But what if I'm the person everyone hates?
February 12, 2012 12:21 AM   Subscribe

How do you know if people don't want you around?

A follow-up to this question, I guess. I'm trying to put myself out there, or whatever it's called, but the problem is, people have lots of nasty things to say about people who put themselves out there when nobody wants them to be putting themselves out there. Like with the Geek Social Fallacies article that's gone around, the person that 80% of the people hate and wish would fuck off. Or like the "vampires" from this post. One of the things that the post said they do, a bad thing that people are not supposed to do, is "[pursuing] interactions that you have not instigated." But isn't that how you make friends? I've been told verbatim that you can't wait for people to invite you places, that you have to be the one to instigate things. Apparently that's a bad thing if people think you suck.

Basically, I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me, or whether I'm accurately observing that people in fact do not like me. And I don't know how to tell which it is, because you can't come out and say "hey, do you want me to stop trying to be your friend?" and people generally don't say that themselves but complain about it later behind your back. What are the warning signs? And if I am in fact that person, what am I supposed to do? Purposefully never talk to anyone as not to upset them? Do something arcane that I don't know how to do in order to be an acceptable person again? I don't understand this at all.
posted by dekathelon to Human Relations (95 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
 
You need to like yourself first.
posted by bearette at 1:02 AM on February 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


Treating yourself like a leper is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I remember from your other questions that you said you were depressed.

Well, I've met a lot pf people at a depression support group (I'm in the same city as you) and although I wasn't really looking for friends at the time (met my bf there, however) there were quite a few cool people who came in and were 1.) Not judgemental 2.) Trying to help other people feel better, even though they felt like total loser freaks.

So I'd say getting yourself into an environment where people who are struggling with the same issues you seem to have would be really good for you. And those people would be predisposed to treat you with dignity no matter how many problems you have or believe you have. If you want the support group'd info memail me.

Also, I remember you saying you went to a UCB show. Why not take some classes there? I'm recommending this specifically because there's nothing like watching other people you think are pretty with-it or together getting out of their comfort zone and bombing to make you feel better. And you'd learn that looking stupid in public isn't so bad. I took a bunch of classes there when I first moved to this city, and I met one of my best friends ever there.
posted by devymetal at 1:05 AM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Don't always be the one to instigate. If you're the only one to instigate that either means the invitees don't like you or they've come to rely on you to organise events.

Never invite yourself to events, wait to be invited, even if everyone is talking about really awesome thing that they're doing this weekend, don't invite yourself, don't ask if you can come and if you're really concerned that they don't like you, don't even express an interest in awesome thing, that could come off as fishing for an invite and could make people uncomfortable.

The biggest issue with people who no-one likes is their inability to tell that no-one likes them and IMO that stems from a lack of empathy and ability to read body language. Those things are a lot harder to pin down concretely but look out for things like : if you start a topic of conversation, do people engage with you, do they ask questions or contribute positively or do they smile, nod and try to change the subject/pull focus back to someone else in the group. Do people try to avoid sitting next to you? Do they frequently go out without you or do your invites come from only 1 person in a group (could indicate that they like you but no-one else does)

The biggest problem is striking a balance between being too reserved so that people think you're boring/not enjoying yourself and being too outgoing that people think you're dominating/overstepping your place in the social hierarchy.
posted by missmagenta at 1:09 AM on February 12, 2012 [7 favorites]


Sounds like you are having a rough time, sorry to hear it.

First, I agree with the other posters -- liking oneself is first!

Here are some ideas I have to get you feeling connected to other people

1) volunteering on projects where you work with others to complete things (Habitat for Humanity for example, or backstage on a community theater project) -- working together gives people lots of opportunity to get to know you and find what you have in common.

2) There are plenty of lonely people out there who would love a visit -- seniors who have a hard time leaving home for example -- and there are volunteer programs that can bring you together. Go spend a day listening to someone who needs an ear, play scrabble, or look through their photos.

3) Join a choir. Singing in a group creates an incredible sense of wellbeing and community spirit that can help you relax about being around others. It is also a structured activity that helps you know how to interact as there are specific things everyone is meant to do. Many communities have choirs that do not require auditions or any talent at all really--they are about the experience of singing together because it feels good to do it.

4) If you are worried about how to interact with people, and it seems you really are struggling, the Y may have a "life coach" kind of course that talks about this. It's the kind of thing that is often done for immigrants to help them acclimatise to new customs ... but honestly I lived in a different province for three years and felt I never clicked at all because the social norms were never quite right for me. I was too forward when I should have held back, and held back when I should have let loose. My jokes just weren't funny... I wasn't hip or fashionable there. It played a part in my moving back to my home province, to be honest. In any case, there is no shame in needing to think those cultural norms through, they are NOT the same everywhere and are not always intuitive.


Finally, I have a few favourite books that I read when I want to remind myself not to think badly of myself. Some are novels I can immerse myself in and stop worrying, others are inspirational biographies of activists. I find Howard Zinn's You Can't Stand Still on a Moving Train very inspiring and hopeful, for example because it is so full of ordinary people helping others achieve justice, and Barbara Kingsolver's non-fiction book, Holding The Line: Women In The Great Arizona Mine Strike.
posted by chapps at 1:11 AM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


let me offer a variation on what others have said. if liking yourself is too scary or difficult now, it's always possible to be *kind* to yourself. always, always, always be kind to yourself. if you do it every day, it will become a habit. and after it becomes a habit, you will start to like yourself without even trying. other people will see that, and making friends will become much more natural. always be kind to yourself. treat yourself like you would treat a lost child that you've found in the street.
posted by facetious at 1:17 AM on February 12, 2012 [49 favorites]


The thing about this is everyone will be different. Some people will want you to go away. Some people will be desperately hoping to interact with you more. And in some circumstances, those people could very well be acting the exact same way! Saying the same things to you, same body language, etc. Likewise, I'm sure you'll get conflicting advice from different people here.

The best you can do is try to find the middle ground, where you'll maybe risk annoying 20% of people, and maybe risk overlooking 20% of people who do want to be friends with you. I think that's the best most of us can do if we're not psychic geniuses of social intelligence. Most people run into this question at some point or another with a new potential friend, by the way.

So here's my own take on what that middle ground is. I read the post you linked about the vampires. I agree with some of the description, and other parts seem kind of wacky.
You will learn to recognize the vampires. They're easy to disregard. They corner you, physically or digitally. They are coworkers who text you on weekends. They touch you in the office, in an attempt to suck energy through your skin. They stand in doorways, preventing people from passing. They tell you long, agitated and boring stories about people you don't know. (So do the drama queens.) They post on your Facebook page. They are unable to read normal friendship signals and pursue interactions that you have not instigated. You must not encourage these people; they'll follow you around for years, even when you no longer work together. You must 100% not engage, and let them have no traction. Eventually they will wander off.
Wacky: They text you on the weekends. They post on your FB page. Horrors no, what kind of socially hopeless freak would text me on the weekends? I think these are normal to a degree. "Pursuing actions that you have not instigated" is another one I would put in this category, to a degree.

Okay so what is the degree? I would say you can instigate these things, and do them twice with no reciprocation. If there's no reciprocation after twice, then stop. Just remember though that that was written specifically about co-workers. You have to be a little more conservative with co-workers than people you meet other places, because you will have to be around each other no matter how the situation goes. With other people, I would say you could do these things once a month indefinitely without being annoying. That's my own opinion.

Parts I agree with:
They touch you in the office, in an attempt to suck energy through your skin.
Yes, generally it's not good to touch people you don't know very well.
They stand in doorways, preventing people from passing.
Don't block people in doorways. Or otherwise prevent them from leaving your presence when they want to.
They tell you long, agitated and boring stories about people you don't know.
Yes, don't monologue either, before you know someone well. A monologue is saying probably >3 sentences in a row of your own without the other person saying a full sentence of their own back. "Uh-huh" doesn't count.
posted by cairdeas at 1:38 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some of the advice given above seems a little harsh for making friends... I find that in the initial stages of making friends, one has to put oneself out there a little, instigate meet ups, conversations, coffee. That's the sucky part of it - you're risking friend rejection (people don't really like you but they act nice in front of you), which hurts as much as romantic rejection.

I usually aim for a inviter: invitee ratio of 2:1. For example, if you ask someone to see a movie and they decline, wait a couple of weeks and then invite them for a coffee. If the offer is still rejected without a followup, then stop with the invites. If they invite you to something else, then, hey, that's great! Repeat and rinse until they become your friend or they stop inviting you.

The key is to not put all your friendship efforts into making one friend, spread them out as you would in dating. For example, you ask Friend A out for a movie, she declines. Then you ask Friend B for dinner the next week, he accepts. You ask Friend C to watch a play with you the week after , he declines. Then you go back to Friend A -- this will be after two weeks of no contact, so you can indicate you're cool and normal, and not, say, freakily wanting fast immediate friendships and reciprocality. You can ask Friend A out on a more regular basis but ONLY after she has indicated that she would really like to spend more time with you. Basically, making friendship takes work, but only to get to the next step. And then you rest, and try again. Don't try to do too much work to leap three steps ahead, which is what some really obnoxious people do by declaring themselves an instant best friend.

(on preview, I see cairdeas has made similar comments...)
posted by moiraine at 2:05 AM on February 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm having a hard time answering your question as asked because it's couched in all this self-loathing that I don't want to sign on to. Your low opinion of yourself makes all of this way more difficult than it has to be. When you're in a social situation, do you burn up a lot of mental energy wondering what everyone is thinking of you and being sure they're secretly upset with you? God, that's the worst. Get this, though: everyone else at the party on some level is feeling that exact anxiety. Very few people are as cool as they act - we need human connection like food and air and everyone on Earth has at some point or another panicked about a failure or lack of connection. Please be kinder to yourself about this.

Know also that you can't know everything about what a person you're trying to interact with has going on in their heads. So if you're telling a story and people are avoiding eye contact or whatever, you can take that as a sign that this is not a person who is into chatting at the moment but you can't vault straight to the assumption that they hate you and that you're a horrible person. They could have tense stuff happening in their own lives that has them too distracted to make a new friend and you have no way of knowing that. Don't beat yourself up for lacking telepathy.

More than any answer I can give you about social graces, the real answer to all your struggles in this arena is learning to be less hard on yourself for every little thing. I promise that no one is scrutinizing you harder than you are yourself at the moment. There's no need for that sort of pressure.

