what now?
November 27, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

What now?

I've been trying to change things in my life. I do the best to be the best person I can be, I'm a compassionate person by nature & am interested in helping people whenever I can.

Thing is, I've been alone pretty much the majority of my life. My family is non existent/dysfuntional/emotionally abusive for almost all of my life. I don't have any kind of support system, whatsoever.
Seems I never find any other people who are like me. It seems that way cause I can't seem to form any long term bonds (almost everyone I've known has gone away). Abandonment seems to be a recurring theme in my life. I've tried changing things, volunteering, meetups of things I'm interested in, traveling the world & living in other places for lengths of time to see if maybe a different situation would be the answer, therapy.. Nothing seems to change.

I know there's all sorts of people out there, some very unattractive that you wouldn't think would have much but even have a bunch of friends in their life. Even total jerks which would seem to be contradicting can seem to have a lot of people in their life. Is it just the idea/image people have of you, what they want you to be or the idea they have of you/what they feel they can get from/makes them feel more enhanced, to be in your life? Should I just start being a jerk/ass, cause people feel more privileged/more special if you're actually nice to them? I've known so many jerks/self absorbed/selfish people, that I've always tried so hard not to be that way, but it doesn't seem to be valued. From what I've found these people seem to be horrible friends. Self absorption seems to be more the norm- I guess if you think you're more important than anyone else other people will too?

What do you do when you can't even think what to do anymore? i just want to feel in sync with someone else. I guess I don't understand human nature. I'm finding hard to relate to other people now because I feel like no matter what I do I can't seem to change this lonely condition. The world doesn't feel the same to me, life hasn't seemed normal for a long time, cause my experiences have been so isolated inducing. I go in hoping for the best, but, nothing changes. I get excited about things, then get very downtrodden cause it usually seems to end up the same way. I usually just try to take things for the moment/enjoy the fact of the experience for what it is. My whole life experience has seemed to scream you're not important no matter what you do. I've done a lot.

It's hard to get out & do things, cause it feels like what's the point, but I still try (I've been going out & doing things on my own because I want to experience things & try to give myself a chance to be open & experience new things, but I've been doing it so long without anything changing, that now it's getting hard to do cause it seems to end up the same way).

So what do you do? I know you try to create your own family/support system if you don't have one, but are there just outliers out there that can't seem to make that happen no matter what they try? I'm frankly quite tired of it. A little bit of love/connection goes along way. At least it does for me. I guess if you've had alot of love & camaraderie in your life then you get more of it. Law of abundance, if you have it you get more of it. I do try that approach, but still always end up with the same result. I'm not asking for much, just some good times with people & some happiness, I don't think that's too much to ask. Or that you have to be some extravagant/larger than life person to be loved/accepted/cared for.

So what now? Outlier? Not important to anyone cause that's been my history? Any thoughts?

Thanks for reading, & taking the time to listen to someone else's inner problems.

Throwaway email
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure you're not the one doing the rejecting? A lot of times people are on their own not because they're being rejected by others but because they're pushing people away.
posted by facetious at 7:19 PM on November 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

It's hard to overcome deep loneliness, because building intimacy and long-term relationships are time-consuming and not necessarily orderly--often you can do everything right and it still doesn't work out. When you reach a point of frustration, as you have, there is no quick fix. (Well, there are some destructive quick fixes.)

Therapy would be a good place to start, not to cure your loneliness but maybe to learn how to cope with it.

Some people really do end up alone forever because of bad luck, but very few are actually so broken as to be unlovable.

Is a pet out of the question? It sounds stupid, but a dog is totally a great way to get some love, give some love, and to meet people.
posted by elizeh at 7:26 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

go find a counselor and talk to them...at length. i'm not going to analyze you. find a therapist and talk to them. a decent one will have you examining what you need to examine. they may be able to help you find what you really are after.
posted by swmobill at 7:46 PM on November 27, 2011

I've known so many jerks/self absorbed/selfish people,

Really? Because I haven't. There have been a fair number of people in my life I just don't really like that much, but that's just a clashing of personalities. But as for actual jerks, people who are irredeemably selfish, people who are foul, there haven't been that many.

