consider that your beliefs about others or about yourself may not be completely accurate then there's nothing we can do to help you. I agree with others who have mentioned that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would benefit you greatly by helping you learn to re-examine your assumptions.
posted by des at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I learned through a college friend that another person in college thought I was so creepy she had nightmares about me, so there's that.
Well, that sucks, and I don't know why your college friend told you that hurtful thing. But there is no reason that one anecdote should define your life. I'm pretty sure everyone here has a similarly mortifying anecdote about something. (I have about seven, but I'll spare you.) Emotionally healthy people are able to put those things in perspective and not make them the core of their identity.
Like, there are blogs run by successful but anonymous adults that I check every day to make sure I'm not being made fun on them.
Stop doing that. You need to stop monitoring those websites. Every time you look at those websites, you replay the script in your head that says "I am a loser, and people are laughing at me." Even if they were laughing at you, this script would not be helpful. I am willing to be that part of the reason that you are awkward is that you are so self-conscious that you have a hard time having genuine or spontaneous interactions with people. Until you stop constantly reminding yourself that you're a loser, you will remain that way. You need to focus on something other than your bad feelings about yourself and your conviction that people are laughing at you.

I believe that you're awkward, because I see a lot of myself in you, and I'm pretty awkward. But I don't think you're a loser. I think you're in a really vicious cycle of self-loathing and resulting unproductive behavior, and you're not going to change anything about your life until you figure out a way to snap the cycle.
posted by craichead at 8:37 AM on January 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well first off, people at UCB were laughing at meetup groups because they're at a COMEDY SHOW, everyone and everything gets made fun of at a comedy show. I know a lot of socially active and awesome people who have went to meetups alone and made friends there. Yes, some groups won't be your thing, some groups will be clique-y, but it's definitely ok to go to a meetup group, if you find something interesting.

Second off, dont lie about your social life. People will see through that and see that you're a weirdo. If you're home, they KNOW you're not out at parties. And that's ok. Just say "yea, I haven't felt like going out lately, just want to stay in" or even better "yea, nothing's really going on lately, but I do feel like going out, are you doing anything tonight?"

When you meet colleagues, do you make an effort to get to know them? Ask them their weekend plans? Suggest that a group goes out for happy hour after work this week? You need to make an effort too, be social, be friendly, smile, genuinely care about their answer if you ask them about their weekend/kids/vacation plans. Most people you meet at work can assume you just want to talk business with them because they are usually busy, but once you suggest going out to lunch or to happy hour, they will probably go. And if not, don't take it personally, because they're most likely busy.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 8:47 AM on January 22, 2012


Happy birthday! (I hope you understand that we all mean that when we say it).

You seem very resistant to a lot of the advice that you're getting in this thread. In particular, when people tell you that you're too worried about what other people are thinking of you, you tend to respond with something in the spirit of, "but they really are judging me harshly." This may even be true. But look at it this way: right now you're worried intensely about what other people think of you, and you don't seem happy. Your fear is dictating your behavior, and it's making the thing you're afraid of happen. Your fear of being judged by other people is so powerful that you've closed off an entire avenue of socialization because of a five minute bit at a comedy show. By the way, I bet I know how that UCB bit went: someone came out onstage and announced that this was a meetup group for something weird, and then everyone else came out to be in that meetup group, and everyone was weird or crazy in a different way. This is called a group game, and it's part of the structure of the type of improv form they were doing. The thing is, they always go that way, whatever the premise is - they could just as easily have been in a football team's locker room at halftime, and the scene would have played out in much the same way. So I'd stop worrying about that UCB thing. I go to a meetup group every month. The people in it are totally cool.

Ok, now on to practicalities. Maintaining friendships after college is much harder than in college, because you can't just wander over to someone's dorm room and say, "what are we doing tonight?" Instead, you have to spend a lot of time planning. When I moved to NY, I got depressed at first, because it seemed like I was in your situation. Then it dawned on me that I really needed to be a lot more active about calling people and asking them to hang out. Along those lines, here's what you have to say about your current friends:

I have people who say they're my friends but to whom I don't matter enough for them to talk to me more than rarely or invite me out at all.

Do you invite them out? Not to your birthday party, but just in general, do you call them and ask them to have dinner or a drink? In a city where people are busy, you'll have to do this more than a week in advance. I sometimes fall into the trap of waiting around for other people to call me and ask me to hang out. This is a bad habit - everything works out better when I make sure I call.

How to meet more people. Well, if you're going to shows at UCB, you might think about taking improv classes. If you're in LA, go ahead and take them at UCB, but if you're in NY, I suggest taking them at the Magnet, since they tend to have the most welcoming atmosphere. Also, if you're in NY, you should come to one of the Metafilter Brooklyn meetups - they happen every Wednesday, and the people there are very nice.
Do you like to read? Then you should check out the Williamsburg Book Club. The people there are great. You shouldn't expect to make friends there right away, because lots of people show up once or twice and then disappear. But if you come three or four times, people will start inviting you to non-bookclub stuff.

Finally, I'd invite you to take this thread, in which a bunch of strangers who have no investment in your happiness at all wrote a series of essays trying to help you with your problem, as evidence against the claim that people who have social difficulty inspire nothing but revulsion in others.
posted by Ragged Richard at 9:15 AM on January 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hey. I, like many others in this thread, am hearing a painful degree of self-consciousness that is super familiar to me -- I felt the same when I was in my early twenties. I felt like I had no friends, that people thought I was lame, that everything which came out of my mouth was awkward and embarrassing and cringe-worthy, so on and so forth.

Also like many others, I think that this -- this terrible icky squirming cringing feeling you have at being in your own skin; this haunted panicky feeling that everybody is judging you or would be judging you if only they knew the truth -- THIS is what you've got to deal with before you go out looking for friends.

You know why? Because you're stuck with you. YOU are the only person you're going to be with every minute from now on until the end of your life. And it SUCKS, then, that you come off as your own enemy, judging yourself WAY more harshly than anyone else does. I mean, take a second to reflect on that: it's really sad, isn't it? You should be your own best ally, your biggest cheerleader, your fondest friend/biggest fan. Instead you're sitting around describing yourself really unkindly to a crowd of strangers, telling us all the things you can't do, the ways other people dislike you and judge you, that you're not date-able, and so on. I get it, because like I said, I was there once. But from a distance of a few years, let me assure you, your future self is shaking her head and saying, "Man, that's so fucked. I was SO much harsher to myself than I needed to be."

So. That said, here's my advice, part the first: People like happy people. So, get happy with yourself. That requires being a FRIEND to yourself. Vow to spend the next six months being that friend. This means: taking yourself places that you'd want to take a friend. (The museum. The movies. The library. Spain. Italy. A pub for a glass of wine.) Yes, go alone! (What better or more important company will you ever find than yourself, the person you'll be living with for the rest of your life?) If you like spending time alone at home on a Friday night -- LET YOURSELF; stop worrying about other people judging you. (Really, would a friend judge you for hanging out at home on a Friday? No real friend would.) For a couple of months, try to live as though nobody is looking at you. And then start challenging yourself to smile at anyone who DOES look at you. (It's really hard at first. If they don't smile back, you may feel stung. Get over it. Push onward. It starts to work magic after a while.)

My advice, part the second: If you can see a therapist, do. A spot of Xanax might help you to relax in social situations (I suspect your supposed "creepiness" is in fact social anxiety). If you need to easy your way into it, I Nth the advice to read some books about cognitive behavioral therapy, like Feeling Good.

My advice, part the third: This is not a race. You will find friends eventually. In the meantime, you're lucky that you have hobbies to keep you entertained. To that end, I suggest you may want to try to live alone for a while so you feel less judged/watched, and freer to do exactly as you wish and hang out by yourself as often as you like. This is a part of getting happy with yourself. Make it possible, create a space, in which you CAN feel good about following your natural tendencies.
posted by artemisia at 9:18 AM on January 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


Being so guarded and hyper-aware of your social inadequacy isn't serving you. This worry that people are laughing behind your back can only lead you into ever tightening cirlces of obsession and paranoia, so let go of that. Try to imagine the advice in this thread coming from people just like you. We are not your social betters, we're just (mostly older) folks who stopped to answer because we can relate to what you're going through.

You need to let go of the worry that you're seen as a creep, because there's REALLY NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT THAT except sit and stew. Let go of whatever notions you had about how things should be.

A little bit of advice that my wife says helped her...put away any jewelry that you've been regularly wearing. Over the next few years, find new stuff.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:45 AM on January 22, 2012


Hi, dekathelon. Happy birthday!

I have a question. Do you like other people? Do you find other people interesting? What kinds of people would you like to spend time with? (OK, that was three questions.)

Lots of other people in this thread have commented on how you seem to be beating the emotional crap out of yourself, and I completely agree with them. I hope you can find your way to some kind of therapy to feel better about yourself. CBT is said to be good for changing ingrained patterns of thought.

I also hope you can feel better about other people.

Reading your original question and followups, I see two main strands of thought about other people: 1) the idea that other people have more friends than you, and 2) the idea that other people are judging you for having fewer friends. I don't see anything about what interests you about other people, or what kinds of personal qualities your friends have had in the past that you'd like to find in new friends.

"Making friends" involves meeting people, but it also involves forming relationships once you've met. Forming relationships is a lot easier if you genuinely like and are interested in the people you meet. There are some natural limits on how much you're going to like and be interested in people—you won't find every person in the world equally wonderful and fascinating—but liking people and finding them interesting is actually an attitude you can cultivate. I've done a little work on this, myself. Almost everybody I meet has some kind of interesting story in their background or perspective on our shared milieu.

When you meet people, do you ask them questions about themselves? Do you look for common interests, however trivial? Do you tell them what you like about spending time with them? Do you extend invitations to do things together based on your common interests? Do you actively, consciously look for the good in other people even if they have some negative characteristics? Do you put yourselves in their shoes and try to be empathetic about where their negative characteristics might come from?

As artemisia just said, "People like happy people." People also like people who like them. It can be a virtuous cycle: show more interest in other people, they show more interest in you, you feel better about yourself. Reward people when they do something you like, even if it means saying "thank you" for fifteen different things in an hour. "Thank you for waiting while I was in the bathroom, I really appreciate it." "Thank you for saving me a cookie." "I'm having a great time biking with you, I hope we can do it again." "You make me laugh so much!" "Every time we eat sushi together, I learn something new about fish species from you." Etc.

You can spread the love around through third parties, too. If I remember right, Ben Franklin said that one of the surest ways to make friends was to compliment Person A when speaking privately to Person B. Remember how you felt on the subway listening to people "trashing" your mutual acquaintances? You can generate the OPPOSITE of that feeling by talking POSITIVELY about people behind their backs. "I really like [name], he/she always [does good thing]." And so forth. Your subway anecdote suggests that you are observant of social networks and a sensitive listener. I hope you'll use those skills to collect positive observations to share.

Again, happy birthday, and I wish you all the best with your quest for friendships. It may not be easy and it may not be quick, but it's going to be worth it.
posted by Orinda at 9:49 AM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I learned through a college friend that another person in college thought I was so creepy she had nightmares about me

People that tell you things like this are not your friend. Friends tell you constructive things; this is sheer, unadulterated shittiness. What in blue blazes are you supposed to do about somebody else's nightmares?
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:50 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


There's so much good advice here.

Here's something it's taken me a while to learn - most people are embarrassed to show even a tenth of the extent of their social desires. Most people are also embarrassed to embrace their own weird publicly for fear of negative social reactions. When you let go of that embarrassment, most people admire you for it.