As to concrete tips on Interacting with Humans, for me it comes down to A) being pleasant and B) being brief. I most enjoy talking to people who don't try to dominate a conversation and who don't put negative energy into it. At a gathering of many people, I prefer to keep moving and talking briefly with many people rather than getting locked in any one spot. I tend to avoid people who complain a lot and people who latch on and won't let me stay on the move. And for my own part, I try not to importune people for much longer than is needed to exchange greetings and maybe crack wise for a second. I keep moving and that way no one has time to start getting tedious. My general assumption is that most people at a party, like me, would like time to check in with everyone at the party.

I just remembered another bit of good news, too: with slight adjustments to posture and body language, one can make awkward, dumbfounded bashfulness look like aloof coolness. I don't know about you, but for a long time my big anxiety in social settings was feeling like I didn't have anything clever to say. This problem went away when I decided to let others carry the heavy lifting of conversation by generally keeping my contributions to brief comments and questions. Folks love to talk about themselves and will do so with little prompting and you can hear a lot of great stories and make a lot of great connections just by being curious about people and doing more listening than talking. And if you're not talking to anyone, it's great to just be in a room with people chatting and having fun, hearing all their voices run together, seeing their gestures and expressions - I really like just hanging back and feeling the energy of a room without engaging directly with it. I do this when I'm feeling awkward and afraid of putting my foot in my mouth where I to talk right that second. No one expects you to be charming and smooth every single second.

Turning acquaintances into friends is as easy as cooking for them. I swear, 90% of human interaction is about eating and laughing together. Tap into this - it has worked from time immemorial. Why did people start linking up in the first place? To help each other get enough to eat! Learn how to make something super delicious and feed it to the people you'd like more of in your life. Generally, they'll come back. Even cooking for your roommates is a good start. Combine feeding people and being a good listener and you're gonna make friends.

One final point in an already long answer: this might sound weird but I wanted to encourage you to maybe look into doing some acting classes if theater is something that has ever interested you at all on any level. Acting seems like a counterintuitive thing to suggest to a shy person but I can't help but wonder if it might not do you some good to do some dorky vocal warmups and theater games in a low-pressure setting like a class, an activity in which no one comes off as too cool for anyone else. A thing about acting that might be beneficial to you is the chance to explore conversation and human interaction through the story and characters of plays rather than as yourself - that might lower the stakes for you and leave you feeling more comfortable about having folks in your bubble and talking to them in the real world. Lastly, theater tends to form very powerful friendships among the cast and crew - even just from a class. It might sound daunting, but it might be worth a try if you're feeling a little bold. For my part, performing helped turn my awkward shyness inside out and I've never failed to come away from a show with a new crew of super close homies.

Good luck to you. None of this works if you don't like yourself and I think that on some level you understand that your low opinion of yourself is not realistic. Sorry for the super long answer, but this is something I had occasion to give a lot of thought to a few years ago when I was alone in a new city and needed some friends to enjoy it with.

Believe in your worth, take a few chances and look forward to the day a year from now when your calendar is so full that you're nostalgic for your days as a hermit.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:11 AM on February 12, 2012 [22 favorites]


I think the systems of ratios people have suggested is reasonable if you have trouble inferring these things in general. However (I haven't read the articles, but based on your description) I think these sound like unnecessarily cruel ways to interpret the world and other people. Even people who I do know who are generally regarded as a bit socially inept are not people who I loathe or who I think should stop making or having friends. Socially awkward people can and often do have many very positive qualities. So even if you are mis-reading cues, I don't think that is so awful. I think you should re-paradigm that, and then remember that it is worst case scenario, and that if you are insecure and shy you're probably NOT obnoxious.

I think this guy has very useful advice http://www.succeedsocially.com/ and also a helpful philosophical view on socialisation and the excessive value that is placed on people's success at it.

Finally, remember that everyone who is making new friends (a lot of people, a lot of the time) is probably a little bit worried about over-stepping the mark and interpreting other peoples' interest in them accurately. This does not mean that they should give up or assume the worst. Being somewhat sensitive is all that is required-- don't tell yourself horror stories and don't respect people who cultivate that kind of fear and anxiety in people by telling them!
posted by jojobobo at 2:28 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


The bit about pursuit of interactions not instigated by others being a marker of a "vampire" is senseless hoo-haa. The author might have had something useful in mind, but she didn't convey it with that sentence. Furthermore, the bulk of that post is aimed at encouraging readers to stand up for themselves and refuse to be used by soulless careerist sociopaths in their workplaces. It is not about people who are anxious and socially awkward. It is not about you. AT ALL. Go read something else.

One other insight that I hope might be helpful: the fact that some (many, really) people are uncomfortable expressing their preferences is not a problem you are responsible for solving. You don't need to practice mind-reading or look for secret I-actually-like-you winks and special handshakes. Other people have words, and they can use those words to tell you what they want and need. Their discomfort with direct communication is not something you can save them from by reading subtle cues. These other people, in their discomfort, will sometimes wish that you would just read their minds and behave according to their unspoken or even intentionally concealed preferences. In your anxiety and insecurity, you may perceive yourself to be a lower-status individual, and that it is thus your job to somehow be the mind-reader that others wish you were... because, well, they want it. But this is madness. They may themselves feel so awkward about stating their own preferences that they treat you poorly for not having divined the meaning of their tea leaves, but their social frustrations are not evidence of a shortcoming in you. You are not a mind-reader. Neither are you an unbathed pauper in a sea of social royalty. This is not a problem of your making. They want something they can't have, and that is not your fault. This is just the social reality that everyone has to deal with.
posted by jon1270 at 3:46 AM on February 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Best answer: OP: I feel for you, no, with you. I am answering this not as someone who has an answer, but as someone who could have asked the same question (actually I regularly have conversations with my few close friends on this very topic, and their answers are just as frustrated as the posters' above) I don't think the people who are answering this question are really, honestly answering it. As I see it, there are two problems here. The first one is in exact parallel to the problem with sexual relationships, where people really want to be approached by people they value and really do not want to be approached by people they do not value, and then overlay this with a kind of moral outrage and disgust at the latter kind of behaviour.

The second is a related one, which is that most people are happy to make judgements about other people in a slightly dehumanising way in absentia, but they are not so happy to make those judgements to the subjects' faces, especially when confronted with the concrete specifics of what it feels like to be a person on the receiving end of such judgements. To the guys who think the OP needs to get over this: think back to whether you have honestly ever talked about someone in a way similar to the way they are talked about in the linked articles, or else heard someone you know and like talking about people that way. I know I've heard this kind of talk on numerous occasions, and although if I'm there and obviously upset people will always tell me it could never be applied to me, I don't have any reason to suspect that under similar circumstances the people they're talking about wouldn't get similar reassurances. There's a casual, everyday thoughtlessness to the way that a lot of people assess people they don't know well, and sometimes even those they do. That 'geek social fallacies' article gets a lot of love on Metafilter. "But it doesn't mean you," you say, "it couldn't mean this actual person with real feelings. It means some caricature of a person who couldn't possibly be this upset about people thinking this way about them." How do you know that? Do you think that people who are actually disliked never experience self-loathing?

Now, what gets difficult is that although in an abstract sort of a way those behaviours are both wrong, unfair behaviours, in a social setting that kind of doesn't help. If I am on the receiving end of those kinds of thoughts I do not care very much that they are unfair; if enough people think that way of me it will still make me miserable. Injunctions to improve my self-esteem are basically just noise here because self-esteem has a reality-connected component to it; if I am, in fact, a low-status individual I cannot just will myself out of a recognition of that fact. What I really need, but can't see how to get, is some kind of assurance that I will not get myself into the situation that I'm dreading.

It is, in a limited way, possible to achieve a kind of willful blindness to this sort of thing, but it's pretty fragile; you always know that it is fake. For instance, I rarely have an encounter with someone I don't know without wondering afterwards whether they think I am an irritating, contemptible loser. I try to brush the thoughts away, but I know they're there, under the surface. Or, to give a more dramatic example, this Friday I spent the evening with some very good, close friends that I share a house with. It all went well, but at the end one of my friends made a joke that sounded like she thought it was ridiculous that I might apologise for getting up to go, since I had arrived uninvited. I spent a sleepless, agonising night and most of the next morning trying to work out what it was incumbent upon me to do now that I'd discovered that, just as I'd always suspected, I wasn't the kind of person who should call on other people unless asked to. (We had a long chat on Saturday that basically cleared this up, but I'm still feeling a bit wounded). I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I don't know what the answer to this is, but it's a real problem, a hard one, and you can't just decide to ignore it because it makes you, a socially confident person, feel uncomfortable.
posted by Acheman at 6:03 AM on February 12, 2012 [25 favorites]


"Liking oneself" is problematic. Philosophically. I can tell that I like something if I'm happier with it than without. I can't be without myself. So if I like myself or don't, I'll never know.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:51 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Never invite yourself to events, wait to be invited, even if everyone is talking about really awesome thing that they're doing this weekend, don't invite yourself, don't ask if you can come and if you're really concerned that they don't like you, don't even express an interest in awesome thing, that could come off as fishing for an invite and could make people uncomfortable.

This might well help to find out how wanted you are, but it's a terrible idea in general.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:00 AM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The world is full of people who will reject you in no uncertain terms -- be it in a social, romantic or professional context. Don't reject yourself for them, except in the narrow circumstance where pursuing one form of relationship can cost you another, in which case you have to make the choice about risk and reward.

You will also never truly know why someone is willing to be your friend, lover or employer. This is not to say you shouldn't seek to optimize what logic tells you are attractive characteristics, but you also are never going to really know for sure in any particular relationship what is actually driving it.
posted by MattD at 7:12 AM on February 12, 2012



"Liking oneself" is problematic. Philosophically. I can tell that I like something if I'm happier with it than without. I can't be without myself. So if I like myself or don't, I'll never know.


It's not a question of philosophy. It's a question of action- like, as in, the verb. Like yourself. Talk to, and about yourself, the way you would talk to and about a loved one. Don't abuse yourself. Yes,we are one self, so to talk about it in this way sounds confusing. But the point is that the OP has to think of herself as a worthwhile human being before others will want to befriend her.
posted by bearette at 7:16 AM on February 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's a question of action- like, as in, the verb. Like yourself.

That being the case, I don't see any difference between "liking yourself" and "being kind to yourself". Not that there's anything wrong with that, but people upthread seemed to be using it differently somehow.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2012


One of the things that the post said they do, a bad thing that people are not supposed to do, is "[pursuing] interactions that you have not instigated." But isn't that how you make friends? I've been told verbatim that you can't wait for people to invite you places, that you have to be the one to instigate things. Apparently that's a bad thing if people think you suck.

I think it's important to differentiate between "instigating" and "pursuing," which the writer on The Awl didn't really clarify. "Instigating" is fine. Somebody has to instigate every single social interaction that ever happens, and most social interactions are welcome and good. The problem is pursuing an interaction past the point where the other person has given signals that they don't want to participate.