Maybe you should start reconsidering how you judge people. Do you tend to see things in black and white terms? In other words, do you either judge people as "Good, Upstanding" or "Bad, Jerkish, Awful"? If you see someone being kind of jerkish at one point (cuts you off in traffic, for an example), do you find yourself assuming that that person must fall into the Bad Category of people? I'm sure you know, consciously, that there is nuance to human behavior, but my suggestion is that you consider the snap judgments you make when interacting with others. It may be that you're making a very hard thing (making friends, gaining intimacy) far harder than it has to be, because you're judging people too quickly or too superficially.

This won't help you when it comes to actively seeking out friends, though. For that, there really isn't much advice. Go join clubs. Go to bars. Find colleagues at work who seem like good friends, if you're not against work friends. Signing up for dating sites, if you want a romantic partner. Take up hobbies, and find groups who appreciate those same hobbies. It will be hard. It may even be painful. Sometimes, getting what you want out of life is hard and painful. But it's worth it.

A good starting point, like elizeh says, would be therapy. It sounds like you had a hard childhood, and it sounds like there is a lot you could learn about interacting with another in the safe zone that is therapy sessions with a qualified individual. You will learn more about yourself, you will learn more about how you interact with others, and, more fundamentally, you'll learn that you're okay. You're not some psychological outlier, destined to be lonely and unhappy. You're not fundamentally flawed and thus unworthy of love. You can find it, it just takes work.
posted by meese at 7:46 PM on November 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have to agree with Elizeh-I'm a cat person, not a dog person, but people with dogs always seem to make very good friends with people they meet while walking their dog.

Also, have you tried going to any MeFi meetups? I know this sounds like a lightweight answer, but I'm serious. Just as people here will make a serious, heartfelt attempt to answer this question, they're also likely to be much more accepting of you in person than the general public. We are misfits; hear us roar!
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:47 PM on November 27, 2011

I don't know if you are inadvertently pushing people away. On the off chance that you are, I unconsciously push/ed people away. There were times where I was surrounded by great people that I had a lot in common with but I couldn't make friends with anyone. I kept people at arms length subtly but effectively. Even when the perfect recipe was there for friendship, I wasn't really up for it so I behaved in a way that kept things purely cordial. I thought I was really warm and open, but I wasn't. I truly didn't recognize that I was pushing people away. I'm working on it now, but I still reflexively tend to (protect myself, slow things way down, break plans, remain only semi-available, etc) put out my arm. Meanwhile, I always felt more alone than I perceived other people to be and thought something was wrong with me or that life wasn't fair (which is what I recognized in your post). But it was really me systematically isolating myself due to social anxiety and difficulty trusting people (combined with being very independent, something I don't want to change, but made it very easy for me to keep people safely as 'acquaintances'). Do you feel happy followed immediately by terrified/overwhelmed when you first meet people you like? I always had that feeling whenever another person and I would get into the making plans to go do fun-thing stage of new friendship. It fizzled because I would back out of plans or never let planning progress beyond 'talk'. I'd blame life but it was my anxiety (there was a question today about people flaking out on friends today--but I am having trouble finding it for some reason). Do you immediately think about how things will not work out well in the end when you meet new people? Have you ever ever been badly betrayed by family or a friend you completely trusted? Reading your post, it sounds like you are involved in all kinds of great things to meet new people. Keep doing those things. And--not to throw 'therapy' at you--but this is what therapy is for. If it didn't work for you in the past (as you mentioned) maybe try a different therapist or different approach--such a group. I hope this helps. Good luck to you.
posted by marimeko at 8:27 PM on November 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think you should stick with therapy. Be as frank as you possibly can with your therapist. This might mean writing down a long list of every data point you can think of surrounding your attempts to form connections and presenting it to your therapist, because if yours is anything like mine when you say "I have x problem" they say "Eh, you are so hard on yourself." Give them concrete evidence and they get to work.