Very basic example. I recently moved to a new city to go to graduate school. After about 10 months here, I decided to join OKC and go on dates since I wasn't meeting anyone outside my program, and I emphatically do not want to date within my program. Literally AS SOON AS I mentioned that I had just joined OKC to some fellow program grads, they 1) started with the questions -which is where maybe you might interpret their questions as that they were judging, but- 2) joined that afternoon. Because I had normalized something they thought they'd be judged negatively for by being totally comfortable doing it myself.

Different example. I was on a trip out of the country with a bunch of other people I didn't know, and we had been brought to a local goods market. Almost all of the people stayed bunched together and browsed the same stuff. I wandered off, found a rug dealer, looked at his rugs, found a second, looked at his, priced them back and forth, finally bought one, got chased down the street by the dealer I didn't buy from who opened my gift-wrapped rug to see what I had decided was better than his, and then rejoined the group. When they asked what I'd been up to and I told them, I was immediately seen as way cooler than I had been before the market trip. Totally wasn't expecting that, because, well, why?

When I thought it through, I think it was that 1) I wasn't afraid to temporarily leave the group, 2) I had a cool personal experience as a result. And after that, for the rest of the trip, some people wanted to hang out around me because they also wanted cool personal experiences but were still a little too socially afraid to be alone in search of them.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:53 AM on January 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think this question is functionally no different than your last question on why you believe no one wants to date you. Figure out the answer to that and you'll figure out the answer to this, and vice versa.

And my take is still that this insecurity about the way you interact with other people affects how you act with other people. Generally, people don't like insecure, negative people. If the way you talk and behave in these threads is in any way similar to the way you talk and behave in your day to day life, I can understand why people don't want to get to know you much better.

But people do like people who smile, ask sincere questions, show interest in what other people do, and are familiar to them. So there is really great advice in here about becoming a regular at different places you might like to hang out, and making small efforts to open up and get to know people. Over time, some of these efforts will pay dividends.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:56 AM on January 22, 2012


dekathlon -- what about the birthday party? Did you organize it, invite people, and nobody showed? How many people did you invite? How do you know them?

I think you're wrong about "not being allowed" to not have a social life. Lots of people don't have much going on socially and are fine with it ... and others are fine with it. I think you internalize what you think others are thinking when, in fact, they are thinking no such thing.

And, I suspect you exude negativity. Gotta stop that -- nobody wants to be around someone who is negative.
posted by jayder at 10:31 AM on January 22, 2012


You could hang out at a pub that plays live music and read a book while drinking a beer. The first time I tried that, someone approached me and we ended up talking about WoW and video games.
posted by DetriusXii at 10:40 AM on January 22, 2012


there are two types of people: People who will think what they think about you for no reasons at all, and the vast majority of people who will read the signs you give off, consciously or not. You can do jack #%$% about the people who will auto-dislike you, except worry, stress, panic, and drive yourself into an early, neurotic grave.

The 90-99% of the rest of the people, two thirds will be indifferent, most of the rest will like you, and a few will be jerkasses. One GREAT thing about meeting new people is, you have a chance to make completly new impressions. Do you have anybody you trust that will... well, crituqe your presentation?

I'm sorta unsure if you want friends or not... you may not. It's ok. You could be very introverted, a little agrophobic, a little/lot depressed, have had rough childhoods... all sorts of things... but anybody who is too rough on you for being friendless isnt good, safe, people. This can and probably does include you. I know all this is hard. I, and many of us, have been there. Some of us still are.

If you live in my city, you can hang out. If you live in my city, Dallas, Atlanta, or LA (or are willing to travel for a few days), I happen to know of a program that I like that helps with... well, all sorts of stuff. (disclaimer- I work there as a volunteer) Its cheap to free, minus travel costs and food (and I get no commision or anything.)

Youre welcome to me-mail me, any time :)
posted by Jacen at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It may not be the case for you, because for many people approaching new people is when the anxiety is worst (though not for everyone), but could it be you have some social phobia? I wouldn't necessarily jump there from what you're describing, but it's something to consider. There are often 12 week group for social phobia treatment that are quite effective, and as a bonus, I've seen clients really bond during some. With a good group leader, it can be effective practice for forming friendships.
posted by namesarehard at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I learned through a college friend that another person in college thought I was so creepy she had nightmares about me, so there's that.

Oh, sweetie, what a terrible thing to be told! As someone else said, please don't let this define you. Most normal people have fairly horrifying moments like this one in their lives that still make them feel sad or cringey when they think about them. Sometimes it's something awful they did, and sometimes it's something awful someone said to them. It hurts and it affects you and I am sorry that you had to hear something like that.

Here's what that makes me think, though: There are a million different kinds of people. Like, I can probably find some people who think I'm creepy based on some random trait I have. I know I can find people who think I'm this, that, or the other, right, because sometimes I have gone through awkward phases, or because around certain people I become a bomb of going-to-do-weird-shit, or because certain situations always make me feel insecure and I only see certain people in those situations. There are a hundred other situations and people around which and whom I am my usual charming (if occasionally still grumpy and awkward) self, but there are definitely times and places where I am a bit of an oddball.

I wrote a comment earlier where I said something about the creepy people at meetup, and after I posted it I got to thinking about how 1) I probably should not have put it like that and 2) you probably thought you were the creepy person at the meetup. I was right--you totally do.

But here's the thing: Maybe you are, sometimes. Maybe when you go to, like, the preppy kids who play tennis meetup, or the we like fancy clothes meetup, or the we are all bankers meetup, you are the creepy one. But, like, if you go to the we-dress-up-as-my-little-ponies-to-have-sex or the we-hate-wearing-deodorant or rotten-teeth-are-sexy meetup, it's going to be different, and you're not going to be the weird one*.

I know this girl who complains constantly about how she's single, has always been single, and has never been kissed. She's not a hideously unattractive person (maybe a little weird looking, but really, not terrible), but I have begun to suspect that she's got really insane standards. Like, she spends all of her time fantasizing about men in stories or movie stars, so there's no focus on real men, some of whom MAY JUST BE chubby or have crooked teeth or be a little awkward or what-have-you.

Your comment about someone telling you that someone else had a dream about you being creepy along with your very strong belief that people will only not fear you if you pretend to have a social life makes me wonder if you're targeting the wrong kinds of people. Most of the people I know--who are principally a little bit geeky book and gamer nerds--would not ever think it weird if I told them that I spent three weekends in a row at home reading books or catching up on all of the BBC miniseries I could find on Netflix.

Also, I wanted to say to you that you cannot control what people think of you. This goes along with my advice to choose who you like rather than who you think likes you. You can never control--or really know--what goes on in someone else's head. Just because one or two people said awful things to you doesn't mean that everyone else is thinking about you like that. Most people are thinking about their own shit. Really, truly, honestly.

Anyway, good luck with this stuff. I always want to give advice in situations like this because I know what it's like to feel weird and awkward and friendless, but I also know what it's like to get out of that mindset and build a big group of friends.

*Apologies to stinky my little pony aficionados with rotten teeth.
posted by hought20 at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2012


Ben Franklin said that one of the surest ways to make friends was to compliment Person A when speaking privately to Person B

Most people are also embarrassed to embrace their own weird publicly for fear of negative social reactions. When you let go of that embarrassment, most people admire you for it.

These are both excellent points.

Another question that comes to mind is this: suppose that you and I just met. We're getting to know each other a little bit. I'll as you "so what have you been up to these days?" What will you reply?

It's great if you're able to answer something that will lead us to further conversation -- "I'm really into [hobby]" or "I've been reading [whatever]" or "I've been doing a lot of cooking" or "I've been catching up on [tv show]".... even if you secretly worry that your answer is lame, say it with confidence and an attitude that this is what you're CHOOSING to do with your time, and it becomes a good springboard to more conversation. It gives people something specific to associate with you ("oh she knows about [hobby]"), which is really helpful in differentiating you from the rest of the shy crowd.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone is suggesting to cut out the negativity, I am just going to expand a bit with practical advice. Bear with me on the long stories...

I once had a friend visiting a city I had just moved to, and she brought along another friend, a girl who had moved there a few months ago from another country. I tried to chat with the other friend, but kept getting negative responses. "What do you do?" "I'm trying to get started in X, but can't find a job." | "How do you like city?" "Well, I don't know anyone, so I haven't really seen much." | "Have any restaurant recommendations?" "No, I have no one to go with." Etc. She didn't ask for my contact info, and I didn't ask for hers... not sure I would have invited her out even if she had, it was just too hard to interact with her. She ended up going back to her country a few months later.

On the other hand, I once attended a networking event with a friend in a city where I am already connected and had lots of friends. A guy came up to us and started chatting, he was obviously a little tipsy and awkward, but I was there to meet people so was polite back. "What do you do?" "I'm at company X, I know, I know, I moved here to try to change careers!" | "How do you like the city?" "Well it's more promising than where I came from, what do you think?" | "Have you been exploring?" "Not yet, what areas do you recommend?" He ended up re-approaching us the event was breaking up and joining me and my friend for dinner along with another random person we met there, and I invited him to a party later than week and intro'ed him to a couple of friends of mine with the same professional interests.

Both people had a hard time in a new city where they didn't know anyone... and both were honest about it. However, the girl in the first story just complained, whereas the guy in the second story stayed light and tried to turn it into opportunities - even tagged along with our group to the next place, a somewhat risky move but most people won't turn you down in that kind of casual situation. Obviously a lot of this kid of casual networking fails, you don't click with anyone or click with people only to realize you don't click after hanging out once... But it's low stakes and you just need to succeed once or twice to form the nucleus of a friend group.

So that's how to be less negative: you can be honest about your problems, but with an undertone of hope and humor. Totally OK to say to your roommates, "No plans, you know of anything that's going on?" Or to acquaintances, "Don't really know anyone here yet, what do the cool kids do on weekends?" Or even, "I was just gonna watch Netflix in my room, maybe I'll actually make some plans for next Saturday." All of these are honest, but they don't sound like complaints, and they leave things open for the other person to invite you to something if they so choose. Most of them won't, but some will! And the rest won't think of you as a downer.

Good luck!
posted by jetsetlag at 11:15 AM on January 22, 2012 [30 favorites]


I love jetsetlag's example of how to be honest while staying positive. Sometimes crappy things happen and it's OK to acknowledge that you're not feeling good; nobody showing up for your birthday party is a pretty crappy thing and I wouldn't expect anybody to feel chipper right after that happens. But in your day-to-day interactions with people, look for opportunities to project hope and optimism and curiosity. Instead of pretending you have plans for the weekend when you don't, maybe say to your roommates, "Hey, I feel like going to a show this weekend, have you heard about anything good?"
posted by Orinda at 11:35 AM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've had to work to make the point to family and friends that what other people think of us can and sometimes does affect our lives. It matters what our employers think of us, what the other members of whatever groups we're in think of us. Anyone with enough social power to make a hassle of the ordinary conduct of our lives -- where there was no hassle before -- has the power to affect us. Having an internet only aggravates the risk; with its intentional lack of oversight, global scope, and obsession with preserving every last fragment of its substance, there's always a chance a mistake or a nasty rumor could hound us the rest of our lives.

So I first want to validate a portion of your concern. People can be malicious, and malicious people can cause us real trouble. It can be hard to ignore the haters and live your life when the haters are already or insist on making themselves part of your life. You cannot stop them. But you can act in ways that unmask their malice and pettiness.

My advice is to break with everything you're doing and try something new. The break could be as simple as planning a trip to a city you like or you think you'd like. But along with a detailed itinerary of tours and sights (to keep your mind too occupied for reflection) also plan out who you want to be when you're there. Make up a character (still very much yourself) and practice being that person in private, so that when you're in that other city you can step into that other role.