Look at that quote again in context:
They are unable to read normal friendship signals and pursue interactions that you have not instigated. You must not encourage these people; they'll follow you around for years, even when you no longer work together. You must 100% not engage, and let them have no traction. Eventually they will wander off.
The writer is not talking about somebody who says "hey, would you like to get lunch together," "would you like to go to a show this weekend," etc., once or twice or even on three separate occasions. The writer is talking about somebody who is "unable to read normal friendship signals" and persists in "follow[ing] you around for years." If you went to a co-worker's office every day for weeks on end trying to get them to go out for lunch with you even though they say no or offer an excuse every time, then you might be a vampire. But it would be normal and fine to ask once this week and once next week and maybe once next month, and then drop it if you get brushed off every time.

Your previous post suggests that if anything, you might misread "normal friendship signals" too pessimistically—it sounds like you're quick to conclude that people don't like you. That's not the characteristic of a "vampire" as described by The Awl. The way I read it, the piece in The Awl suggests that "vampires" are deeply self-absorbed and do not pay any attention to what other people are thinking and feeling ("vampires" block doorways because they don't care that other people might want to go through; "vampires" dominate conversation with long rambling stories because they don't care that the people they're talking to are bored).

The way not to be a vampire, and incidentally also the way to build relationships, is to take an interest in other people's perspective. This means not just worrying about whether they like you, but noticing what they like or are interested in, and asking them questions about it; noticing their feelings and offering empathetic comments; noticing when they are struggling, and offering (but not insisting) to help.

On that note, this part of your post makes me really feel for you:

Basically, I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me, or whether I'm accurately observing that people in fact do not like me. [. . .] And if I am in fact that person, what am I supposed to do? Purposefully never talk to anyone as not to upset them? Do something arcane that I don't know how to do in order to be an acceptable person again? I don't understand this at all.

I know what it feels like to be baffled by social interactions. I've spent a lot of time in the past feeling lonely and friendless and totally puzzled by what it takes to make friends with people who genuinely would like me for myself. But over time I learned. I'm a lot more at ease now, socially, and I have some wonderful friendships. I wish the same for you. And I admire your tenacity, the way you're actively wrestling with these questions and reaching out to Ask Metafilter for help.
posted by Orinda at 7:36 AM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I take it that, in order to think of yourself as a worthwhile human being, you have to think of yourself.

That's very difficult when you are presently trying very hard to understand what another person thinks of you.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2012


I take it that, in order to think of yourself as a worthwhile human being, you have to think of yourself.
That's very difficult when you are presently trying very hard to understand what another person thinks of you.


Right, which is why you have to make a habit of being kind to yourself/liking yourself all the time, even and especially when nobody else is there. Then you'll eventually be free to concentrate on other things in social situations, and not look to the other person to tell you whether you are or are not objectively worthwhile. (Because if they can do that, of course you're going to be scanning them constantly for signs and therefore be unable to fully participate inthe interaction.) "Radical Acceptance" is one book that deals with this. It's a huge paradigm shift, easier to do the less you think about it (the only thought you need is: will this reduce my suffering? Will this, realistically, hurt anyone? Then there is no downside), and one that depressed people are going to have extreme difficulty with, as their condition may not be permit them to be kind to themselves until they can be kind enough to themselves to get treatment. Depression will do anything it can to preserve itself, including tell you the treatment won't work and you don't deserve it and it's for people worse off than you and you're a failure if you try it. Things that would earn you a big sad hug from Mr. Rogers, pretty much.

It might help to think that you have dug certain channels in your brain that are kind of your go-to routes when tou think about yourself, and that you can absolutely switch to new ones or ones you don't use very often, but it's going to take some effort and you'll probably have to catch yourself and have trouble immediately switching back pretty often until you get used to it. But it's just like anything else you can learn. And it will free you up considerably. It's hard to see things from more than one perspective when you're in a trench.
posted by Adventurer at 8:51 AM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have had people not want me around. I was a first year at university, and the people on my floor eventually made it clear that they did not want to be friends with me. i sort of got the impression that they didn't like me as much, and then there was an incident where it all came out in a mean girl bullying kind of way.

I spent the rest of that academic year quite unhappy. And then, I never really saw those people again. I have been left with the residual fear that people don't want me hanging round them. From time to time it still worries me. As a result, I am liable to hang back a bit, especially in a new group of people. I go to things that I am invited to, and always give people an 'out' if I ask for an invitation. After a while, I relax a bit more and let it all flow.

Since my first year at uni, I have had plenty of friends. There is nothing wrong with me. It is true that I am not everyone's cup of tea. I do not see that as a problem - I don't have time to be friends with everyone anyway.

Frankly, it's much easier for me to believe that I am super-awesome and if some people don't want to spend time with me, that is their loss. Other people will. This might not be exactly accurate, but none of my friends are perfect either, and I like spending time with them so it stands to reason that people will like spending time with me.
posted by plonkee at 9:07 AM on February 12, 2012


I think you have to assume you're wanted. Let people who don't want you around be grown-ups and decline to hang out with you.

I don't care what articles about "geek fallacies" and "vampires" say. Fact is, if you want to make friends, you have to assume that people want you around. Assuming that they don't -- or even constantly asking yourself whether they do -- will undermine any attempt you make at friendship.

I agree with cairdeas that you have to be more cautious with co-workers than with other people. You don't want to risk screwing up your work dynamic. But in general, you have to put yourself out there to make friends. It's a lot like dating, really. You have to risk rejection, and that sucks, but you have to have confidence, like yourself, and act like it -- otherwise people won't like you.

If the burden is on you to act like you want to be friends, then if they don't want to be friends, then the burden is on them to clearly communicate that. If they don't clearly communicate that, sure, maybe you feel embarrassed, but they should as well. Bottom line, trying to figure out what they really want is not profitable; assuming that people who hang out with you want to hang out with you is. Especially for someone with self-esteem issues, like you seem to have.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:10 AM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Another way of getting at what I'm trying to communicate here: People who want to be friends will be glad you made the effort. People who don't want to be friends (but are unwilling to put on their big boy/girl pants and be honest with you) might not be, but tough shit for them. You can't live your life based on what those jerks want, and if you don't make the effort with anyone, you won't make any friends.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Where are you meeting these people? How long have you known these people? How often do you see these people?

I ask these questions because the more often you visit certain places and the more consistent these visits are, the more people will become familiar with you and like you. This is the proximity effect (or something like that).

Feel free to memail me. I took this small group communication course and was assigned a lot of readings that would be beneficial to you on a personal level, interpersonal level, and in small group communication. I'd be more than happy to send you these readings to you.

The readings have various small group communication theories that you can pretty much apply anywhere.
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You are not the person that everyone hates. People just don't know how to probably deal with you right now. The reason is probably because you are depressed. I know that is not something that I wanted to hear when I was severely depressed, but it helped me realize that I needed to be more forgiving of myself.

People tend to steer clear of others when they don't seem happy or confident. I know it sucks, but it's because people don't know how to handle that stuff when they barely know you. Do not create some fake happy persona if that's not how you feel right now. People can sense fakeness too.

You are not screwed over for the rest of your life. You just need to work more on yourself before you try to approach relationships right now. You need to approach them in a fragile way because you are also fragile. Approaching relationships in the form that you have mentioned by inviting yourself to places is not what you should do.

People need to develop a relationship with you before you invite yourself to places. This doesn't mean that you have to be BFF, but you need to talk regularly.

Right now, I'd recommend the proximity approach or whatever you call it. You do this by joining a depression support group, cooking class, book club, walking group, you name it. You attend frequently. You participate (not too much, but not too little) and you ask people questions about themselves and throw in a few stories of your own once in a while.

I remember reading that the more people meet at the same place and same time each week, the more likely it is for relationships to develop. Don't bank everything on this, but know that just putting yourself out there by joining a group or two increases your chances of meeting people and developing relationships.
-------------------------------------

For what it's worth: I hope things improve for you. Realize that you are not a freak or anything like that. It just takes some of us a while to navigate social relationships and that is completely fine. I have this personal belief that wherever you go, you are bound to meet at least one person that you can talk to. You are not as alone as you think you are. Take care of yourself. I hope things work out well for you.
posted by livinglearning at 9:56 AM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


This may be very hard to do...but try to realize that it is not an OFF-ON proposition.
There should be a mix of people inviting you, you inviting others, you and Someone organizing something...
You might not be invited to Some Cool Thing just as you might not want to go to Some Other Cool Thing.

In my view, people want to have relationships that are fun, easy, and fairly honest.
Don't be the one who is upset that others are doing a Cool Thing and not inviting you.
Be gracious enough to give most people the benefit of the doubt about social interactions.
Do try to organize a restaurant outing or movie outing once in a while, just to see what happens. Realize however that each outing is just one specific event out of your whole month--if it doesn't work out then chill and try again in a little while.

When you find out about a Cool Thing that other people did without you, you can ask questions without sounding slighted.
"oh I've heard about that restaurant--is it as good as they say?"
"oh, It's great the two of you got a chance to catch up, how are they liking their new job?"

The main thing that I think you might be missing is that you've really got to like yourself and have activities that you do because you like to do them--because they bring pleasure to your day. This gets you closer to a natural proximity effect that livinglearning is talking about.
posted by calgirl at 11:00 AM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


That Awl piece is kind of horrifying. Please don't pay too much attention to it. Most people don't think that way.
posted by eugenen at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2012


It sounds like you're actively making efforts to connect with people, which is great. But now you're worried about whether or not people are recognizing/appreciating this effort. Like, what if people don't actually appreciate that? I think the vast majority of people appreciate friendly strangers and chatting and good conversation. It says a lot about someone who actively dislikes someone right off the bat. What people don't like are interactions inappropriate to a certain situation. If someone, for whatever reason (not necessarily having to do with you!), is showing weird behaviour (e.g. shifty eyes, being evasive) around you after a few minutes of chatting, is that someone you want to be around, or are you going to think you did something wrong? If the latter, this definitely needs to be changed.

Why do you think you might be the person everyone hates? You ask, "How do you know if people don't want you around?" Instead ask, "How do you know if people DO want you around?" Be careful here of what metrics you use. Moraine outlines some reasonable metrics.

you can't wait for people to invite you places, that you have to be the one to instigate things. Apparently that's a bad thing if people think you suck.
Why are you assuming that people might be thinking that you suck? Why is that one of the first thoughts that you (yes you!) plant in other people's heads? Why are you making these types of assumptions of other people, about you? Give people the chance to give you a chance. But really, give yourself a chance first.

I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me, or whether I'm accurately observing that people in fact do not like me.
Which one do you think it is?