It's hard, I know. We are driven to connect but when we don't learn what we need to from our family it can be very frustrating for a while.

Also - if people just move away, that's not about you. It's something that happens a lot in groups of young people. It sounds like you are doing all the right things - and some pretty damn impressive things, too. Give yourself time and keep reaching out and appreciate every moment of connection that happens - whether it's a smile at a guitarist on the subway or a long chat over the bar at midnight.

I really wish you well. I hope things look brighter in the morning.
posted by bunderful at 8:52 PM on November 27, 2011

How many friends and connections one has is unrelated to how "nice" one is. Other people having them or not doesn't indicate whether they're good or bad. You having or not having them has nothing to do with whether you're a good person.

It's a completely separate problem. A difficult problem. Not an impossible problem.
posted by amtho at 8:57 PM on November 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't turn into an ass intentionally. Then you'll have two problems.

If your therapist doesn't pull at the totalizing thought pattern ("always ... never ... nobody ... nothing") then find another therapist. Likewise the stuff about swinging between excited and downtrodden. This speaks of something you can definitely work on. There are CBT exercises to dampen the black-and-white nature, seek the middle. Also meditating.

The modern world is very dislocated. People move constantly. This produces anxiety and social isolation. In everyone. We're all in the same boat. Everyone craves contact. Many have difficulty retaining balance in the periods between contact. It takes work for all of us. Don't give up, and try to help yourself to the middle place.

(As an aside: there's some research I cannot presently dig up that suggests that emotional stability is directly correlated with the number of different ways you have of viewing yourself. That is, the number of independent facets of identity you've established. Different contexts where you do different things, think of yourself differently. The more of these you cultivate -- and identify with -- the less likely an upset in any one is to throw you into a tailspin.)
posted by ead at 9:48 PM on November 27, 2011 [10 favorites]

If you go lots of places/do lots of volunteering/travel a lot and meet a lot of people, I have one question: Who does the breaking off of friendships/relationships and why? I think that'll open up a chapter of discussion in your life and one you should talk about with a counselor or therapist.

I usually don't like to do this but I'd recommend you read a book on Buddhism like The Art of Happiness.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 12:21 AM on November 28, 2011

Should I just start being a jerk/ass, cause people feel more privileged/more special if you're actually nice to them? I've known so many jerks/self absorbed/selfish people, that I've always tried so hard not to be that way, but it doesn't seem to be valued.

You might want to do some research to see if what you are being a doormat. Other people seem like jerks because they aren't doing what you would do in that situation, but the real problem is that your boundaries are so jacked you don't know what it means to do right by yourself (or see that the other person is doing right by him/herself).

I used to have a problem where I'd do a bunch of favors or whatever thinking I was contributing to a group/friendship, and I'd save up these things like friendship tokens in my mind (I am a good friend because my tally is larger than theirs), and then when a situation happened where favors weren't reciprocated in the way I thought they should be, I'd take it as evidence that people were being jerks. Sometimes it was just because I was feeling slighted and vulnerable because of other unrelated events in my life. I took a "friendship failure" more personally than I would have when things were going well.

The point being that I felt like I had to earn friendships. I had an awful time where if seemed like if I couldn't contribute, I thought the other person would auto-reject me, so doing these favors was my friendship insurance - I had done my work and earned my keep, so if they failed to be the friend I thought they should be, they were the bad guys and I was clear.

It took a long time to see this as controlling behavior on my part. Sure, I was helping out and being nice, but only because I thought I didn't deserve friendship, otherwise.

I still have a hard time with these issues, but learning to identify these thought patterns was very helpful and a good starting point.