The trick is to come back with a view on your current character -- the lonely person who wrote the post about not making friends, who has reason/excuse upon reason/excuse to dodge so much good advice -- as the act that it, too, is. Put some distance between yourself and the miserable persona you project here. Learn to step into another role so you get a view on how you stepped into this one.

You are something behind what you're telling yourself you are, and this something is strong and attractive -- not because of anything you've done, but by virtue of you being this thing that is alive, moving, active, irreplaceable. Root out that vital thing and learn to play with the rest. "Play," I mean, wholeheartedly, joyfully, openly, honestly, uncynically. Friends who've found the same in themselves -- the only friends capable of real friendship -- will follow.
posted by blockquote at 11:55 AM on January 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


After college, you're allowed to do whatever the hell you want. And that includes being a complete hermit on the weekend, which is awesome because I love this city but by the end of the week, my condo is the only place I want to be. People ask me what I'm going to do on the weekend, and I usually grin and say "Absolutely nothing!" It's my favourite thing to do on the weekends and people don't seem to have a problem with that.

That said, here is your key:

- she emailed me about exhibitions, concerts and events
- I said yes to all of them!


If you go shopping for clothes and you refuse to try anything on in case it doesn't fit, you'll go home with no new clothes. Say 'yes' to it all — the concerts, the meetup groups, the sports teams, the random dates — and you might find something that fits.
posted by heatherann at 12:18 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a lot of great advice here, so I'm going to only hit on a couple of points that I didn't see above.

First, when I was in a similar self-consciousness situation, and in a new place, and feeling soooo awkward all the time, it suddenly occurred to me that NOBODY KNEW ME and NOBODY WAS EVER GOING TO SEE ME AGAIN so I might as well just go to anything that sounded even remotely interesting, talk to everyone, and if I made an absolute ass of myself (which I did! I was horrible at small talk at that point in my life!) it didn't matter even a little bit because I would never see any of these people again! (Unless I wanted to.) There is INCREDIBLE power in anonymity. Nobody has any expectations of you, and even if you literally trip and fall on your face while wearing a skirt and the entire room sees your underwear (it happened to me!) nobody's going to remember it was YOU. I am sure there are a few people who were there who now and then think, "Oh, that poor girl who tripped and fell! That was both sad and hilarious!" But it's not like they know it was ME. So I just started going to stuff and doing things, and it turned out I had a fantastic time. People kept commenting I was so brave to go places alone and try things I sucked at (it turns out you CAN play golf 5 yards at a time! Although it does not make you popular!) and fall on my face and go first and so forth, and people really admired me for it. It wasn't so much courage as the power of being anonymous. I'd go try crazy sports I'd always wanted to try (mountain climbing! fencing! social dancing!) and they'd ask for a volunteer to demonstrate on/with and everyone would hang back in fear of looking like an idiot and I'd be like, "Oooh! Pick me! I'm an idiot!"

The thing is, I was fearless because I knew it didn't matter what ANY of these people thought of me -- they'd never see me again -- and I had SO MUCH FUN. And I got so many crazy and unusual experiences to talk about. And a lot of people approached me to say, "Wow, I can't believe you went first, you're so brave!" or "Wow, you came alone? Do you want to join our group for the after-event drinks?"

Second, say yes to everything. (And someone did say this above.) The most recent time I moved, I made it a policy that whenever I got invited to anything (even this evangelical church's food-and-warm-clothes outreach to the poor that was really way more Jesus-y than I was comfortable with but it was helping the poor so okay), I said yes. Some of the things I went to sucked and made me want to stab my eyes out, but most of the things turned out more interesting than I would have thought. Say yes even to things that are general invitations to the public, not specific invitations to you. "We need volunteers for City Festival." "Yes!" "We need poll watchers for the election." "Yes!" The more places you go and the more things you do, the more likely you are to meet people. I met my first close friends in this town -- I am not even kidding -- in line to vote. It was the 2004 election and lines were long, and the guy three people in front of me said, "Hey, you look familiar, didn't you just move in down the block?" and we got to chatting while waiting and by the time it was our turn to vote we'd agreed to have dinner.

Third, I have kids now, and I hate "mom-dating" even more than I hated dating-dating or friend-dating -- making playdates for your kids, getting to know other moms, hoping you hit it off and have mom-friends -- it's awful. I get SO SHY in situations with a bunch of strange moms that I suddenly can barely speak and I come off as standoffish and something I think as rude because I feel so super awkward. I put out the question on my facebook to other moms, how they feel about mom-dating, and to my surprise, EVERYONE hated it and EVERYONE felt too awkward to approach other moms. So now I make a point, even though I hate every second of it, to approach other moms and chat with them, because look, everybody feels like Awkward McAwkwardpants at least some of the time. There's this one mom that I saw frequently who is model-gorgeous and from South American (and, surprise!, actually modeled before she was married!) and I thought, wow, she must be so popular, she's so pretty and has such a pretty accent and such an interesting background. I finally talked to her, and it turned out she was starved for friends because she was self-conscious about her accent and worried people wouldn't like her and self-conscious because she wasn't familiar with local customs ... and all the other moms were intimidated by her because she was so pretty and exotic! And she is awesome and I'm so glad I talked to her! And now we're friends. Almost everyone feels awkward in social situations where they don't know people. You can do a kindness to other people by breaking the ice!

Fourth, I have plenty of friends these days (your 30s are much better than your 20s, promise) and the only reason I left the house this weekend was to get lightbulbs. I realize people in their 30s are stereotypically less going-out-oriented than people in their 20s, but really, nobody loves me any less if I stay in the house and read a good book and wear my sweatpants.

And just as a tiny aside, whether people "do" adult birthday parties or not is quite variable. Around here adults don't have or throw birthday parties with friends. If I get invited to a birthday party I usually assume they only invited me as a passing thought to their family event, and I wouldn't dream of intruding on a family event. The birthday party thing may be less about you and more about whatever the local norms are about birthday parties for adults.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:44 PM on January 22, 2012 [28 favorites]


Hi dekathelon. You've gotten a lot of good advice in this thread, but I'm seeing from your follow-up comments that you're having a hard time accepting or possibly even processing what is being said.

A lot of that may come down to the perceptual filters that depression imposes. So far, you've received a lot of compliments, encouragement, and well-wishes in addition to good practical advice. What you're apparently focused on is one inappropriate comment that was deleted because the author was being an asshole. That's one part of what depression does - it blocks out your awareness of all the positive while amplifying your perceptions of anything negative.

You may also feel that the positive suggestions don't apply to you because the commenters don't realize what a "terrible, creepy" person you really are. What you don't realize is that a lot of these comments are coming from people who recognize your situation because they have been in that place themselves or because they have seen friends or family members go through the same thing and they recognize the signs. Another facet of depression is that it can induce sufferers to refuse courses of action which might improve their situation because they feel themselves to be somehow uniquely bad or worse than everyone else or incapable of being helped.

That said, I'll add my own bits of practical advice:

"Please don't mention meetup.com. I was at a UCB show not too long ago that had an extended segment making fun of people who used the site"

Here's a tip. No matter what group you might belong to - married men, unmarried women, punk rock fans, computer programmers, people who use meetup.com, people with nose rings - someone somewhere will find a way to make fun of that group or put them down. Maybe because they're a professional comedian and they just thought of an angle to make it funny. Maybe because they're an insecure person and feel the need to try to make themselves feel superior. It doesn't matter. What matters is whether you might get something out of being a member of the group. What somebody else might think about it doesn't matter in the slightest.

In any case, meetup.com is just one aspect of a larger piece of advice - find some activity you enjoy and then find a group of people to do it with. My wife and I have met some cool people over the last year or so through the local meetup.com group for D&D. Before meetup.com ever existed, I made most of my friends through other shared interests. (In my case martial arts, music, and the SCA.) In your question, you don't mention any interests that you enjoy. If you have any which can be pursued in a social setting, then go find a group devoted to that activity. If not, there are a huge number of possible activities you might discover that you like if you gave them a chance.

"I learned through a college friend that another person in college thought I was so creepy she had nightmares about me, so there's that. ... whatever they're saying about me in private is probably even worse, and that there's something terribly wrong with me that I'll never know."

1) It doesn't sound like this "friend" really was much of a friend.

2) Given that you aren't in high school any more, I can pretty much guarantee that your co-workers and acquaintances aren't devoting their time to talking smack about you behind your back or posting online gossip about you. Even if they don't like you, you're not such a part of their lives that they would be putting forth that effort. On the other hand, your comment immediately reminded me of a family member who is quite popular and well-loved, but who, in the grips of depression, was quite certain that everybody was saying hateful things behind her back and writing hateful things online about her.

3) Let's go ahead and look at the worst case scenario. Let's consider the possibility that some aspect of how you come across in person really does make a lot of the people you encounter feel uncomfortable or cause them to dislike you. That does not mean that this is inherently, unalterably part of who you are. It means that you have some behavioral habits that you probably would want to change. One likely aspect of these habits, which a number of folks have pointed out so far, is the self-fulfilling prophecy of expecting people to dislike you. It's also possible that you may have some problems with your social skills which are unrelated to your depression. When I was around your age, I was extremely socially inept and annoyed a lot of people as a result. This comment from an earlier thread explains some of what I did to work on that.

Good luck! Feel free to me-mail me if you ever need to talk about any of this stuff.
posted by tdismukes at 12:55 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dekathelon, about the nightmare thing, someone told you that because they were thoughtless and stupid. Whether or not anyone actually -had- nightmares about you is also silly, and it's on them, not you.

I have a few friends here, but believe me, you have to keep reaching out to people and accepting invitations. I say dumb shit all the time. I wear dog collars (which some silly people here can't seem to wrap their little minds around). Sometimes I wear t-shirts and sometimes I dress up "just for the hell of it" and get asked about it often; no one seems to know just what to expect from me, and I like it that way. The people that repeatedly ask nosy questions about why I wear this, whether I'm dating the guys I hang out with, and so on aren't really friend material; they're actually MORE insecure and looking to put others down in order to make themselves feel better.

My point is, don't hold yourself to the impossibly high standards of those idiots who don't matter. Besides which, most people who gossip about others barely think about that person for more than 5 to 10 minutes, much less remember what the hell they cared so much about a week later.

Life's too short to worry about all this shit. Trust me. Throw yourself out there to meet people, get involved with activities you might have only a passing interest in (just to try them out if nothing else!), and people will end up meeting you half-way.

TL;DR: Just think to yourself "I wasn't aware that your life was so boring that you had to take an overt interest in -mine-." Once I started thinking this, no party, no activity, no outfit, no possibility of even going out alone and doing things by myself was so cringe-worthy as to unworthy of my interest.
posted by DisreputableDog at 1:43 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


But the thing is, I was once out with some people - we saw each other at the same event - who spent the entire subway ride back completely trashing a lot of people I also knew, but even then, even the people they actively mock are worth hanging out with and getting drinks with. Apparently I'm not. This means two things: that whatever they're saying about me in private is probably even worse, and that there's something terribly wrong with me that I'll never know.

The other thing it means though is that THESE PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES. This isn't normal behavior that everyone does. This isn't usual, this isn't how most people are, this isn't behavior to expect from most people. This is asshole behavior done by assholes.

Read this comment by scody. Actually I'll quote it for you:
I used to be best friends with a woman who was hilarious and fun and seemingly loyal and loving but had a real vicious streak. She used to talk shit about our mutual friends -- and one friend in particular -- all the time. It was snarkily amusing, at first, but after years of it I grew tired of it. One day, without really thinking, I blurted out half-jokingly, "man, I'd hate to hear what you say about me when I'm not around."