You asked what if you are "that" person? And what would you do to become an acceptable person again? Stop with the what ifs. What if (ha) you are already an acceptable person and it's you that hasn't recognized and accepted it? And note that you said "acceptable person again." So you already were an acceptable person, and still are.

You actually gave good advice to this Nov 5 post. You say to the OP, start from a positive assumption: operate as if she might be interested in you. Then you give practical advice. Look at body language. Look for positive signs. There may be neutral or negative signs, you don't know if they're either, yet you say focus on the positive. So… any reason why you can't take your own good advice and apply it to yourself? The advice you gave doesn't only have to apply in romantic situations, it applies in all interactions. Start from a positive foundation, and keep building from that. If you start from a negative foundation (which you seem to be doing), it takes much more work to move into positive thinking.

tl;dr: Challenge your own negative assumptions about yourself. Are they really true? Chances are, they're not. Give yourself a chance. When interacting with others, start with a positive mindset, instead of a negative one, and build from there.
posted by foxjacket at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: The reason I bring this up is that a group I'm involved in went to a show last night, and I went because the invite was public, but no one talked to me, paired off in conversations without me, and - this is the part that makes me a terrible, shallow person - one of them was posting Facebook updates during the show tagging everyone there but me. Symbolically erasing me. It's little things like that that remind you just how unwanted you are. (Someone else had had a pretty extended conversation about this guy from high school who kept asking her to hang out when she didn't want to, for what it's worth.)

Or like this: I just learned that some friends, including one friend I thought was fairly close and liked me, went out last night without inviting me or even telling me, which is another thing I'm not allowed to be upset about or even bring up. (Two of them blogged about it.) I would have really loved to have gone. I might have had a good time. It's the kind of thing I'd have enjoyed. I feel horrible for being left out and for being silently deemed not good enough to be invited. Things like this happen all the time, and I can never, ever, ever, ever let on that I'm upset, because that is a bad thing to think that bad people think.

And those two paragraphs are really selfish, I realize, but where's the line? When is it actually OK to want a social life? I mean, if people really don't want me around, the only moral thing to do is to never interact with anyone, but that's both economically impossible (I have to make money somehow to pay rent) and not something I want to do.
posted by dekathelon at 1:49 PM on February 12, 2012


Response by poster: And for those calling this "self-loathing" - if a friend was telling you about someone who got upset about things like this, then sure, you'd speak pretty negatively about that person, too. I see myself the way others see myself.
posted by dekathelon at 1:50 PM on February 12, 2012


re the show: some people don't know how to use social networks well. it sounds like maybe it wasn't as public as the invite said. maybe a miscommunication, but now you know how to interpret these thing from the inviter in future. or maybe for whatever reason nothing really clicked with these people.

re the friend going out: when you talk to either of them ask them what they did over the weekend. show some interest in their life, but don't complain that you weren't invited. but maybe say things like "oh, cool, sounds like you guys had a good time." maybe they'll invite you in the future? or, you could try to make plans with them to do a similar thing later.

it's good to invite people to do something a few times, but if they decline two or thee times it's up to them to make the effort.

it's good to ask about what their plans, or what they did over the weekend. if you show interest then you're showing you're potentially someone to invite. this is different from inviting yourself, and i don't think it's really fishing for an invite.
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:15 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason I bring this up is that a group I'm involved in went to a show last night, and I went because the invite was public, but no one talked to me, paired off in conversations without me, and - this is the part that makes me a terrible, shallow person - one of them was posting Facebook updates during the show tagging everyone there but me. Symbolically erasing me.

Can I gently suggest that you may be overreacting a little bit? I mean, we've all been there. I know I have. Typically, I'm tired and stressed about work or something else, or hungry or just feeling wacky, and then something like this happens and it upsets the balance and makes me a wreck. Then, the next morning, or in bad cases in the next few days, I wake up, laugh, and realize I overreacted because I was in a bad mood and it meant nothing. I think that's probably the trajectory you're looking at, too.

Also, "symbolically erasing me" is very dramatic language. Here's my experience with these things: I'm a bit of a quiet person, capable of being unseen even in groups...when I want to be. I consider this a good quality that I can use to my benefit. However, sometimes people see me as standoffish, and sometimes they can forget about me in the way you've described when louder people are talking. Again, I would gently suggest that they are probably not even thinking about you at all, much less with malice. They probably are just concerned with themselves and the flashy thing in front of them, not trying to shun you on purpose. It's no big deal. The conversation smoe other girl had? Totally coincidental gossip that has nothing to do with you. You're stretching to make a connection there.

Or like this: I just learned that some friends, including one friend I thought was fairly close and liked me, went out last night without inviting me or even telling me, which is another thing I'm not allowed to be upset about or even bring up. (Two of them blogged about it.) I would have really loved to have gone. I might have had a good time. It's the kind of thing I'd have enjoyed.

I have also been the "new friend" and it takes a while for you to be totally integrated, and you probably never will be as integrated as that one strongest, oldest friendship in the group. This is normal, and it's no big deal. I am a bit wary of your language here- "it's the kind of thing I'd have enjoyed" is a bit entitled, no? As if they are supposed to always think of your pleasure? Mostly, friends just want to hang out and the venue is an excuse. Especially old friends. It's normal for these things to happen in large groups of friends, and just because others are closer doesn't mean that they actively dislike you, at all. It's not a zero-sum game.

Things like this happen all the time, and I can never, ever, ever, ever let on that I'm upset, because that is a bad thing to think that bad people think. I mean, if people really don't want me around, the only moral thing to do is to never interact with anyone, but that's both economically impossible (I have to make money somehow to pay rent) and not something I want to do.

If I were you, I'd take a hot shower, make myself some tea, have a good cry if necessary, and try to put it out of your mind. Concentrate on something you enjoy for the rest of your weekend and hopefully this will all blow over.
posted by stockpuppet at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


And for those calling this "self-loathing" - if a friend was telling you about someone who got upset about things like this, then sure, you'd speak pretty negatively about that person, too.

If a friend told me, "I know this girl, and she felt really hurt and self-conscious because she came to an event and left without anyone talking to her, or tagging her on FB" I would think feel sympathy and think "poor girl, she sounds like she is really suffering and I hope she can get to a better place." I wouldn't think "wow what a jerk that girl is." People love to talk about how stupid it is to care about what happens on FB but whatever, lots of people care about that. In caveman days we cared about what others said about us as they were sitting around the campfire chomping bones. It's human. Just for you it seems dialed up more than for most people.

Don't forget the flip side of this too. If someone came to me and said, "Wow, this girl came to our public FB event just sat quietly and left, and I wish she'd get a clue we don't want her to come," I would think that person was seriously a jerk. I wouldn't be friends with anyone who talked like that.

When people talk about others who bother them by their presence, the vast majority of the time it's people who are engaging with way more overt behaviors than that.

Sleazy guys who won't stop hitting on the women especially in situations where hitting on people is totally inappropriate. People who go on monologues or totally dominate the conversations. People who are argumentative, fighty, talk shit, stir up emnity in the group. People who try to elbow into conversations about private topics. And yes, probably following a specific person or two around and NEVER saying anything and never contributing to the convo, might be one of them too.

Coming to a public event and sitting there quietly isn't in the ballpark of these things.
posted by cairdeas at 2:49 PM on February 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


I know how much these types of situations hurt. I know that it sucks to feel alone when in a crowd of people. But, the point of these social events is really to interact with a variety of people.

Most people that go to parties don't spend the ENTIRE night with the exact same group of people from beginning to end. People spread amongst themselves, interact with others and it's expected that people will drift over the night.

You said that nobody talked to you and there were times where I felt like that too. But, did you talk to anyone? Did you just talk to one person and develop the assumption that nobody else wanted to talk to you because this person didn't react well? Or at least three if not more?

They weren't erasing you. They probably had conversations with these people and tagged them for that reason. But, really who's to say why they did that? And really, why let yourself worry about what these people have to say? Are they your good friends? If they are, then talk to them because you can develop a better understanding of why they did that. If they aren't, then count this as a social learning experience and move on.

You are not unwanted, at least you aren't if you enjoy being in your own company.

I think you are examining far too much and placing SO much emphasis on your social interactions, your perception of others, and your assumptions of how they perceive you.
-------------------------------------------------
This is a vicious cycle, but you can break out of it. I really hope you looked over our answers to the past question and I hope you look over the answers to this question too.

You really matter. Don't worry so much about what other people think because honestly, that will only get you so far. I say this as someone who understands where you are coming from.

Don't make assumptions about how people should operate. Realize that we all have our flaws and quirks, but we also have our strengths. There isn't a cookie cutter way to think in order to be normal or feel normal.

You know what, selfish is a strong word. The line is the point where you stop over analyzing, start forgiving yourself, and start forgiving others. The line is where you seek some sort of help because this seems like so much to carry. I feel overwhelmed reading your questions and I'd feel overwhelmed reading these questions even if someone else wrote them. The reason? It's exhausting living a life like this. I have social anxiety and this overwhelms me. I'm not saying that you have social anxiety, but maybe that is the case.
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It's always okay to want a social life. We are "social animals" as some psychologists and other people say.
----------------------------------------
These people may not be a fit for you, but there are other people that would be a better fit for you. You need to work on yourself and that's why I think the depression support group or cooking classes or walking groups would be beneficial. For what it's worth, yesterday my coworker told me that certain people don't find me approachable because I talk so much and dominate conversations. My first statement was: can you tell me who that is? My thought was: maybe I should stop talking to them because I don't want to bother them.

Then a second later, I thought: isolating myself from people that I like over this one thing is not what I want. I would much rather improve myself and so, I decided that I will ask more questions about others and genuinely express interest in what they have to say rather than talking so much.

I decided to use this new information from a friend as a means to benefit myself. I told her a while ago that if she ever knew why I seemed unapproachable then to let me know. I'm thankful that she did that because not everyone is going to say that stuff to other people. Most people will just steer clear instead.

Use last night and other examples as a social learning experience.
posted by livinglearning at 3:02 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reason I bring this up is that a group I'm involved in went to a show last night

How loud was it? How far from the stage would you have to go in order to talk at a reasonable volume and be heard?

Shows are actually terrible social environments. They can be good social opportunities, because they give you something to talk about after the fact. Even if the resulting conversation is not very insightful, the fact of talking about a shared memory tends to strengthen a relationship. It builds context, and in particular, it establishes that talking about shared memories is something you can do together.

one of them was posting Facebook updates during the show tagging everyone there but me. Symbolically erasing me.

"Everyone there" as in the entire audience? No, you probably meant everyone who got the same invite that you did.