Look, it's going to be rough. For whatever reason, you got dealt a bad hand and there is no one in this world who can make up the care/experiences you were cheated out of. You are going to have to take care of yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be the friend you wish you had. Other people have given some excellent suggestions, and I would add: You deserve the care you crave. Tell yourself that anytime you're feeling low. Don't wait for someone else to come around like a fairy godmother and give it to you. You can give it to yourself, and in fact, I think it's critically important to learn how to do so.
posted by griselda at 1:00 AM on November 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

Believing in something bigger than yourself may help you out quite a bit. It's easy to see yourself as damaged and lose all sense of perspective when your wants, needs and feelings are the only center of your universe. Getting out of your head and into a pattern of service/belief will ease this feeling immensely.

Whether you decide to devote yourself to a higher power or a higher cause, the sooner you are able to take action-- to do good works and stop ruminating-- the better.
posted by devymetal at 2:29 AM on November 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my experience, people who find others always fail them/ are terrible friends, have unrealistic expectations and want to stay safe by creating distance.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:46 AM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I came here to say basically what griselda said. I had a friend for awhile who was really "nice," he'd do things like drop what he was doing and drive two hours to help fix my computer or whatever (this was not a romantic overture). I appreciated it but since he'd offered help that I hadn't asked for, I didn't feel particularly obligated. However, he thought I was obligated, and when he asked to borrow money he was incensed that I turned him down. He also constantly complained that no one appreciated him, everyone was a selfish jerk, etc. I began to think he must be talking about me like that behind my back. I distanced myself because the majority of our conversations were 1) him complaining about others 2) him complaining about being alone 3) him trying to help and fix things in my life. He glommed onto me because he was so lonely, and the desperation drove me away.

I would really try to let go of the idea that your worth is measured by your relationships with others. In the big scheme of things, no one is very important. We all die and in 100 years most of us won't be remembered. If you don't accept this fact, your life will contain a lot more suffering than it needs to. I think you are vastly overestimating the quality of other peoples' lives; it's really hard to meet and keep a strong network of friends if you are out of school. It takes a lot more time and work because you don't have the shared experience and proximity.

Try to stick with something like volunteering for a long time - like a year, at least. It takes that long for friendships to build. Don't fake your interest in anything because you think another person will like it. Don't offer help or money or things unless they are freely given with NO expectation of reciprocation. Only do things that you WANT to do and not because you think they'll endear you to someone. People can read desperation and loneliness from a mile away.

tl;dr: be patient and true to yourself
posted by desjardins at 8:24 AM on November 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I don't know if you push people away or not. It may be more like, you try not to get too attached to anyone because you know they're going to leave. That's an issue for therapy.

I got raised to believe that family are the only people who will stick with you-- whether that's good or bad. Obviously that didn't work out for you, and it hasn't worked terribly awesome for me, but a lot of people do have that to fall back on, so it's harder for solo people to get "in there" without marrying into someone else's family. But blood/upbringing family units do tend to be more stable than ones that are built after adulthood, and you probably won't find a replacement family unless you get married, really.

I am pretty much an outlier on the "can't make a new family" sort of thing. The whole "family of friends"/"urban tribes"/"True Companions"/nakama thing that you see on Joss Whedon shows and the like is nice, but in my experience, they don't last more than a couple of years. Usually once people move away, get married, have kids, or some other drastic life change, most people are going to flake and bail. Not everyone does, but most people don't have that major drive to look for a new group of friends to act as a family, or at least to stay in contact online beyond trivial Facebook crap. I think I've gotten lucky with the friends I still hear from even after they moved. But to some degree, you have to accept that People Are Gonna Change (and flake, bail, and leave) if you are not in the same life situation that they are in any more.