The flash of shame, fear, and fury that crossed her face in an instant told me everything I needed to know. From that moment forward, our friendship foundered. Finally it broke down for good about a year later when I found out through a mutual friend that I had been disinvited from her wedding.

And you know what? I was so lucky. The amount of negativity and drama and all-around SHIT in my life dropped by shocking amounts once she was out of my life. I'm not exaggerating: it had been like being given an entirely new life when she was gone.


And this, from grapefruitmoon:
For a long time, my closest friends were two women whose sense of humor included "schadenfreude" as a way of life. Back in the day of livejournal, these women would follow "friends" from college whom they secretly despised solely for the purpose of making fun of their entries with other friends. Even close friends, they would mock significant events in their lives, which was just creepy to watch.

And yes, I had to start to wonder what they were saying about me. Especially when these two women who did this independently met each other and then bonded - my two best friends suddenly became friends with each other, and as George Costanza would say "Worlds collided."

For reasons that have nothing to do with their sniping, the friendships dissolved. Since then, I have found that none of my other friends do this. I had thought that making fun of people was just something people did - that it was "harmless." Obviously, that's not true. And no, not everyone does it. I have absolutely 0 - ZERO - friends who I have heard badmouthing anyone or mocking them behind their back since getting these two women out of my life.


That whole thread would be good for you to read, I think. Half of the equation here is that you really need to find a way to care far, far less about what others think (and again, that might take therapy). But the other half is to just do all you can to keep people who talk shit about others and are super judgmental out of your life.
posted by cairdeas at 1:55 PM on January 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


I just finished reading MWF Seeking BFF. Not sure if it would be your speed, but I thought it was well worth the time. It's a memoir written by a young woman who moved to Chicago with her new husband and found herself with no real friends outside her work/family, so she challenged herself to go on 52 friend dates in a year. Hilarity (and lots of life-learning) ensued. Perhaps some of her tactics would appeal to you. It certainly gave me more confidence to try making new pals.
posted by susanaudrey at 2:43 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not any sort of professional. I have no therapeutic credentials whatsoever. And possibly I am completely off-target (and yes, it sounds insane) but... you sound so very much like me; and this is how I began the process of personal transformation that's (mostly) worked for me.

First, go buy a fluorescent magenta dress with long flowy renaissance sleeves and a skirt that swooshes dramatically in the breeze like a superhero's cape. Or, hell, get a superhero cape. Or a pair of thigh-high rainbow-striped socks. Or an insanely flamboyant hat with swooping peacock feathers and flashing LED lights. Or something equally absurd. Make it bright, make it bold, make it so utterly ridiculous that no one could possibly fail to notice you walking down the street, that no one in their right mind would EVER wear such a thing in public - not even on Halloween.

And then, go wear it in public.

Rush-hour. Or prime-time. When people are out, and the streets are busy. Wear dark sunglasses if you have to, so you don't have to meet anyone's eyes - but hold your head high and walk with pride, and tell yourself each step of the way, I will be as ridiculous as I choose to be, and as unique as I choose to be, and I will savor every single moment of it, and nobody, NOBODY is allowed to take that away from me. And no matter how scary it might be, to be boldly and visibly different in the midst of the crowd, just keep your chin up, and just keep walking.

Some people will snicker, or make snippy comments, and those glances and comments will cut like knives. But if you pay attention, and don't get distracted by the haters, you'll notice that other people will simply smile at you. Some people will be amused, some people will be delighted, and a whole lot of people will end up saying, "Wow, I wish I was brave enough to wear something like that!" implying, of course, that there's some reason they can't. Most of them will want to know why, of course, to which you should simply smile and say, "I felt like wearing it" - which, again, is reason enough, and all anyone needs to know. And if you keep walking long enough, you'll forget that you are Boldly and Visibly Different, and all you'll be thinking about is your tired, aching feet.

When you do get home, and pull off your shoes... give yourself a pat on the back, while you're at it: congratulations, you are now 100% more free than you were before - and more free than a lot of people will EVER be. As you're soaking your feet, think about the people you know, the ones who you think look down on you or think ill of you, and think about whether any of them would be brave enough to risk the "public humiliation" of OMG wearing something Weird where someone might SEE them. Then think about the actual experience of taking that risk - and whether it was anywhere near as terrifying as you'd imagined.

I think you will be very surprised by how differently you begin to view your own reflection after that. It is amazingly liberating to shatter one's own personal laws of physics. Being embarrassed or seen as foolish by others is probably one of THE biggest fears we all share to some extent - but if you can kick that fear in the balls? even just a little bit? Oh my word, you will be stunned by how much can change from there, in ways you didn't even imagine change was possible.

It sounds ludicrous, I agree. But... seriously, just do it.



(And hit me up privately, if you want to talk.)
posted by mie at 2:57 PM on January 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hi you - happy birthday!! :)

Just swung by share my thoughts.

1. I learned much too late in life (age 25) how to deal with people talking behind my back/badmouthing me. Embrace them! Seriously. If people are talking behind your back - especially people that are loudly badmouthing you and pretending you can't hear, you know the type - consider it a compliment. It means that you are the most interesting element in their lives at that point in time. You are more interesting than they themselves or than anything else they can think of. And they are willing to spend time and energy and their neurons discussing you! Furthermre, encourage them!! "Hey you guys, do I hear you are talking about me back there? That's great! Go ahead, continue! Hell, go write some books about me!!"

2. How to make friends in a "new" city. Hmm, I've moved to a new cities/countries several times before and had to start from the ground up. When you're straight out of grad-school-ish, I suppose the best thing is to go the bar-fly/club scene - be a regular face somewhere. You don't have to go to some coyote ugly place to be a regular. Try a jazz club. Get to know by name the bartender and bouncer/doorman. Also introduce yourself as new in town (even 3-4 years into living in the same city) and ask them what's cool to do cause you're open to anything. re: hobby-clubs. You can take the Fight Club approach and make it a game to attend the most craziest special interest hobby clubs in town. Every night, a different hobby. You just might find someone else doing the very same thing. Check out things that happen in a group/classroom setting like cooking lessons, language lessons, book clubs, etc.. Try the fitness club route also - often there are social events tied with working out for a marathon, whatever. Also, a bit later on in life, once you're more settled into a career path, you can attend industry events, business mixers, etc and find people of similar proclivities to you. Around your 30s things get much better -one, you're less stressed out by having or not friends and two, there are events organized around your kid's school, camp, so's hobbies/business/ place of worship, etc..

Hope this helps!
posted by ruelle at 3:20 PM on January 22, 2012


Today was supposed to be my birthday party, except that nobody came.

How specifically did you go about inviting people?

People usually do this badly. For an extreme example, I once learned that I had been invited to my friend's dinner party after it was over. I hadn't been told I was invited, or indeed the date and time, but I was just expected to know about it, and also to know I was invited. This was in the pre-Facebook era, when snails ruled the earth. This is an extreme example of something which often causes invitation fails: not making clear where, what, when, who, why, and how.

Another friend, at her baby's christening: why aren't any of the people from my RPG group here? Did I invite them? Another extreme example of a root cause of invitation fail: not keeping track of who you invited, let alone who replied.

In order to know how to make friends, it helps to know how to deal well with vague acquaintances and passing strangers. I recommend the great Miss Manners for complete clarity in birthday parties and in all things.

Telling you to like yourself is good advice, in that it's true, but it's also rather meaningless to someone who's thinking and feeling as you are now. So start with the "how to behave" basics and go from there.

For one thing, you'll be able to parse exactly in what way those "friends" of yours were being rude assholes, and you'll know the most elegant way to say, "no, thank you, we have all the assholes we need right now! ta-ta!" This knowledge is power.
posted by tel3path at 3:25 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, BTW, Happy Birthday.
posted by tel3path at 3:27 PM on January 22, 2012


Lots of good advice here dekathelon, let down your guard, turn off your prejudices for a while and really try to take some of it in. I'm going to try not to repeat anything, but just give some advice based on my age (late 40s) and having lost friends through moving around and having a hard time making new friends, well here's some home truths that might help.

Friendships, like marriages and other romantic relationships take work. If you show up at a party or meetup and don't initiate or follow-up with "hey, can we exchange emails? I'm new in town and might want to hit you up for some recommendations and maybe we can hang out sometime?" And then you have to be the one to initiate. If you're the new person in town, you have to assume that the other people you are meeting already have an established social network and there's not the same impetus for them to reach out. However, if you make the effort enough times, you'll find someone who likes you enough to add you to their network or you'll meet someone in a similar circumstance who's also actively looking for people to hang out with. It might get discouraging at times. Some will result in friendships and some will be passing acquaintances that never really got off the ground. Like dating, it's a bit of a numbers game; the more people you meet and reach out to the more likely something might come of it. Oh and you know where you're not going to meet people? Sitting in your room, unless you have some sort of narnia door in your closet.

As with marriages and other relationships, friendships aren't always 50/50. Sometimes you have to be the one who initiates things more times than not; sometimes you have to do more of the work to keep the friendship going. You shouldn't always have to be in this position, but sometimes, due to life events or shifts in feelings that aren't permanent, you have to step it up. If you initiate once and the person accepts don't write them off if they don't call you back to ask you to do something. It takes awhile to get on someone's radar when you're not with them. They may like you perfectly well and just not think to call you when they're doing something. As long as they're saying yes when you ask, assume that they enjoy your company and at some point the pendulum will swing the other way.

Some people are not going to like you. That's tough when you're already dealing with poor self-esteem and a history of having a hard time making friends, but even some of the nicest, most popular people that I know have their haters or otherwise nice reasonable people with whom they don't click. It doesn't mean that you are inherently unlikable. Just try to move on and not dwell on it so much (tough I know).

I have a friend who still struggles with this and she is in her 50s. On the one hand she wants desperately to make friends, but all I hear is how people from AUS don't like Americans or they don't like her or how snotty everyone in her neighborhood/child's school/the local grocery store is (she moved from the US to AUS with her husband and his child from a previous relationship). Every slight, however innocent it might have been (hard to know since I'm not there) becomes a big fucking deal and another blow to her fragile self-esteem. Yet she is very specific in the type of person that she wants to be friends with (have to be interested in politics, can't be what she calls "a plastic", ect., ect.). She can be a very giving person, but she's very quid pro quo so sometimes it feels like all of her gifts or generous acts comes with strings. On top of it all, she doesn't want any advice, because she's tired of people telling her that she's the one that has to change. As a friend, it's frustrating and if she was new in my life and that was the only side to her that I'd ever experience, harsh as it is I'd probably decide that she wasn't worth all the drama. I bring her up not to disparage her, but as sort of a cautionary tale. If you don't do the work that you need to now to get a handle on this it will continue and possibly get worse. If you think finding friends in your 20s is tough, well in my experience, it only gets harder as you get older and careers heat up and especially as people pair up and start having children.
posted by kaybdc at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Comedians have also made fun of women, people of different races, and homosexuals. I still think all those things are pretty cool.
posted by whalebreath at 3:39 PM on January 22, 2012


I'm sorry someone wrote a comment telling you to shut up. The thing is though, is that I noticed you focused on that one negative comment out of many positive ones. Also, that person who wrote that doesn't know you. But do you know what they are responding to? It's the fact that the post you wrote, as others mentioned, is absolutely chock-full of loathing and negativity, and to be honest, many people find that painful to read. and I'm not trying to scold you because I understand completely that negative frames of mind are difficult to get out of, but the thing is, you are not going to make stable, good friendships, until you become friends with yourself and love yourself first. The good news is, you can start doing that today!