Who got the same invite? Can you list their names, here and now? That's what you'd have to do to find out who was there, but untagged. You'd have to list all their names and check for them in the tags. I'm guessing you didn't actually do this, which makes it pretty likely that you forgot someone as well.

Perhaps you can get an actual list of the attendees from the organizer. Maybe they've already posted one. Then you could make sure. I think it's best to make sure, if you're going to hold such an ego-killing view.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:16 PM on February 12, 2012


Oh, right--who added those tags? Facebook lets people tag themselves in their friends' photos. It's possible that the uploader didn't tag anyone.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:17 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't worry so much about what other people think

This advice isn't exactly wrong, but it's not very helpful because socialization requires you to care somehow about what other people think, in order to just carry on a conversation. Whether caring counts as "worry" or not has to do with whether it makes you feel bad, so assuming you're not telling her to stop caring about others, you're telling her to stop feeling bad when she cares about others. If she could do that, we wouldn't be talking about this.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:22 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


if a friend was telling you about someone who got upset about things like this, then sure, you'd speak pretty negatively about that person

No, if a friend told me another group of friends went out without them or invited them out and then snubbed them I'd tell them their friends were dicks and she should ditch those losers then invite her out for a night on the town.

If a friend talked like you do, I'd roll my eyes and find a way to cut short our call/texts/whatever and maybe avoid you until you stopped being so pathetic. All this self pity and negatively is really draining. I went back and read your previous question and lying about your social life is beyond pathetic and only serves to alienate you from your room-mates. They're not stupid, they know you're lying. Do you do that sort of thing when you're socialising? I've had "friends" who told lies to make themselves seem more cool/interesting/special and its tedious and irritating. eg. talking about a band I really liked, one of these friends hadn't even heard of them and I can accept her not wanting to admit she hadn't heard of them, that's fairly normal, especially when you're young and insecure but she didn't just pretend to have heard of them, she was their biggest fan, even had the sheet music and of course she'd lend it me the next time we saw each other...etc I don't know if you're doing this but you mention lying about parties that you weren't invited to so I thought I'd bring that up just in case.

I don't know how you're presenting yourself socially but how you're presenting yourself here is very negative, overly dramatic and quite frankly, not very likeable.

I agree with cupcake1337 that sometimes "public" facebook events aren't really public. Facebook tells me about events all the time that a bit of common sense tells me I'm not actually invited to (eg. a friend of an acquaintance's birthday party might show up in my feed, and I may be able to select the 'attending' button but I wouldn't because its obvious from the context that the invite was not supposed to be extended to me). Maybe that's the case here - or maybe you're just being too passive... did you talk to anyone at the event? Did you go up to them and say hello or did you wait around hoping someone would talk to you? How well do you know the person tagging people in the photos? It's possible she doesn't remember who you are or didn't know you were there with the group if you weren't interacting with everyone else. Are you even FB friends with this person? If you're not, maybe she thought it would be inappropriate to tag you.

These friends that went out without you, when was the last time you went out with them? When did you last invite them out? There are lots of reason why you might have been excluded from the event - where was it? You said in your previous question your one close friend lives several states away - if the event was near him, maybe they thought it was too far away for you to come. I have a close friend from uni who is having a birthday party soon, I don't expect to be invited because I live far away (by UK standards anyway!), I know that doesn't mean we're not still friends or he doesn't like me.

Based on your previous question and your responses here I think you would really benefit from spending time on yourself rather than trying to make friends at this point. Not just learning to like yourself but also learning to care less what other people think. You might just be the friend that no-one really likes and maybe that is just who you are but I think its worth exploring the possibility that you are a likeable person and you could have friends if you could be a little more outgoing/confident (not cocky or super-extraverted, but enough to initiate a conversation) and less concerned that people don't like you. I totally understand the fear that people don't really like you - when you go out with friends and they bitch about a friend that isn't there, its natural to wonder what they're saying about you when you're not there but you can't let it consume you. I wouldn't work on the assumption that people like you, nobody is going to like you immediately and nobody likes everybody. Work on the assumption that they could like you. Its possible you've blown it with this current group (the show group), its hard to get past first impressions. Maybe with enough time they'll get to know and love you but if they currently don't like you or think you're weird/negative/too shy/boring its going to take a lot more work to shake that impression than it would be to start fresh with a new group of people.

If shyness/lack of confidence is your problem, you want to find a group with a "mum"/"white knight", someone who is drawn to the shy people and the underdogs and wants to look after them and help them. They can be annoying sometimes but they'll help you integrate into the group and wont leave you standing alone in a bar while everyone else pairs off.
posted by missmagenta at 3:28 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might just be the friend that no-one really likes and maybe that is just who you are

That doesn't make any sense. "The friend that no-one really likes" is whoever no-one happens to like, in some particular group; I can't tell anything else about them, they just don't fit in wherever they are. How can that be "just who you are"?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:32 PM on February 12, 2012


Response by poster: When I say public, I meant the invite went out over the group's mailing list, sort of a "hey, let's get together at this show!" deal. It wasn't on Facebook. And when I said they tagged everyone there, I obviously meant everyone in our group.

But since I've already been called pathetic and unlikable, I guess I'll stop now.
posted by dekathelon at 3:33 PM on February 12, 2012


I have a friend who has a very difficult time in social situations. Especially any situation the involves small talk or "getting to know you" conversations. It can be painful to watch her try to navigate something like a group dinner. I really value her and I live with all her quirks because I am wowed by her intelligence and imagination. I can also tell her "Hey, that topic isn't really appropriate for this conversation because x, y and z" or "This isn't a great time to ask X about Y because they are arguing."

Something in your post ("Basically, I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me, or whether I'm accurately observing that people in fact do not like me. And I don't know how to tell which it is...") really remind me of something my friend will say. She's said and asked things like "How do I know when I'm talking about the right thing?" or "How do I know when it will be ok to talk about that thing that happened with X?"

Could you be like my friend? Could you just have a hard time reading people and reacting to them?
posted by OsoMeaty at 3:37 PM on February 12, 2012


But since I've already been called pathetic and unlikable, I guess I'll stop now.

I don't understand your reasoning here. Someone was a jerk to you in the thread, therefore you'll stop posting in it?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:38 PM on February 12, 2012


Response by poster: I don't know what the right reasoning is. These are all things I think, and yet people think they make me pathetic. I don't want to be pathetic. I don't want people to dislike me. So if posting in this thread and asking for advice makes me pathetic and unlikable, even though I need advice, I should not do it.

And for people calling me entitled - what makes me less entitled to enjoying myself than anyone else? Either everyone's entitled to that, or nobody's entitled to that, or there's something wrong with me that means I'm not.
posted by dekathelon at 3:41 PM on February 12, 2012


I'm sorry for the thing about the entire audience. I wasn't trying to be sarcastic, it was meant to point out a bias in your reasoning, but in hindsight I was even less clear about my own intent than you were of yours. I wanted to imply that, when you neglect to specify your problems in precise and complete detail, they tend to look bigger than they are.

By the way, it seems you still haven't checked who-all attended. I'd recommend it.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2012


Response by poster: This, by the way, is exactly what I mean when I say I'm not allowed to think things. They make people think I'm pathetic.
posted by dekathelon at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2012


I don't want to be pathetic. I don't want people to dislike me. So if posting in this thread and asking for advice makes me pathetic and unlikable, even though I need advice, I should not do it.

I hate to break it to you, but posting on the internet makes you pathetic and unlikable to someone out there.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:42 PM on February 12, 2012




But since I've already been called pathetic and unlikable, I guess I'll stop now.

This is exactly what I'm talking about, this self-pitying, defeatist attitude could very well be why you're having problems making friends. You're ignoring everything else and just focusing on the negative. People telling you you need to like yourself first are right, you're wallowing in your own misery, ignoring anything positive. You're living in a self-fulfilling prophecy. You expect people to dislike you and when there's any hint of it you latch on to that as affirmation.
posted by missmagenta at 3:45 PM on February 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


Response by poster: I don't understand how you can tell me to like myself when you just told me I wasn't likable.
posted by dekathelon at 3:47 PM on February 12, 2012


Let's get scientific.

Currently the null hypothesis is that you are not well-liked. I'll leave "unlikable" out of it, because there are philosophical problems with it: is likability an intrinsic trait that you have everywhere always, or an extrinsic one that varies depending on who you're with? I don't know.

Suppose that you were actually well-liked all along, and didn't notice, since you were depressed. How would you tell? What would it take to convince you?

Being unable to perceive others' affection is an extremely common symptom of depression, to the point that you can look it up in the DSM.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:50 PM on February 12, 2012


This, by the way, is exactly what I mean when I say I'm not allowed to think things. They make people think I'm pathetic.

Stop that.

Stop playing this zero sum game, stop being melodramatic, stop having a pity party on ask.me.

And consider therapy. Unless this is all just a pity party and you are particularly feeling it today, you very much have some things you need to work out. This website doesn't do therapy sessions well (or at all), and that's what you need.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:51 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Sounds like she needs to stop it. Stop it! Just stop it!
posted by LogicalDash at 3:53 PM on February 12, 2012


Question this: why can't you like yourself even if someone told you that you didn't come across as likeable to them?
posted by livinglearning at 3:54 PM on February 12, 2012


(Venting your frustration with a depressed person at the depressed person probably isn't the best idea.)
posted by LogicalDash at 3:55 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: I'm not trying to throw a pity party. I'm trying to ask for advice because the nature of this problem means I can't ask anyone I know in real life about it. And I don't understand why people keep insulting me and why the thread's derailing into that. I genuinely don't. Please believe me when I say I genuinely don't. I don't want any of this to happen.
posted by dekathelon at 3:55 PM on February 12, 2012


And for people calling me entitled - what makes me less entitled to enjoying myself than anyone else? Either everyone's entitled to that, or nobody's entitled to that, or there's something wrong with me that means I'm not.

I didn't call you entitled. I'm sorry you only latched onto that one word out of my post, which was meant to be kind. I called your language "a bit entitled" which is different.

And you're right when you say no one is entitled to enjoy themselves. Life isn't fair. Friendship is not handed out based on goodness or moral qualities. Much of life is random chance and luck. It doesn't mean "something is wrong with you" but it also doesn't mean you'll get very far by being angry with the universe because you would have liked something to happen and it didn't.
posted by stockpuppet at 3:56 PM on February 12, 2012



I don't understand how you can tell me to like myself when you just told me I wasn't likable.