Where you might have better luck is if you can find other outliers. Folks who are single, folks who aren't close to their biological families. I know they're rare, but people who don't have other major life distractions and people to rely on already might be more likely to stick. Where you find them, I don't know (Craigslist?), it may be a matter of luck. But also go in with lowered expectations. There's only so much most people can offer.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:36 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

try recreational drug use
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:57 PM on November 28, 2011

I could have written your post, almost word-for-word. It's awful to go through life feeling that you're alone, that you can't relate to people no matter what you do. Some people seem to have a knack for making friends, others just don't. There are definitely people out there (I'm one of them) who are very shy and introverted and socially awkward, and it seens things just don't work out time and time again. You try to figure out what you're doing wrong, and how to change, and maybe you see a little progress here and there, but it mostly just seems futile.

As other people have mentioned above, it might be worthwhile to evaluate whether you're (perhaps unconsciously) pushing people away, and/or setting up boundaries that make it difficult to get to know you. I tend to do this a lot without being aware of it, and mostly it comes from a sense of self-preservation ... but it becomes a vicious cycle; you've been abandoned in the past, so you're extra-careful in getting close to new people, and they misread this as you being distant and detached, so they drift away and you're left feeling abandoned again. Or, sometimes I go the other way (if I meet someone I think would be a great friend), and get a bit too eager and clingy bcs I really want them to like me, and I end up scaring them off. I think it's best to tread a middle ground, which I've been trying to do lately (with mixed success).

So, I guess I'd suggest to really take a look at how you're relating to people, whether you're being too distant, or too eager, and try to adjust things a bit. (It's really hard, I know.)

Also, I think many potential relationships just tend to fizzle out for whatever reason; people have a lot going on in their lives, they have different priorities, and friendships just naturally come and go unless you make a point of keeping in touch. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with you personally.

Don't try to act like a jerk in order to get noticed more. Those people may seem to have a lot of friends, but I bet their relationships are pretty shallow. Just be yourself, with all your compassion and humanity. I can guarantee there are many people out there who find these qualities appealing.

You mention volunteering ... keep doing that. I try to have at least one volunteer activity going on in my life, and then you can at least tell yourself that you're doing something worthwhile, something to help people. That's really an admirable thing. Pick something that you can really be passionate about ... maybe something to help other lonely people? Like maybe bringing meals and running errands for homebound seniors?

Gosh, I wish I had better advice for you, but I haven't figured these things out myself, so all I can say is, don't give up hope. Keep trying, even if it really seems to suck sometimes. Keep traveling and volunteering, stay compassionate and kind, and your life will be worthwhile.

Feel free to memail me if it would help.
posted by phoenix_rising at 7:58 PM on November 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

BTW, no one befriends a jerk BECAUSE they're a jerk. The person must have some redeeming quality you don't see. So trying to gain friends by becoming a jerk won't work by definition.
posted by desjardins at 9:08 PM on November 28, 2011

Yes, I know what you're writing about.

griselda's advice is really great. Give it some attention.

It's not about self absorption, but displaying both self sufficiency and interest in others. It's a tricky balance.

I do think there are people with obnoxious personalities who offer little that are also socially connected. One of the foundations of friendship is shared experience. People will frequently forgive a lot if they have a shared history with someone. The tighter the community the more this holds. Since it sounds like you've moved around some and you don't have a supportive family, this handicaps you, but keeping this in mind can make it easier to release any jealousy you may feel towards those who have both unattractive personalities and friends.

I've moved around a good bit and I've had trouble bringing others into my life. There are several people at my current job that I now consider friends and who I see socially outside of work but it took years for that to develop. The older you are and the more reclusive your nature, the longer it takes. Stay optimistic. Keep showing up in the same place. If there's a secret to friendship, that's it. When people both expect to see you at a certain time and place and you're friendly but not needy, they'll warm up to you. I'm not thinking regular at a bar or coffee shop or sitting on a bench at a park, more like a long term member of a woodworking group.

Keep showing up.
posted by BigSky at 8:19 AM on November 29, 2011

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