I recommend the book "Intimate Connections" by David Burns as well as "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Both of these books discuss the incredible power that negative thoughts hold, and how to release yourself from negative thoughts, which actually isn't that hard of complicated (I have been doing it myself). Like the rude poster who told you to shut up indicates (though thankfully most people are not so rude), negativity gets others down. If you are down on yourself, it really projects out into the world. This is what's preventing you from making the connections you want- it has nothing to do with the person you are and the qualities you possess.

In addition to those books I recommend some activities where you learn how to be alone and treat yourself. Yoga, massages, hikes, an ice cream cone, a hot shower. You can and should enjoy these things on your own. Once you realize that being confident and alone can be as nice as wnjoying things with a friend you will be on the right path to making some social connections. People like to hang out with happy, positive people who have something to give and add. A lot of people are struggling with their own self-confidence issues and just don't have the strength to take on others. So think also about being a friend as well as making some.

Lastly, if you are confident and happy and project that into the world , no one will be bothered that you are home alone on a saturday night or that you go to meetup groups. If you are insecure about those things, people will pick up on that. That's al it is.

I could go on but that is the crux of what I want to say. I wish you the best of luck!
posted by bearette at 4:46 PM on January 22, 2012


Hi. It's me again. I'm really sorry. I'm not even sure what to say at this point. (Of course I focused on the one negative comment, because the other comments weren't hurtful. This happens every thread - last time I posted someone told me I'll never be kind, so I don't even know why I bothered this time - and the thing about comments like that is that in my experience they're usually what people want to say but are holding back. So that's why I focused on it.)

I also want to say that the people I mentioned are first not people I can cut off contact with, but second and more importantly not assholes, and I'm not comfortable with their being called assholes if they ever read this. (I'm convinced that at least one person who knows me has to have by now.) They're just normal people and it's normal behavior. This is just the way my field is, because this is the way human nature is.

I don't even know what to say. Again, like I said, I don't really have many people I can talk about this to.
posted by dekathelon at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2012


Happy birthday kiddo!! :)

A little story from my own experience:

I once had a good friend, and our friendship was based on a shared profession/obsession, and an equally eccentric taste in movies. I really liked him. But, he was brutally self-deprecating and also cynical about both himself, and other people and their motivations and natures, and I believe that this cynicism was part of a social-anxiety cycle that prevented him from making many friends and thus reinforced itself. Very slowly, I eased him out of my life, but against my wishes! I loved his company when he wasn't exuding bitterness from every pore, and I knew that he was basically a good guy - but that bitterness, it was hurting me, like some sort of corrosive cloud that would appear only around this friend. I stopped the friendship out of a self-protective impulse, and to this day (this was many years ago) I am still uneasy and conflicted about how it all worked out. I'm sure I helped to perpetuate the very cycle that drove me away from him in the first place.

If you don't see yourself in this story, then fair enough. But consider - its not just that a certain demeanor can scare new-found friends away, it can even push away those who have every motivation to be your friend.
posted by tempythethird at 5:49 PM on January 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm not even sure what to say at this point.

Please say you'll seek therapy. Your reactions are wildly out of proportion to the situations you describe or observe, and I really think you would benefit from some solid help.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:00 PM on January 22, 2012


I'm not going to say that, because I don't have the money (even less now because it's almost April and freelancing means lots of self-employment tax), have even less time, and judging by past experience it hasn't helped because it hasn't given me friends or made people like me more. I react to what happens to me. Nothing more, nothing less.
posted by dekathelon at 6:09 PM on January 22, 2012


At any rate, I should probably close this, or else I'll make myself look even worse. Thanks for weighing in, apologies for all of this, and I'm really sorry.
posted by dekathelon at 6:24 PM on January 22, 2012


I react to what happens to me. Nothing more, nothing less.
There is more than one way to react to anything. Anything.

Good luck.
posted by lokta at 6:31 PM on January 22, 2012


and the thing about comments like that is that in my experience they're usually what people want to say but are holding back.
That's not your experience. This isn't something that your experience could inform you about, because you're not a mind-reader. You're projecting those thoughts onto other people. You're assuming that the worst things that anyone has ever said to you are what everyone is thinking, but that's just as irrational as thinking that everyone's attitudes about you mirror the nicest things that anyone has ever said to you.
and judging by past experience it hasn't helped because it hasn't given me friends or made people like me more.
Then try a different kind of therapy or a different therapist. Try meds if you didn't try them before and new meds if you did. But keep trying things. The only way to succeed at anything is to try, fail, learn, and try again.
posted by craichead at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've been roughly where you are right now - very self conscious, some social anxiety, depressive. I still have those days. What changed is that over the years I gradually stopped giving a shit what people thought when it came to the unimportant stuff. And most stuff is pretty unimportant. And when it came to the important people and the important stuff, I listen, but I still have veto powers when it comes to who gets the final say about my life. If I want to go out dressed like a dork, I'm going to do it whether or not people approve. If I want to chat with someone, I'll do it too, because the odds are the other person isn't going to instantly hate me, no matter what I might think at my most self conscious. The more at ease with myself I have become, the easier I find social situations and making friends (I also joined a book club, which worked wonders).

It's still what I'm working towards, since some days are harder than others. Just take a deep breath and when you find yourself being hard on yourself, try to remember that you aren't so bad, really, and most people aren't really judging you.

Like this, for example:

At any rate, I should probably close this, or else I'll make myself look even worse. Thanks for weighing in, apologies for all of this, and I'm really sorry.

Who cares if you look less than your best in front of the people of Askme? It's okay. Everyone tends to look a little stressed and wobbly around this place. So you're human. It's allowed. Give yourself a break.
posted by Lina Lamont at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't even know what to say.

Okay, then let me ask you some specific questions. None of this is critical or confrontational; I am asking in the kindest possible spirit to see if you can engage with something other than only the negative things you seem to have found in this thread.

What do you make of the many kind words, birthday wishes, and encouraging/positive suggestions in this thread? Did you even notice them? Or did you notice them but discount them?

Regarding therapy: what do you make of the suggestion to seek out free or low-cost/sliding-scale therapy, such as at a community mental health clinic? Do you think it would be too hard to find? Would you like to find it, but think that it probably wouldn't work anyway?

Again, these are not confrontational questions; I'm genuinely asking for your feedback on what seems to be to be the main thrust of the thread as a whole.
posted by scody at 7:04 PM on January 22, 2012


I did notice them - of course I did - but there's not really anything I can do but thank people.

The thing about low-cost or sliding-scale therapy is that even this tends to come out to more than I can afford per session, there's a huge wait that gets worse the less it costs (again, huge city), and that the time issue's still there. I've been over this.
posted by dekathelon at 7:14 PM on January 22, 2012


and judging by past experience it hasn't helped because it hasn't given me friends or made people like me more.

In line with what scody said above, I'm not trying to be critical or confrontational but how long were you in therapy? Did you approach with an open mind? Did you do the hard work necessary to get something out of it? Unfortunately some therapists are crap or a bad fit. Maybe this was your scenario, but did you try to find another therapist or style of therapy or did just think "see, I knew this wouldn't work" and give up on the idea. Yeah, you got the immediate satisfaction of proving yourself right. Good for you...how's that working out for you?

I get that time and especially money can be an impediment. I've spent most of my life just scraping by and I've had to take time off of work because I was in a study that included free therapy or do without other things to afford the therapy co-pay. I've had to go through some really crap therapists before I found a good one. It's difficult, especially when you're in a place where you can't see that could help. But it does sound like you could benefit from some cognitive behavior therapy to help you challenge your current way of thinking. If you don't want to go to therapy fine, but at least check out Feeling Good. You can get if used for $2.09 from Amazon. If you don't have $2.09 me mail me, send me your address and I'll buy it for you. Because the fact that you have a response about how you can't do any of the things that people are suggesting, on top of all the negativity, is a big red flag that you need some help challenging your negative response to seemingly everything.

What do you make of the many kind words, birthday wishes, and encouraging/positive suggestions in this thread? Did you even notice them? Or did you notice them but discount them?

I did notice them - of course I did - but there's not really anything I can do but thank people.


One person out of 80 responses says shut the fuck up. The rest are trying to be encouraging and seem sincere. They might not be saying things that you want to hear. None of us have offered the magic equation for finding friends because there is none. But you seem to have given that post more validity than all the well meaning ones. My point is in response to the one unhelpful, rude post that you mentioned, couldn't an equally valid response be:

"I did notice it - of course I did - but there's not really anything I can do but ignore them."
posted by kaybdc at 7:45 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know how it can be when you can look at someone and honestly go 'no, i cant #&$%^$ afford $10 a month for therapy!' But still, do whatever you can to get in some form of therapy, if possible. Last time my gf wanted low cost therapy in our particular big city, we happened to find one cheap and quick and good. Maybe we got lucky, but we tried and won. Also, never underestimate the value of orgs- churches and such. Pastors don't charge for help, and some pastors have been way, way better than some therapists I've seen.

Anyway... how your life goes is largely in your hands. Thats both liberating and terrifying, I know.
posted by Jacen at 7:52 PM on January 22, 2012


The short-form of your question is essentially "how do you make friends in a new city after college?" and solutions to this problem were/are probably going to involve an investment of time and possibly money.

Let's suppose that there was a silver-bullet magic solution that the socially-at-ease knew and we don't. And they came in here to your good-faith question and good-faith answered, "What you need to do to make friends is X -- it is the by-far bestest, homerun, awesometown technique."

You would then have made implementing this solution a priority in life, because you asked the question looking for knockout answers, right?

Instead, lots of people (in good faith) are saying you really need to seek therapy. I'll chime in on that too. Yes it will take time and resources but so would implementing any answer you conceivably could have gotten to this question. Make it a priority and make it happen. You can find a way.

"there's a huge wait that gets worse the less it costs"
yes, but it costs you no money and almost no time to simply be waiting on the waitlist and then, sometime, your name will come up and you will have a choice ("do you want low-cost care or not?") that you currently do not have. What's the harm in that?
posted by secretseasons at 7:57 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I did notice them - of course I did - but there's not really anything I can do but thank people.

Ah, but I'm not actually asking for your response to us. I'm asking for your personal response. I don't particularly care if you thank anyone for their positive feedback; I care if you believe them. So: when people say kind things about you, do you believe what they say? (I know it can be very, very hard to accept compliments, positive feedback, and encouragement.) When people say you're not a freak, and they commiserate with the difficulties you're going through, does that ease some of your worries? Do the suggestions that people have put out in terms of how to interact with people seem like good ideas that you're willing to try? (You don't have to answer these questions here.)

I'm prodding you a little to see whether or not you can come away from the thread with some tools (emotionally and socially) that you feel can help you. Some of the feedback may be a challenge to your way of thinking and behaving, and so may be uncomfortable to process. Again, not trying to be confrontational or critical, and not fishing for any thank you in return. I am suggesting, however, that your tendency to focus on the negative and what you CAN'T do (which is a kind of adopted helplessness) appears to be standing directly in your way of actually taking to heart the enormous amount of empathy and practical suggestions here.

I hope you do decide to take all of the good stuff here to heart. I think you're worth it. But what really matters is: do you? (I hope so.)
posted by scody at 8:19 PM on January 22, 2012


I want to offer some sort of help because I feel like I'm at the tail end of a similar experience. I'm in the UK and so can get counselling on the NHS, unfortunately the waiting list is massive so I've had the assessment (when they told me I was severely depressed) and not heard back. In the meantime I've figured out a few things that help. Writing in a diary, keeping track of how I feel, using it to talk through issues and eventually using it to find positive ways to think about my life in general.

Its been tough but I really feel like I'm getting somewhere.

Not having had the counselling yet doesn't really seem to matter in a way, the fact that I have taken the problems seriously enough to have made the appointment means that its something I now know I have to deal with by whatever means. In some ways it was a "well, if you're not going to help then I'll bloody well do it myself" which appears to work incredibly well for me.