What I said is the way you are presenting yourself here is not very likeable, not that you are fundamentally unlikeable. You have control over your actions and the way you present yourself to the world. Here you are presenting a very negative, self-pitying and melodramatic persona, none of those qualities are particularly likeable to most people. If you work on changing those thoughts and behaviours then you will be more likeable. It may be that you're being different here to the way you are socially in the real world but since none of us have met you in real life, we can only speculate on what may be the problem and what you may be able to do to improve based on what we're seeing of you here.
posted by missmagenta at 3:58 PM on February 12, 2012


Here's a question that may sound dumb to you, but are important nonetheless:

Do your friends actually know what you're interested in? You say that the event that two of them went to is something that you would have enjoyed, but do they know that? It's not uncommon to not invite people to things that you doubt they would be interested in, and it has nothing to do with you "being silently deemed not good enough to be invited."

You sound like someone who spends a lot of time in your head and energy on making sure that people don't judge you. There's nothing wrong with that, but those protective behaviours distance you from other people far more than you're realizing. If the substantive parts of your identity are being crowded out by anxiety and negativity, then it's going to be incredibly difficult for people to get to know you (and for you to be proactive in creating relationships). Before you even commit to therapy, truly appreciating the effect that those thought patterns have on your interactions with others will go a long way towards helping you become more comfortable socially.
posted by thisjax at 3:58 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


And I don't understand why people keep insulting me and why the thread's derailing into that.

I think I may have found the root of your problem. You expect that social events and their consequences for everyone involved should make sense, such that whatever you get out of it, you can say why it turned out that way.

It's all much too chaotic for that. Sometimes it's helpful to pick a particular proximal cause and blame it for everything that goes wrong; if you can't fix the problem yourself, that may be all you can do. But your interpretations of social events can never be really conclusive, they can never account for everything, and even when they can, it often turns out that, eg., someone ruined your thread because they got cut off in traffic and wanted to raeg at somebody.

Try to avoid more than strictly necessary into your social experiences.

Also, about therapy. Apparently you've chosen not to get it? But you're getting it. Therapy is what we are doing right now. If you go to a professional therapist, it will be exactly like this, but they're contractually obliged not to troll you.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:01 PM on February 12, 2012


i think a big hole in the like/be kind to yourself argument is that you are kinder to others *because* they are other people, and it's the polite thing to do. in an ideal world you would hold them to the stricter standards you apply to yourself, but for practical reasons you don't. as an analogy, it's like how it's socially acceptable to tell your own kids they are acting like jerks, but not so much if you're talking to someone else's kids (without some kind of agreement prior).
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:04 PM on February 12, 2012


and even when they can account for anything at all
posted by LogicalDash at 4:04 PM on February 12, 2012


And I don't know how to tell which it is, because you can't come out and say "hey, do you want me to stop trying to be your friend?"

You can, and I have.

People don't do it much because it's unpleasant for them, not because it's a social faux pas.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2012


I see myself the way others see myself.

I'm gonna bet you don't, because each person who sees you has a different impression of you. Often wildly different. Keeping those straight in your head would be a nightmare, which I think is what it means to "don't worry so much about what others think".

Anyway, didn't you say that you've avoided actually asking people if they like you? How do you even know how they see you if you don't ask?
posted by LogicalDash at 4:12 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best answer: For some reason there are a lot of things I want to say about this, and they're sort of all over the place.

First of all, I guess you think you're like this girl? I don't think you are. You seem too introspective to not notice if your behavior was so far outside the norm that it would be actively offensive to the people around you. I think, just from what you wrote here, that at worst this group that you're hanging out with finds you a bit boring. Maybe you're not as loud or outgoing as they are, maybe they don't know you very well, or they're closer friends with each other than with you. So they see you as just...there. This is just guess-work of course, but are you new to hanging out with these people? Did you fall in with them somehow, out of proximity, like through school or work or a roommate situation, instead of really choosing them as individuals (and them choosing you?) That's just the feeling I get. If that's the case, maybe you're not really meant to be friends with them, maybe your styles of inviting and hanging out don't really mesh. That's not your fault, but it will make for some sucky evenings. (The liking yourself part, btw, comes in when you realize that these are actually just boring evenings. When you realize you don't want to be at a show with "friends" who are ignoring you, not because it's upsetting or humiliating but because it's boring, and less fun than going home and washing your hair.)

But while it's important to like yourself so that if you end up friendless for a night (or a year) you will still be OK, I think it can sometimes be beside the point. There are ass-loads of people who in fact hate themselves, have terrible self-esteem, and also have tons of friends (and dates.) So yes, be kind to yourself, but I'm not as sure as some others that that's the issue here. (Though it is absolutely true that if you come across to others as nothing but depressed and awkward and self-hatey all the time, they will not want to be your friend.) I'm also not sure why people recommend acting classes as a solution for these sorts of problems, having spent many years of my life doing nothing but taking acting classes, but I guess that's a confused-former-actor-rant for another time.

Something you said that I didn't understand: I just learned that some friends, including one friend I thought was fairly close and liked me, went out last night without inviting me or even telling me, which is another thing I'm not allowed to be upset about or even bring up...Things like this happen all the time, and I can never, ever, ever, ever let on that I'm upset, because that is a bad thing to think that bad people think.

Huh? Who told you you can't bring these things up or be upset about them? That's a very strange system of rules and I wonder where you got it. "Not allowed", and "can never ever ever ever" sounds so strict. Have these people told you off or laughed at you for this before? Or other friends you had once? I do think it's probably not the wisest move to go cry to your friends for not inviting you, it might make you seem immature and it could be you're misinterpreting the whole thing. But there's no rule. There's no reason you can't say to one of them, "Hey, the next time you and _______ go to ______, I'd like to come. Would that be cool or is this a private thing you guys like to do just the two of you?" The answer to that, actually, would be a good way to tell if you're "the person everyone hates."

On that note, I think Acheman is very astute in saying that someone has to be that un-liked friend, and who are we to say you're not sometimes that person. Sometimes people really won't like you, and that doesn't necessarily mean you did something wrong. Sometimes people just don't want another friend, or they are mean and snotty. The only way to really tell, I think, is to ask questions like the one above, or to casually suggest doing something two or three times (as others said above) and if you get turned down each time, move on.

On preview, about being "pathetic" - if that's what people are telling you to stop doing, if the whole "oh I'm a pathetic loser" thing is what you're being told you can never ever say....that's because it's very high school. It's simultaneously trying very hard, and not trying to help yourself. The way to not be "pathetic" in this sense is to not care if these people like you. Really not care. Which is not the same as not caring if anyone ever likes you, not at all. Of course you want to have friends, and that's fine. But when you care whether some specific person likes you, even if they don't treat you well, instead of finding people who like you as you are even if it takes a long time: that is what people read as pathetic.

I'll tell you a story. Last year I met this girl through work and thought maybe we could be friends. (I'm a straight woman and she presumably is too, so nothing potentially "weird/complicated" here.) We met once, had a few things in common, I thought she seemed like an interesting person, she was friendly. We met again at a party. I saw her standing by herself and went over to talk to her; I asked her something innocuous. She said "Can you hang on a minute?" and walked away and went to talk to someone else. Maybe in high school I would have thought "OMG I'm pathetic, I did something wrong, she doesn't want to be my friend and she just straight-up told me in a party full of people." But I just thought, "Damn, that was rude. Will avoid her in future!" If anyone was pathetic, it was her for being a random un-called-for mean girl well into adulthood, not me for thinking I might make a friend.

I hope some of that WAY TOO LONG comment makes sense.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


[W]hat makes me less entitled to enjoying myself than anyone else?

I think what the poster was getting at is that no one is entitled to be invited by their friends to everything said friends do, just because they might enjoy themselves.

The way I would look at it is, real life friendships don't have to follow the "Friends" model, where all of the friends do everything together. Sometimes people like to mix it up with different configurations of friendship groups. The fact that some people got together without you doesn't actually mean you were excluded.
posted by Mila at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2012


A follow-up to this question, I guess. I'm trying to put myself out there, or whatever it's called, but the problem is, people have lots of nasty things to say about people who put themselves out there when nobody wants them to be putting themselves out there.

Screw them.

Like with the Geek Social Fallacies article that's gone around, the person that 80% of the people hate and wish would fuck off. Or like the "vampires" from this post.

Screw them.

One of the things that the post said they do, a bad thing that people are not supposed to do, is "[pursuing] interactions that you have not instigated."

Screw them.

But isn't that how you make friends? I've been told verbatim that you can't wait for people to invite you places, that you have to be the one to instigate things.

It's a bit of both. I knew someone once who was trying to be friends with me by instigating things but I was secretly in non-platonic like with him and handled it poorly by trying to avoid him as much as possible. Sometimes we just get caught up in our own emotions/feelings. But yes - you initiate things with people in order to try to befriend them.

Apparently that's a bad thing if people think you suck.

Screw them.

Basically, I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me, or whether I'm accurately observing that people in fact do not like me. And I don't know how to tell which it is, because you can't come out and say "hey, do you want me to stop trying to be your friend?" and people generally don't say that themselves but complain about it later behind your back. What are the warning signs? And if I am in fact that person, what am I supposed to do? Purposefully never talk to anyone as not to upset them? Do something arcane that I don't know how to do in order to be an acceptable person again? I don't understand this at all.

This is just pure social anxiety. The more you feel comfortable within yourself, the less you think about friendship in such detail. The social anxiety wants everything to be perfect and unfortunately it can't be. The way you can combat social anxiety is to tell that voice inside your head to shut the hell up because you want to enjoy yourself. Just keep telling it to back the hell off - it takes time but you'll eventually get there.

The other thing to learn is that you can't be friends with everyone and not everyone will like you and that's okay. You have to choose to be around non-toxic individuals and choose to have people who are comfortable and accepting in your life. If you're not making progress with a person or group, you have to move on - if only for your own piece of mind.
posted by mleigh at 4:47 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, you sound like you are in a very rough place in your life, and I wish I could give you a hug right now. That said, I have MONDO social anxiety, and the thing that has helped me most is medication and therapy. I am not saying this because I think you are weird or crazy or whatever, but just because it was SO helpful to me that I can't even describe it, so here it is- I think you should do anything you can to afford therapy, including moving to a less expensive apartment, getting more roommates, taking a second job or gigging on the weekends, asking your family to give you money (any kindly elderly aunts? Grandparents?), maybe even getting a line of credit or bank loan. Truly, I think it could enhance your quality of life that much that it would be worth that level of sacrifice. It did for me.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:56 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay. So, obviously, this thread has veered off on a meta-level course regarding communication, intepretation, and you are presenting yourself in response to certain comments. There is some interesting stuff going on and good observations you want to mull over, but I am going to stay out of that discussion, and go back to some stuff you raised in your original question and first follow-up.