If I were in your shoes I'd get the counselling - even if its in 6 months it will still be useful and while you're waiting for that get a good book about depression (some have been suggested in this thread) and try and help yourself. Maybe this is totally jumping the gun and we're all wrong (I hope so!) but when I read a description of why people get depressed, its evolutionary function and what that feeling is like it was such a relief to know the reason for all my negative thoughts rather than just accepting them as fact.

PS I had a shit birthday too.
posted by pmcp at 8:23 PM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Of course I focused on the one negative comment..."
(In regards to the positive comments ) "I did notice them - of course I did - but there's not really anything I can do but thank people."

Actually, there are other things you can do in reaction to the positive comments.

1) You can look at the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments are supportive and encouraging and consider the possibility that these sort of sentiments are at least as typical as the negative crap that you are convinced "people want to say."

2) You can pick out some of the concrete suggestions people have made to improve your situation and decide - "I'm going to give this one a try." If you aren't sure how exactly that would work, you can ask follow up questions: "How do I go about finding a social activity that I would enjoy?" "How do I figure out if I have interpersonal habits that turn people off and if so how do I fix them?" "How do I show interest in other people?"

3) You can take up the offer of people who have offered to talk to you privately.

4) You can say to yourself - "Hey, it may be late, but I did finally get a bunch of happy birthday wishes. Cool!"


"At any rate, I should probably close this, or else I'll make myself look even worse. Thanks for weighing in, apologies for all of this, and I'm really sorry."

What are you apologizing for? Why would you want to close this? This thread has 80 favorites so far. You've gotten a ton of encouraging comments and practical advice. You have done no one any harm by posting this question, so you have no reason to be sorry for it. Even if you don't try the suggestions people have offered, the thread may still end up being useful to someone else down the line who is going through the exact same things you are.
posted by tdismukes at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want to expand on the ways that you are negative and that it really hurts you. E.g. the "shut up" comment (which I saw before it got deleted) and you mentioned also being told that you'll never be kind. What you seem to be doing is internalizing these comments somehow, like you are letting them define your reality. You interpreted the "shut up" comment as you not being allowed to have this problem and not feel upset about it. You interpreted the "you'll never be kind" comment as what people want to say but are holding back. These comments ARE hurtful and painful but not everyone is saying or thinking this. Negativity is not somehow "more true" than positive comments. So you have to put way less weight on them and think, "That's just what one person thinks." And ignore it. Easier said than done, but you are absolutely NOT what people say or think about you. Similar to the person who thought you were so creepy that she had nightmares about you. I don't think anyone would feel great about themselves after finding that out, but put it in perspective now. Do you want this comment to define you? It absolutely does not have to; you decide whether it does or not. You need to have enough confidence in yourself to say, "Ok, that one person said I was creepy and had nightmares about me. So what. That's them, I'm me." (And do you know who you are? And not based on what you think others think of you.)

With my roommates, it's so they don't see me as the terrible, creepy roommate who stays in her room all the time, even though I am, and with acquaintances, it's so they don't see me as the terrible, creepy person nobody wants to be around, even though I am. I mean, when you mention this, people ignore you and dislike you even more.
I think I get what you're trying to say here. There's definitely a stereotype/archetype of the person who stays in their room all the time of being someone who's terrible, creepy, and to be afraid of. Are they plotting to bomb their workplace? Are they dissecting animals they've killed? That sort of thing. But this doesn't sound like you at all. You are getting out of the house, right? So what if you stay in on the weekends? People do actually do that, and tell other people, and people can respond positively to it. E.g. Co-worker: "So how was your weekend? What did you do?" Me: "Not much. Stayed in, read a book, did laundry." Co-worker: "Cool." People will understand that people have these types of weekends. I don't know why people would be judgemental of what you choose to do with your weekend and what makes you happy. If I got the sense that someone was judging me for my shut-in, anti-social weekend, I'd think, What's their problem? I wouldn't think, "Wow, I'm not allowed to have a shut-in, anti-social weekend." Nor am I saying you're not allowed to think these things either! I'm trying to point out a certain way of thinking about ourselves which ultimately hurts us in the end, and we don't have to think that way.

About the people who were talking shit about others on the subway:
even the people they actively mock are worth hanging out with and getting drinks with. Apparently I'm not.
If people were talking shit about others that you find worth hanging out with, then the shit-talkers are obviously people you don't want to hang out with further. It doesn't matter what they think of others, or what you think they think of you - what matters is what you think of them. And you're letting what you think they think of you get the better of you.

As others have pointed out, your life rests in your hands. You have responsibility for you, your thoughts and your feelings. It just seems like you're not recognizing your own agency in your life - you said about therapy, "it hasn't given me friends or made people like me more." Therapy is not a store in which you go in once or twice and you come out with a bunch or friends, nor does it change other people's perceptions of you. You're the one who has to do the work to change, and I'm not sure you totally get that yet. It just seems like you're putting expectations on things (people, therapy) outside of you to make your life better, and then saying stuff like, "See? People think I'm a freak and a creep." It's almost like you want to think negatively, which I have done myself too. But you always have a choice. tdismukes gives you some good suggestions for how to begin to think differently and more positively. I used to be dismissive of thinking positively as well - "Thinking positive? Pshaw! How's that going to get more people to like me more? I just need people to like me more and life will be better!" I relied too much on external validation when what I really needed was to feel good about myself first - so the things that bother you don't bother you as much, or you feel more confident in making changes around you. Your perception is your reality, and so a negative perception will produce a negative reality; a positive perception will produce a positive reality - it may not be exactly the one that you want (that's the catch!), but you're more able to get it close to what you want, or find/create another alternative and be happy with that.

Maybe you're at a point in your life where you need people to say, "I like you, you're a cool person to hang around, I have fun being around you." Because if they said that, then that would be true, right? I used to think like this (I'm projecting here), until I realized it is such a pain to be around someone who constantly needs reassurance and it's unfair to put that on people as well.

Here's hoping that this coming year is an awesome year for you. Only you can make it that way.
posted by foxjacket at 9:35 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


To help with the no-money-for-therapy thing, perhaps get a part time job, perhaps in retail, or in a coffeehouse, or bar or something... somewhere that you'll be working alongside other people. Even if you don't make any friends among the workers, at least you'll be dealing with a lot of people, AND you'll have somewhere to go on Saturdays when "everyone" is having fun. If anything, it'll break you out of your shell, get you out of your head, and you might meet some of these regulars that are spoken of upthread.
posted by mornie_alantie at 11:23 PM on January 22, 2012


You know what, I realized it's true, I have been holding back. I really didn't want to tell you what I honestly thought about you, your post and your situation. And here it is: I feel awful for you, I find myself intensely wishing that someone had attended your birthday party because jeez, nobody? That sucks, and I wish it wouldn't happen to anyone. I'm hoping really hard that someone's words here will reach you and that things will start to change for you. As to your social situation, I get the impression you're not seeing yourself, your interactions, other people's perspective or motives clearly, and I wish your first step would be simply acknowledging that. I know that's a really hard switch to turn, especially if those things are your main focus. There's a lot of painful negativity in your post, much of it unwarranted (but I understand you can't see that now). It also makes me wonder if you're perhaps not a lot of fun to be around at the moment; that's one of the typical, self-perpetuating curses of low funk that often isolates us even more right when we need company (wintertime, everyone's low on vitamin D and struggling to keep their spirits up, so people radiating gloom or anxiety tend to get avoided even more). Or, since you mentioned there's some faking involved in the way you present yourself to the world, maybe some of it shines through. People may get uncomfortable if they sense someone's trying too hard to look acceptable in their eyes. Or maybe your friends just aren't very good friends material right now. Or perhaps there is something situational involved.

But here's the real reason I was reluctant to reply: I may be just projecting but I see myself in you, or a much younger version of myself, isolated, unloved, lonely, depressed, devoid of self confidence or self-soothing skills, desperately yearning for acceptance yet unable to garner it, exhaustingly self-obsessed in my constant self-criticism, and probably most importantly, allowing others to define me and my worth entirely. These things are not easy to open up about even now, years later. It still makes me feel vulnerable and, yes, embarrassed, which means kudos to you for doing this, and I truly hope some of the replies you've got will help you. BTW, you're not a freak for being socially starved and hurting; loneliness is a wide spread problem in most Western societies these days. And it's painful.

And you know, just in case commiserating comforts you in any way, I've been called creepy, too. Or to be more precise, someone merrily informed me that the sunny, friendly bunch of golden boys and girls I had been hanging out and having fun with (I was studying abroad at the time) had started to call me "the Psychopath" behind my back. I'm still not sure why, perhaps because I was introverted, listened to strange music, had a sudden illness that sparked rumors, and really I guess generally just marched to the beat of my own drummer... And they were also probably bored out of their wits in that dull little town and starved for some gossip or laughs. But strangely, that became one of the first real turning points for me. Whereas before hearing something like that would've crushed me, I suddenly found myself calmly realizing: well, these people are wrong. They didn't see inside me, had no idea who I was as a person, and as charming as they all were, had their own set of faults, one of them being a tiny mean streak. So for the first time ever, I simply shrugged it off (why did it take me all those years to realize I can do that?), distanced myself from them a bit and turned to other activities. I learned Portuguese, took in a stray kitten and started bodyboarding. And I held no grudges so I occasionally even chose to hang out with the adorable meanies, accepting them the way they were.

This has ever since been growing into a consistent habit of being comfortable as the odd woman out. I can still have an interesting life, even though I nowadays again find myself without any real, intimate friendships (although I have found a spouse, and people seem to like working with me). I do my best to connect with people anyway. (I'm going Nordic walking, of all things, with a cranky 70-year old lady this week to help her stay in shape. And because she's too embarrassed to be seen doing that by herself.) As to getting over how others may perceive you or what they think of you, slightly OOT but I really dig this answer by No-sword.

None of this answers your original question, but like others, I do think you might not find an answer to that one until you've reshuffled your thoughts for some fresh perspective. Hang in there!
posted by sively at 3:15 AM on January 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


I could say a lot of things, though I'd mostly be repeating what others have said here.

But do you know how your discourse is making me feel? It makes me feel so hated.

I feel like everything I could possibly say will be wasted, because you know it's wrong, you hate it, and you hate me for saying it.

Like most people, I'm completely self-obsessed. If I keep extending myself to show love to someone, and all I ever get back is hate, after a while it doesn't matter whether the hate is technically for me or for yourself. If you don't want to feel hated, don't assume anyone else does, either.

If I could recommend one tiny action for you to take, right now, it would be that you stop lying about how much other people like you (by saying you went out with friends when you didn't) and start lying about how much you like other people. The way you could do this is, the next time someone makes a friendly gesture towards you - even something completely tiny and trivial like passing you the salt - you act like you appreciated the gesture and like you believe it was made with good intentions. Restrain yourself from talking about the gesture in a devaluing way, to them or to third parties.

If your protest is that you're doing this already, do it more. If you've been saying "thank you", start saying "thank you very much."

One tiny step.
posted by tel3path at 6:49 AM on January 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


I had written two responses to your question but I deleted them and decided to move on because I realized that I would get shot down. It's not a concern for my ego that stopped me, but I figured why should I write a long response to something that's going to get shot down.

Yet, I still want to say something because I really think you need to hear this:
It's common for people to be in your situation (alone in a new city), but your self esteem and confidence affect how you turn out. If someone is happy, confident, and eager to meet new people and experience new thins then their experience will be hands down much, much better than yours. I am speaking from experience. I was in a very terrible place (and for understandable reasons) before I moved away to university. I ended up moving because of certain personal reasons and I really craved that fresh start where nobody knew my name and where I could try to just create this amazing life filled with tons of people.

Turns out that it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. The reason? I was in distress and I was unable to make friends let alone maintain friendships because I needed to work on myself before I could be friends with anyone else.

Things are far from perfect for me, they are not even great. Yet, people still say "let's hang out" or "I missed you" (which is a new thing to me) and the reason is because I have developed a relationship with these people. I am myself, I try to be kind to others, I joke around and say silly things once in a while. I treat others how I want to be treated. And, I honestly don't care about what people will think of me when it comes to my social life.

People sensed that I was depressed and told a friend of mine that I seemed "off" and that they didn't like my personality and didn't know how to deal with me. Want to know how that made me feel? It made me feel terrible. But, I realized that I was depressed and had a lot of other 'things' going on which made it difficult for me to want to be around others or truly care about anything. So, I decided not to let that information take over my mind and make me feel ashamed.

I'm not saying that you are depressed, but what I want to highlight is that you are not in a good place emotionally which is evident by this post and your previous one. There is nothing 'wrong' with you or anything 'creepy' about you but how you approach situations, how you view others, how you view yourself, etc... indicates that you are not in a great place and it seems emotionally draining. People can sense this much more than you would assume. That's why I strongly recommend therapy because the chances of you making any good friends in this state and with this perspective are so incredibly slim.

I know this because I have been in your position. I also know that things get better from therapy. If you don't want to get help from a therapist for financial reasons then there are options for that. I just don't think you can help yourself based on the state that you are currently in. It's hard to change these types of thoughts and this vicious cycle once you are so far into this cycle.

Anyways, these are my two cents and take it as you will. But, I really think the change has to start with yourself and you need to love yourself before you can love or be loved by anyone else (either as friends or as romantic partners).
posted by livinglearning at 9:00 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe what might be most useful to you right now is a list of things you can take action on and just do. I'm piggybacking on (or outright stealing) from a number of the helpful posts above, but I thought I'd just set out a list of actions you can take that will increase the likelihood that you begin to make friends. You can see that a lot of these things can easily overlap.

(1) Start developing some skills. My vote is to teach yourself to cook some things really, really well. This has a few benefits. First, it gives you something to do and concentrate on during those times when you are feeling down on yourself for not having a social life. Second, it gives you something to talk about when someone asks, "So, how was your weekend?" or "What do you like to do?" Third, once you get good at cooking certain things and people know it, it's kind of an asset that you can trade on to feel like you're contributing to social events, or get invited to things, or have the confidence to ask people over to your place to hang out. So it has a ton of practical value.

(2) Embark on a creative project that will get you out of the house and perhaps meeting people. If I were planning this for myself, I might try something like a portrait photography project, where I did one a week for a year, and then maybe posted them to a special blog for the project. Finding 52 people to agree to let you photograph them would be pretty ambitious and probably compel you to go out and meet and talk to new people--and it will also give you something interesting to talk about to people when you're in conversations. Or, I don't know, decide you want to review every single coffeeshop, pizza place, or bakery in the city where you live and visit one each Saturday and make a blog for your reviews.

(3) Choose a new activity that requires you to regularly see new people. I recall from your earlier post that you were happy with your hobbies and not looking to add others, but, clearly something needs to change or you're just going to continue to feel the way you're feeling. So, get some kind of regular activity on your calendar. A class? A book club? A writing group? Toastmasters? You've said you perceive dating as a type of numbers game; if finding friends is the same, you need to increase the number of new people you see. Regularly going to somewhere that you'll see people will help you build relationships with (some of) them over time, as they get used to you and you get used to them.

(4) Go crazy improving your physical fitness. There's a strong correlation between exercise and improved mental health, so there's that. And, maybe it will make you more self-confident about your appearance, if that's mattering to you. And it gives you something to do on days when you feel lonely and looking for something to do. Maybe it will open up opportunities, too, like joining a running club, or hashing, or trying cross-fit, or some kind of dance or other class or opportunity that you were waiting until you were in really good shape to do. But it's hard to see a downside to getting physically fit, and if you're going to be unhappy and lonely, you might as well do this in the strongest, healthiest physical body possible, so when you're ready to bust out of that rut you've already got that in place.

(5) Start learning about networking. Read books, read blogs, ask people. Networking is a useful skill professionally and also personally. Increasing your network is the way to make the "numbers game" that you are concerned about to work more in your favor. But it won't happen by accident, and while the idea of networking can be overwhelming and scary, it's not nearly as much of a committment to decide to just learn as much as you can about it. Then you can decide what actions you want to put into practice.

(6) Consider going to church if this is at all palatable to you. It's not something I'd personally be likely to try, but, hell, if I was unhappy enough that I knew I needed to make a change, maybe I'd go for it anyway. And if it is something you're open to, it can vastly expand your network and provide access to support that might be really useful to you right now.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


I've already commented twice above, but after reading your responses, I have to add one more thing....

At the age you're at (mid 20s?), the idea of changing your outlook on life can be scary. As young adults, we've just recently built up our first truly useful "world view". This world view has seen us through some pretty challenging times, so we get attached to it and it serves as an armour. Letting go of it seems a betrayal.

Now try to imagine yourself as a crab that needs to moult. It's biologically imperative that you cast off your old armour, since it hampers your continued growth. This doesn't mean that your earlier outlooks were "wrong". You'll grow a new, better adapted armour for this new stage in life.

Obviously, many people here feel they can relate to your predicament because you've described it so well. I notice a difference in your tone between this question and your previous one and it's heartening.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


To frame one thing as a positive: You seem to be very perceptive of the attitudes and opinions of others. This can be used safely and positively to be a good judge of character. This is a great attribute for a friend.

Second: Find a way to get out of your head. I'm happiest when I'm lost in an activity, my work, or a conversation. It helps if it's something hard; I haven't done this myself, but feeding the homeless or working with the blind are two examples I've heard of doing something hard that may change your view of the world. Just Google "homeless shelters (cityname)" and sign up to volunteer an hour or two per week.

Third: You have nothing to apologize for. You asked a question, which is hard to do. You received an overwhelming response, which is pretty hard. At the end of the day, no one's going to go home and say "Remember that Ask Metafilter question? Whatta goof!" My point is that this doesn't matter that much, so roll with it. You're okay.

Finally, happy birthday. I hope an internet party has sufficed.
posted by Turkey Glue at 12:49 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, and as an addendum to my second point: Ask people questions. People love talking about themselves, it helps you seem open, and it's hard to be self-conscious when someone else is excited to speak. After they're done, it's your turn, and talking second is much less scary.
posted by Turkey Glue at 12:50 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


I already commented, but I wanted to say that I agree with Turkey Glue. I think many of us provided you with answers because we care about fellow mefites. We wanted to try to help you and many of us have been there, know someone that has been where you currently are, or can empathize with your situation.

Yeah, some of the responses might be hurtful (I don't think that was intentional though) but don't spend too much time thinking about it. There are so many responses here (seriously, over 100 responses now) which means that there is an abundance of feedback from a variety of people with different perspectives and experiences.

For what it's worth, I think quite a few of us have experienced that feeling where we ask a question which generates some negative or harsh advice. Most people are not going to hold that against you here. We are a community, an online community with a lot of voices.

Do not be ashamed for asking this question. It's clearly not idiotic, it's just that so many of us want to help you out and yet you shot down so many of us. Just take the time to think about what we have said and hopefully find a way to work towards improving your life by working on yourself first (this is always the most important step).

Good luck and know that you are not alone. Seriously, there are 105 responses to this question and 100 people favourited this question. Says that we care, don't you think? (Note: that was a rhetorical question because the obvious answer is yes).
posted by livinglearning at 2:05 PM on January 23, 2012


I'm sorry if I hurt people, and I'm sorry if people think I thought I shot down. I know that sounds like one of those bullshit apologies, but I really don't think I was shooting anyone down, or at least I didn't intend to. I don't think clarifications and shooting down are the same thing, though.
posted by dekathelon at 3:12 PM on January 23, 2012


You didn't hurt me, but you did make me feel hated. I didn't say that for me, I said it for you.

May I make a suggestion? Try going to the top of the page, writing out the first answer, and thinking it over for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, write out the second answer, and so on.

Listen, because a lot of us are telling you how we got from where you are now, to where we are now. So listen. Cause it's true.
posted by tel3path at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


You definitely didn't hurt me. Seriously. I just really care and can understand where you are coming from and wanted to provide you with an answer and share my perspective. Do not dwell on this post. I think many of us have been in your position where we have received responses to a human relations question which hurt our feelings either because it was true or because of how we were perceived by others.

I know that it's hard for some people to avoid doing this, but don't attempt to make everything logical or attempt to clarify so many things. Clarifications are so overwhelming and it means a) that you are the type to overanalyze everything and b) that you are not very open minded which is exhausting for people.

There's nothing wrong with knowing what you want, but at some point you have to be able to listen to others and be open to others perspectives too. Friendships are developed by having an interest in others, listening to others and not just hearing them (HUGE difference), and trying to understand where someone is coming from.

We all have our own stories and want friendships and relationships in general because many of us are social beings, but you need to work on yourself before you can truly befriend anyone else.

Good luck, I really hope things work out in your favour. But, you have to work hard on yourself before you befriend anyone else.
posted by livinglearning at 4:05 PM on January 23, 2012


Yeah, I'd just like to chime in one last time to say that I definitely didn't feel hurt; not one tiny bit. Frustrated at most, but not hurt. However you decide to attack this problem, whatever advice you decide to follow or discard, I sincerely wish you good luck and hope for the best for you.
posted by kaybdc at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


"I'm sorry if I hurt people, and I'm sorry if people think I thought I shot down."

I think what tel3path was trying to do was give you some insight into some of what you are doing that might make people uncomfortable with being your friend in real life and how you might change those patterns.

I'm going to quickly review this thread for you in a way that I hope will help make sense of this for you. Please understand that this is not an attack or a call for you to apologize for anything. It's meant to empower you to make some changes which may improve your life.

You started out the thread by asking a reasonable question which a lot of people can relate to. In the process, you threw in some gratuitous put-downs of yourself, some unneccessary apologies, and some restrictions on possible answers which may not have been ideal.

You received a ton of encouragement, sympathy, happy birthday wishes, offers to talk, offers of help, people explaining that they had been through the same sort of experiences, practical advice which fit the restrictions you had laid out, and more practical advice which encouraged you to re-think the restrictions you had laid out.

You responded by focusing on the one (quickly deleted) asshole comment and by explaining why you didn't think some of the advice would work for you.

You didn't acknowledge any of the positive comments until you were repeatedly pressed on the issue and even then you seemed puzzled as to how or why you should react to them.

You didn't respond in any way to most of the practical advice that was offered as an answer to your question.

Instead, you put yourself down some more and apologized for no apparent reason and said that you thought you should close the thread.

If this is the way you respond to people in real life (and I strongly suspect it may be), then you will make a lot of people uncomfortable being around you and you will have a hard time making friends.

The good news is you can change these patterns of behavior. You can start right here in this thread if you like. It's actually much easier in an online conversation like this because you can take your time to think about what to say and you can come back to the conversation when you realize that you could have done something better.

Maybe it still doesn't make sense to you how you could do things differently. To help out, I'll start you off with some dos and don'ts.