You seem to be debating the appropriateness and desirability of instigating contact, making note of this: One of the things that the post said they do, a bad thing that people are not supposed to do, is "[pursuing] interactions that you have not instigated." But isn't that how you make friends? I've been told verbatim that you can't wait for people to invite you places, that you have to be the one to instigate things.

Cool. So you are pointing out a bit of confusion, because on one hand, you seem to be hearing people say (something roughly along the lines of) "don't force yourself on others!" which seems to contradict the idea that "if you want friends, you have to go out and make them."

On that last part - yes! If you want friends, you have to go out and make them. You have to be proactive! You are correct! This is good advice!

And yet, you are confused and hesitant. Thus, I turn you to something you said about how you pursue others: a group I'm involved in went to a show last night, and I went because the invite was public [and then awkward stuff happened].

I guess the issue here is: instigating things does not always mean showing up at other people's invitations. It means coming up with social events of your own, and inviting others to join you.

...

Sometimes, showing up to these group invites can be awkward and weird, and that happens to everyone. Example: I spontaneously showed up at a bar to see a friend and his band play. He introduced me to his friends (I knew NO one there) and then bounced onstage to sing. So...there I was, having dropped in on these strangers who were already having a good time on their own, and things were a little awkwardpants. I probably could have been gregarious and worked it, but I had just come from work, and was tired.

So. It was awkwardpants. That's no big deal. It was awkward not because they hated me, or thought I was weird, or anything. It was just awkward because they were like, um, so...who's that chick? And despite his nice intro, they didn't know who, or what my deal, was.

These things happen to everyone.
How did I make it less awkward for the future? About a month later, I staged a summer picnic/bbq/let's-drink-some-sangria-in-the-park-despite-local-laws thing, and invited him down. Told him to bring whoever. So he came with his girlfriend, her friend, and her friend's boyfriend.

So, we met, made nice, and now when I see them at shows, we can actually interact and engage. Then I meet more people, invite others to different parties, and the social networking happens slowly, like a wee sapling reaching out with new branches. Or something.

So, hey: being proactive is good. Showing up at parties is good. But if that isn't always working out for you, or is sometimes awkward, no biggie. Happens to plenty. But from what I am reading in this post (though, you may be leaving examples out, of course), you tend to show up to a lot of events. This probably shouldn't be your only approach, especially if you are afraid of being overbearing. And, since it sounds that you are concerned about that, you may want to mix things up, and engage in multiple types of social interactions - people like this, because it makes them feel wanted, and because it diffuses the responsibility of entertaining on many people, instead of focusing it on just a few.

What people really like is when you reach out and invite them to...anything, really. And the nice thing is that you don't have to worry about being overbearing, or off-putting, because if someone really does feel that way about you, they just won't show up*. So, no worries


* note: some people are busy, flaky, or otherwise engaged. absence doesn't always correlate to how much they like you. but by reaching out first, you'll flatter those who think you are interesting, and can be pretty sure that when they show up, it's not because they are doing it because they feel they have to, or anything.
posted by vivid postcard at 5:03 PM on February 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just wanted to say that I think it's unhelpful to call the OP pathetic, missmagenta.

But to you, OP, that hurtful comment may help to illustrate a point, which is that some people may indeed dislike you (and probably do!), but that others can still like you anyway. missmagenta apparently finds some of your behavior pathetic, but I don't find you pathetic-- your fears not only make a lot of sense to me, but I think some of the things you notice could actually be real.

It's absolutely true that some people are less well-liked than others. Some unlucky few are disliked by lots of people. Yet I think even very well-liked people have a least a few others who aren't so fond of them. So you may be absolutely right that the Facebook tag-everyone-but-you person happens not to like you much, although maybe it's just that they don't know you as well, or think *you* don't like them-- you're in the best position to say whether those possibilities could be true.

I would bet a large amount of money that I have acquaintances in my social circle who don't like me much, and that I'd even be surprised to learn about who some of them are. I bet this is true because I've heard negative behind-the-back gossip that surprised me, and that I don't think gets shared with the people in question-- I'd be shocked if there weren't any such gossip about me. I think I can tell who some of my dislikers are-- I feel awkward around them and that we don't have much to talk about, and neither of us ever initiates social plans with the other. But even some of that could just be a feedback loop of mutual awkward rather than any active dislike or desire for me to disappear on their part.

In short, maybe you're right that some people in your social circle don't like you much. Perhaps you could focus a bit more of your attention on the ones who actively signal liking-- the ones who do reach out to you, and who smile and greet you when they first see you at a gathering-- and gradually try to offer a little of yourself to some of the less familiar ones. Some may take a nibble, it which case great, make a mental note to try again with them, and others may not, in which case also fine, just move on to someone else.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 5:12 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I've also dealt with hurt feelings over not being invited to smaller gatherings. What helped me some is noticing that sometimes I'm invited while others are left out. I hope you're lucky enough to be invited once in a while when others aren't-- try to remember it if it ever happens to you!
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I've also dealt with hurt feelings over not being invited to smaller gatherings. What helped me some is noticing that sometimes I'm invited while others are left out. I hope you're lucky enough to be invited once in a while when others aren't-- try to remember it if it ever happens to you!

This is good.
Also, you might want to note alternate explanations for why you were left out; often, they are more realistic, and generally tend to reflect some real constraints on socializing.

Examples of reasons why I've been left out of things, or have left out others:
- Someone didn't receive a text message
- There were only six spaces at the dinner table, which means inviting only 3 peeps, if they're partnered
-It was a bacon-themed dinner party, and someone's a lifelong vegetarian
- An ex will be there: oh no, the awkwardness!
- The planner is trying to craft a particular group dynamic (inviting all their musician friends, or work contacts, etc)
- They just...forgot.
- Misunderstanding work schedules ("What?! Don't you work Friday nights anymore?!")
- There will be children involved. I hate children.
- It's really a party for someone else, who doesn't know me, so they weren't sure if it'd be okay
- It's an informal intervention, so only those dear and close should intervene.
- etcetera...
posted by vivid postcard at 5:30 PM on February 12, 2012


I see myself the way others see myself

No, you really don't. I promise you with one hundred percent certainty you are mistaken in this.

I feel horrible for being left out and for being silently deemed not good enough to be invited.

This is a perfect example. Everyone gets left out of things sometimes. It does not mean they have been "deemed not good enough to be invited." It just means they got left out, for any of a thousand possible reasons, at least nine hundred of which would have nothing to do with the person who got left out.

one of them was posting Facebook updates during the show tagging everyone there but me. Symbolically erasing me.

This is another perfect example. I would never tag someone on facebook unless I was certain they were okay with it, and definitely not someone I hadn't had a direct conversation with: some people get really touchy about that sort of thing. The person wasn't "symbolically erasing you" -- which it's honestly pretty unusual for anyone to be malicious enough to do that sort of thing deliberately -- s/he might in fact have been being considerate of you. Or didn't know your facebook name. Or didn't know you well enough personally (I'm not sure how big this group was) or didn't know how to spell your name or, again, any of a bunch of other reasons, most of which have nothing to do with your qualities or likability.


This question is very similar to the previous question you linked, which was similar to others you've asked in the past. In all of them you seem really determined to believe that nobody likes you, that everyone is judging you and finding you unworthy, and you are very protective of that self-image. You're latching on to all the evidence that supports this view of yourself, and you're discarding all the evidence that opposes it. And you're starting to get preemptive about it, deciding ahead of time that you're not good enough, why would they like you, so why bother trying. That road doesn't lead anywhere nice. Don't go there.


Please find a good therapist you can talk this out with. Please do it. Please. I know people here suggest therapy for every little thing and it just becomes so much background noise, but I am not one of those people and yet you really need to be in therapy. Not because you're crazy, or broken, or anything like that, because you're not. What you are is mistaken. And you need someone who can help you find your way out of this mistaken view of yourself, and strangers on the internet are clearly not going to be able to do that for you. You've been doing this to yourself for too long, and even just based only on your posting history it is becoming a self-perpetuating cycle and it is getting worse the longer you let it go on.
posted by ook at 7:35 PM on February 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


First of all, I am sorry you're going through this. I've been through similar straits and I know how much it sucks.

One thing that I've noticed is that deep loneliness is hard to address because there's no quick fix. Real intimacy--friendship, that is--is cultivated over time, through many hundreds of tiny interactions. There's a lot of trial and error, and while there are some general rules of social behavior, there is no real formula for friendship. Which you are learning the hard way (I think everyone learns this the hard way).

What's insidious about it is that because we are social creatures, it's very easy to view our social failures as proof of our inadequacy, especially since ostracism IS one way that people communicate. But loneliness, however painful, is NOT NECESSARILY proof of outright ostracism.

That said, loneliness can beget greater loneliness because it can bring out two kinds of alienating behavior: neediness and withdrawal. By neediness I mean that people who are deeply lonely may seek intimacy too quickly and demand to much of their acquaintances, which is alienating because people like equal relationships--they don't like being in situations where they feel pressured to give more than they are looking to receive. On the flip side, loneliness can also beget an extreme guardedness. You may feel so vulnerable and oppressed by your loneliness that you cannot bring yourself to really engage with the people who DO spend time with you because you cannot bear to take another rejection (or what you perceive as rejection). As a result, you don't allow yourself to connect with those people and never cross the gap from acquaintance to friendship.

These are both totally understandable, even natural, coping mechanisms, but ultimately they are counterproductive because they both interfere with real intimacy. I think ook's advice is good. I think you could get a lot out of therapy, because I think you've sort of painted yourself into a corner.

Therapy is a hard step to take for a lot of people, because it's difficult to separate out our behaviors from our intentions, and somehow when our behaviors do not achieve the desired result, we begin to think it was our intentions that are flawed somehow. I think this is what's going on with you. You are NOT wrong to want friends, or have fun, or be frustrated or hurt by your social difficulties. I do, however, think that maybe you're sabotaging yourself in an effort to protect yourself from further pain.

Here's a parable for you. I once sprained my ankle. I took care of it and it healed, but then a few months later my back began to hurt like crazy and I couldn't figure out why. Finally my doctor realized that in order to protect my injured ankle, even after it healed, I had changed the way I walked. That guarding and that compensation for the old injury had led to mechanical problems that hurt my back. I think this is something like what has happened to you--that a coping strategy that had helped you through a bad patch has become entrenched and is now becoming a problem in and of itself.

What those things are, and how to address them, is something a therapist can help you figure out.
Please seek out that help. Good luck.
posted by elizeh at 8:17 PM on February 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


Please see a therapist?
posted by oceanjesse at 9:03 PM on February 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to say that so many of us are asking you to see a therapist, to please see a therapist because you deserve a better life than this. You deserve to be happy and you deserve to have solid friendships.