1) Don't put yourself down.
2) Don't apologize for existing or having problems or questions. (Of course, you should still apologize when you've done something to hurt somebody, but that doesn't seem to be a major problem for you here.)
3) When people offer you encouragement or compliments or birthday wishes, do express your thanks.
4) When you need support and someone offers to talk or to help out, do take them up on it. If you don't choose to take them up on it, express your appreciation for the offer anyway.
5) When you ask for advice and someone offers it, do carefully think about it and see if there's a way you can apply that advice. If the advice doesn't make sense to you, ask some follow-up questions until you really understand it. Whether you choose to follow it or not, say thanks to the person who took the time to answer your question.
6) If you feel stuck in a situation where you are miserable and you don't see a way out and people suggest that you have a fundamental mistake in your assumptions about your available options, do open your mind enough to ask "what if" they are right? You don't necessarily have to believe them - just consider the possibility of the "what if".
7) When people tell you that they've been through what you're going through - ask them about it. Show an interest.
8) When people offer you encouragement or compliments or birthday wishes or tangible help or a chance to talk or practical answers to a question you asked, say to yourself - "Wow, someone really cares and wants me to feel better. That's cool."

Go ahead and try these steps - in this thread or in the next online conversation you participate it. If you practice in a safe environment like this, it will become easier in the real-time pressure of real life. If you can make these changes in real life, you will find it a lot easier to start accumulating friends.

Good luck!
posted by tdismukes at 11:56 AM on January 24, 2012 [11 favorites]


If it feels like we're ganging up on you, just try to imagine that we're a pod of well-meaning dolphins, trying to nudge you towards shore.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:21 PM on January 24, 2012 [12 favorites]


I highly recommend this book: Compassion and Self-Hate. It made living inside my own skin much easier for me.

http://www.amazon.com/Compassion-Self-Theodore-isaac-Rubin/dp/0020777507

posted by uans at 1:52 PM on January 24, 2012


For a long time I thought that meds without talk therapy was a really bad idea, but now I think there are times when it makes sense. Two in particular:
1. If your mood difficulties are making it very difficult to figure out how to get therapy
2. If you can't afford therapy and your moods are making it very difficult to improve your financial situation

It's far from ideal, but you can get meds from your gp. Even if you have qualms about meds, you can still try them for and at least maybe get a break from some of the complications that mood issues add to life's usual struggles. Very worst case scenario is you hate them and deal with some crappy withdrawal symptoms for a month.

On the upside, it may well give you the gift of a different vantage point from which to view all of this. Hey, maybe you're right and the reality is that your creepy and unlikeable; The meds would probably help you improve that too.

Just plan on getting therapy down the road, as soon as possible.

Bottom line is: You don't have to live like this. You can just feel fucking BETTER.

Also, New York City has the excellent and free Mood Disorder Support Group. Your city has something similar.

If you want things to change, you have to try some stuff you haven't tried before.
posted by SampleSize at 2:46 PM on January 24, 2012


Yeah, there's a stray "for" in there.
And not your. You're.

danggit.

[pops pill]...eh. it's not that bad.
posted by SampleSize at 2:57 PM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry if I hurt people, and I'm sorry if people think I thought I shot down. I know that sounds like one of those bullshit apologies, but I really don't think I was shooting anyone down, or at least I didn't intend to. I don't think clarifications and shooting down are the same thing, though.

We're not concerned that you're shooting everyone down because it's hurtful to us. We're concerned that you're shooting everyone down because we want to help you and it seems like you're stuck in a really distorted mindset. And so when people are saying they identify with your experiences and giving you advice and suggestions on what might help, and you seem to be ignoring or discounting them, it's just sad and worrying to think that you might just stay stuck and unhappy.

And you may not feel like you shot anyone down, but when you say something like "This happens every thread - last time I posted someone told me I'll never be kind, so I don't even know why I bothered this time - and the thing about comments like that is that in my experience they're usually what people want to say but are holding back. So that's why I focused on it" it feels like you're discounting dozens of people's well-meaning empathy, support, and advice based on the interpretation that they're just holding themselves back from saying the harsh, cruel things they really mean to say. (Stop! Are you about to apologize for that? It's not about apologizing to us, it's about understanding your patterns to help yourself.)

Is there even a single response to your post that you believe is by someone who's well-meaning and caring and understands something about your situation, with some advice that you think might be worth considering? If yes, I hope you can start there. If not, it's worth really thinking about why there's nothing you find helpful out of 100+ posts. (And if it's largely because you discount anyone who suggests that you might have a distorted view of what people think about you because you're absolutely convinced you're just seeing the world as it is, you might want to think about whether it might be worth considering the possibility you could be wrong.)
posted by EmilyClimbs at 6:16 PM on January 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you are like me, this thread must be overwhelming and scary. Just too much. Sometimes when you are depressed and people are trying to help you it can hurt even more. Weird, I know, but that's the way it can work. So much attention and focus on you can make you want to fight back and sometimes even rebel from it. So take your time. Back up and take care of yourself. Come back and read the wonderful advice in this thread a bit at a time when you feel you can handle it without it triggering stuff in you and you can be open to it unselfconsciously. It will do you a world of good. And it will get better.
posted by Vaike at 9:01 AM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


dekathelon, I want you to know that, inspired by this thread, I reached out to two other moms and one other woman my age this week, so you've already done some good in the world. I realized I was falling back into my awkward-shell a bit and that I should take my own advice and keep reaching out to other people, because the amount of awkward I feel is probably the same amount of awkward they feel.

I talked to a woman with a boy my older son's age who I've said hi to several times who seems so nice, but I've never really talked to her, and we're going to have a playdate for the boys, and I'm totally looking forward to talking with her. I talked to another mom who's very shy and soft-spoken but whose little girl loves to run around with my little boy at a gymboree-type class we go to. She said she doesn't know a lot of people in town. And then I invited a woman I've met professionally who's just moved to town to have dinner with me. It's normally really hard for me to strike up conversations and "ask people out" -- I do it but I feel awkward -- but I thought of this thread and it made me brave about it, remembering that we're all awkward, and on the off chance that someone I was breaking the ice with was feeling as lonely as you are right now (and as lonely as I have in the past).

So thank you for this thread because it's made MY life a little better. I hope you can start to make your life a little better too.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:03 AM on January 25, 2012 [5 favorites]


Will it help to say that I feel like I'm being shot down every time I try to explain myself? Telling me that I am wrong is shooting me down. The reason I can't be more specific is that I cannot have this thread identify me if anyone finds it, and I am identifiable. I can't say how, but I am.

When I closed the thread, I thought people would understand that I'd really like to move on from it, because it was a mistake.
posted by dekathelon at 8:55 PM on January 25, 2012


Hi dekathelon. Sorry you are feeling shot down; I think people got excited about trying to help, so people are intending it in a positive way, but it's very understandable that hearing 100 voices talking about things you could change is a bit much. I think most people here are wishing you well.

Just as a side note, it's not possible for you to "close" your own AskMe questions (that is, there's no way to do that within this website). In rare cases the moderators will delete an AskMe question if the original poster asks them to -- if you want to ask them to do that, you can use the "contact" link at the bottom right of the page.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:35 PM on January 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people in the thread above have suggested that you should work on feeling better about yourself before you work on friendships. I agree that you shouldn't be so hard on yourself and should develop a better appreciation for yourself, but I also think that for me it is hard to be happier without friends (and it's hard to have friends when you are unhappy, catch 22).

I was lucky enough to find some friends who really do not care if I am dorky, awkward or uncool. I am very comfortably around these nerdy folks. I also have some friends who are cool and around whom I feel like I have to try harder. Sometimes my cool friends are less reliable, sometimes I feel like I am making a fool of myself with the, but then I just remember that I always have my other friends who like me anyway. And I have started to feel less self-conscious in general.

So my advice is to make some really dorky friends who don't care if you are awkward.
posted by mai at 4:38 AM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Of course I focused on the one negative comment, because the other comments weren't hurtful. [...] the thing about comments like that is that in my experience they're usually what people want to say but are holding back.

I've been sitting on this for a few days trying to figure out how to express this to you in a way that will be helpful to you, and I'm not sure I've got it, but screw it here goes.

Story time.

So a few years ago I went through what I guess they call a major depressive episode. The details and cause aren't really relevant here, but the upshot is that for at least half a year it was like my life turned completely to shit; nothing went right, nobody liked me, I didn't like anything, everything and everyone sucked, etc etc. The whole bit. You know what I mean.

And it wasn't until months after I'd finished the long slog up and out of it and into something resembling normalcy that I was able to look back and see that objectively, realistically, things actually weren't that bad. My perceptions of them were simply incorrect. A hundred things could go right in a day but I wouldn't see them because I was too latched on to the one thing that went wrong.

You see what I'm getting at, I hope. Here and in your other past questions you're consistently dismissing the hundreds of positive and helpful messages and locking in on the one or two negative ones, and you're justifying it to yourself by telling yourself "that's the one that's real. I know that's what people really think -- when people are nice to me they must be lying or trying to get something out of me; when they act mean that's because they're revealing what everyone really secretly thinks about me all the time." Along with this is a healthy side helping of "nobody else feels as awkward or as creepy as I do; they are all coping just fine. I'm the creepy one."

The thing about that is that it is completely backwards. When people are mean it is usually more about what is going on inside their own heads than it is about you. Almost everyone feels awkward or weird or creepy sometimes, if not most of the time. The whole reason people make friends and spend the majority of their time with those friends is to cushion themselves from those awkward moments of feeling alone or not knowing what to say or not being able to find someone to talk to because everyone else seems to know each other already.

You're doing an incredible amount of filtering of your experience and your memories to make it seem to yourself that things are much worse than they are. This is the part that I've spent days trying to figure out how to express so that you'll A) believe it and B) not take it as a personal attack or criticism of you, and I guess the best I can do is say that I know this because I did it too, I did it for a long time, and it totally sucked. But here it is: you're wrong. People are not mostly holding back a lot of negative thoughts and comments about you; they're mostly not thinking about you at all. Awkward and alone is not creepy and weird and unusual; it's the default state of being. Take almost anyone outside of their comfort zone and they're going to be awkward and lonely.

Right now you don't have a comfort zone built up, and you have I'm afraid a lot of work ahead of you. It's not like I suddenly had an epiphany where I realized that I was getting this wrong and suddenly everything got better -- it took a lot of therapy and a lot of throws at the antidepressant dartboard and a lot of time and a lot of work, a lot of watching other people and paying attention and seeing that they were going through the same things I was (one of the most vibrant and outgoing and effusive people I know, one who I'd envied for years for the ease with which she made friends and got along with people, admitted to me that it was because she was terrified: she had to drink a half bottle of wine before she could go to a party and pretend to be outgoing and effusive and vibrant because that outgoingness was how she hid the fact of feeling so awkward and unattractive and unloved. After I hit bottom and just stopped pretending that I was OK and just let myself go ahead and visibly become a wreck, I got to hear a lot of those kinds of stories because a lot of people were maybe for the first time seeing someone -- me -- who actually looked as uncomfortable and unhappy as they secretly felt, so felt safe saying it out loud, but still maybe only after a half bottle of wine) but anyway what it mostly took was a lot of time and a lot of work. And I still do it sometimes and have to catch myself doing it and remember that that's what I'm doing and consciously try to stop myself doing it. It's hard.

At this point I don't know if you are finding this encouraging or discouraging, but it is one of those "there is no way out but through" situations. The point is that I think your first step has to be to recognize that you are wearing the opposite of rose-colored glasses; that you are selectively editing your world view to see the bad but not the good; that this is if not the cause then at least the primary reinforcing factor in the questions you are asking here; and that you are going to have a difficult time making headway on those other issues if you don't first tackle that underlying one.

Also that you're not alone. Me too. Lots of us. Honest.
posted by ook at 10:05 AM on January 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


« Older Does anyone know anything abou...   |  What is this sign from the bac... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.


Post