This should come with time. But, in the mean time: you need to work on yourself and your framing. This isn't something that can easily be changed. But, seeing a therapist will help out tremendously if you find the right therapist for you. I know because I am working on improving my mental health in more areas than one. It really helps.

...

I hope one day you can be a better friend to yourself. I also hope that things get better for you. Know that a lot of people are posting here because we care.
posted by livinglearning at 9:22 PM on February 12, 2012


I have a friend (who I do like! she's a friend!) whose contributions to conversation are almost always 1) work-related (and good!, but there's only so much shop-talk to have) and then segue into 2) exaggerated doom-and-gloom about her personal life. Honestly, and in a totally affectionate way, she's Eeyore. Her life is a soap opera of never-ending tragedy. And some of my other friends don't like to hang out with her much because of it. I'm pretty sure she's oblivious that she's coming off that way. It's just the way she frames things. I, personally, find it quite funny and it keeps my own potential mopiness in check. She, in turn, puts up with the fact that I find her perceived misfortune funny. Which is a pretty big hurdle, honestly, so I'm glad she's willing to overlook it.

I guess I'm saying: it's coming through loud and clear just in your text that you're depressed. It is probably coming off in person, too. so therapy will sort both issues. Also, some people will like you anyway, even if you don't sort it. And, as always, friendship is a two-way street.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:40 PM on February 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's no secret to being likeable. Anybody can be likeable as long as they are nice to others and have a positive attitude. That's it! There's no special set of characteristics that you need to have, no super-high IQ, super-fit body, or whatever.

By telling yourself that you are unlikeable, you are setting yourself up not to be liked. But that's because of your own attitude, not because of who you are. It's really not a complicated question. If you have a smile on your face, if you respect yourself and others, if you act kind towards others, you will be liked. I promise.

Now, that doesn't mean everyone will become a close friend. But eventually you will meet people who you connect with on a deeper level who will become close friends.

But you have to stop the negative narratives. Really, you are no different from any of us. Stop thinking of yourself as some strange anomaly.Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is likeable. You are no different.

I think you need to work on some cognitive therapy, and in changing your negative thouhgts and attitudes, before any of the advice about making friends is going to sink in.
posted by bearette at 9:55 PM on February 12, 2012


Response by poster: Hi. It's me again. I'm really sorry if I upset anyone earlier. I promise I'm not trying to throw a pity party - I just don't know this stuff and had to learn it all the hard way, and right now I'm in a weird place where my social life doesn't match my professional life at all. (That's another reason why I'm posting here, because it'd be a career slash-and-burn if anyone ever connected this to me.) Some responses:

re: DestinationUnknown - Yes, that's exactly what I'm afraid of. I don't ever want to be a person who gets called "the villain of the piece." (Or I just thought of another one: "The Trap," from this.) I think the details about being loud and obnoxious are just that, details - there are many reasons why people get disliked.

re: vividpostcard - The thing about inviting people places is that they don't show up, like when I tried to invite people to my birthday party. That's the last time I ever tried to invite people anywhere. Plus, then there's the whole issue of where to invite people, because even though this city presumably has so many things to do, only a small subset are okay to like, and I haven't been here long enough to know which. Imagine if you invited friends out to a fratty, gross meat-market bar, or really cheesy Irish pub for tourists or something, and they hear that you like the place and think you're out of touch or uncool or sleazy or worse. Now imagine not knowing the difference. It's terrifying. Even something as small as saying I like a restaurant or venue is terrifying. There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know.
posted by dekathelon at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2012


I highly recommend David Burns' books. He has lots of exercises about how to change negative thoughts. "Intimate Connections" in particular is all about making friends and intimate relationships, and has been very helpful to me. If you do the exercises it will really help.
posted by bearette at 10:04 PM on February 12, 2012


How close were you to people you invited to your party? I know it totally sucks to have no-one show up but that doesn't necessarily mean they don't like you, it could mean that, but its not guaranteed. If these people don't know you well, they might not have been comfortable attending your birthday party, its a lot more 'intimate' than a casual night out at a bar/movie and then there's the gift-giving... (or whether or not to bring a gift) if they're really just acquaintances its possible they expected you'd have close friends who would attend and that their presence would not be missed.

When you say your social life doesn't match you professional life, do you mean you're well liked at work? Or just that you are more successful professionally?

Many people have suggested you get therapy and you really should consider it, but if you can't or wont (I understand there could be financial concerns), will you at least get a book? I'm sure someone can make a specific suggestion but I really think you could benefit from some CBT because this fear and negativity is controlling you. Its ruining your life. Your fear of being disliked could be the very reason that you're disliked (if you are disliked) or can't form friendships (if your fear is preventing you from letting people get to know you).
posted by missmagenta at 11:36 PM on February 12, 2012


If you want to like yourself and you want others to like you, you need to be likable.
  • Be positive, not negative. You don't have to say every negative thing that pops into your head. You don't have to hide your enthusiasms. (Unless they're really creepy enthusiasms, in which case you need to develop new enthusiasms..)
  • Be healthy, not unhealthy. Exercise. Eat right. Brush your teeth. Have a shower. Wear clean clothes. Shake off that cruft and start feeling good.
  • Be active, not passive. Do things. Don't just play video games and check Facebook. Make something. Go somewhere.
  • Be helpful and generous, not helpless and needy. If you're meeting up at a friend's house, bring more alcohol than you intend to drink, more snacks than you intend to eat, wash some dishes or run some errands, have a good time and help others have a good time. Small monetary investments can earn you social rewards.
  • Arrive to the party on time (or fashionably late) and leave early, don't arrive first and leave last unless you are certain you are the host's best friend and confidant. Make a focused appearance and then vanish into the night. "I had a great time. A thousand thanks for inviting me. Gotta go now. I hope to see you again soon. Bye." And then if you don't really have somewhere else to go, go get yourself a taco or go home and watch a movie or something.
  • Do interesting things. Go somewhere. Learn something. Promote something good. When people think about you, are you that mopey dude who likes Bewitched reruns or are you that dude who works for Amnesty International or goes to the Yukon every year or teaches English in exchange for Chinese lessons?
  • Be interested in others, not just interested in yourself. When people talk about themselves, actually listen and think about what they are saying. The next time you meet them, maybe you'll want to ask how the X is going or how the trip to Y went.
  • Be attractive, not unattractive. Yeah, that one's hard if you weren't born beautiful, but everyone has a lazy unattractive side and a best-you-can-be side. Put an effort in, especially when the rest of the group you're going out with is hoping to rustle up some romance, not just have a quiet drink.

posted by pracowity at 1:12 AM on February 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


Hi dekathelon, it's me again. I just wanted to comment directly on the way missmagenta's been talking to you, because I think it might be helpful to get someone else's view on what's happening. She's been extremely unkind at points, and also rather unfair, doing what's basically the equivalent of yelling at someone to stop crying. At the same time, she's been telling you that this is all for your own good and advising you to get therapy. I know it would be very easy to take from this that even someone who cares about you can think of you as 'pathetic' and 'overdramatic', which can be a pretty pernicious belief to allow to worm its way into your heart. I don't think she means to do this to you, by the way; I think it's just a massive failure of empathy.

How I would interpret what's happening is that your circumstances are making her feel uncomfortable. Some people really are uncomfortable with other people's suffering, to the extent that they want to deal with it by any means. This is really problematic when it's coupled with a lack of actual empathy that goes beyond 'pain - bad'. Their efforts end up being divided between recommending things they believe 'work' - most commonly CBT therapy or some other kind of professional help - and just flat out telling the person not to be upset, gently at first and then more and more angrily. Sometimes there is a defense-mechanism element to this, because they don't want to think specifically about the things that are making the person upset. Look at this sentence:

its natural to wonder what they're saying about you when you're not there but you can't let it consume you.

I would ask you whether, as written, it makes sense. It doesn't, right? She asserts 'you can't let it consume you'. Why? Because then you would not be, are not, functional. But why do you have to be functional? The flaw in this is that you can't just yell at someone to stop thinking about something. If something's real, it's there. I'm not saying you should feel the way you do - I definitely think you shouldn't - but I don't think that it's wrong to feel the way you do, I don't think it makes you a failure as a person if you can't switch the part of your brain that recognises this sort of thing off. When missmagenta says 'You can't let it consume you', it isn't a statement of fact, it's an order. She is ordering you around and you know it doesn't make sense, but you're frightened now because she is yelling at you and calling you names. And I know - I wrote about it upthread - that in a way it doesn't matter that this is unfair, plus it's difficult to have an opinion on what's fair when there are people yelling at you from all directions that you are wrong about everything and a crazy person and you need to change, immediately, and this is unacceptable. I mean, that shit is frustrating and not helpful; I know it's not helpful, and I've been on the receiving end of it and it was a horrible experience.

(Something about that gaslighting thing, where people tell you that you're crazy and wrong, and when you say 'why are you angry with me', they tell you that they aren't angry, and that you thinking that they're angry is evidence of how crazy you are. I have sometimes been able to get people to admit, after a long time, that yes, they were angry after all, but they didn't want to admit it to themselves and so they went into furious you're-crazy denial. Sometimes what is at fault is not the instrument but your interpretation of the instrument.)

Look. As far as I am concerned, you are valuable. You have inherent value. I say this as someone outside you who has not met you, but I've read what you're saying here and I don't think you are pathetic or overdramatic or any of those things. But you don't have to take what I'm saying too seriously. Maybe I just want to say that because I identify so much with your situation. Maybe I'm just another loser and it doesn't matter what I think. All I know is right now I want to hug you and tell you everything will be OK, and I can't do either of those things. I want to roll back time and have missmagenta and others not tell you stuff that makes you want to roll up into a little ball and cry, and I also want there to be a world where people don't say things like that to or about other people, ever. I don't think it makes you a bad person if this upsets you; I actually think you've been dealing with it all remarkably well. But that's just me.
posted by Acheman at 1:13 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


You need to learn to live with the fact that some people will dislike you for reasons you can't control and sometimes cannot even perceive.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:44 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would you want to hang out with anyone who cared what kind of bar, restaurant, or club you mentioned you liked? If they are seriously being vocally judgmental of people who merely suggest a venue for a social engagement, they are assholes. Not everyone is like this.

I totally understand your worry that you will invite people someplace that turns out not so great--that's happened to me. But it's not going to ruin a friendship.
posted by chaiminda at 4:28 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your idea to invite people was good! But to abirthday party, not so good. Birthday parties aren't casual enough for a lot of people. Aim for something more eventlike - a gig or movie or whatever. Something cool where people might like to go anyway but haven't yet. The coolness will rub off on you, the instigator. And if nobody comes? You'll still get to see a cool gig.
Making this effort (even if it doesn't work all the time) will significantly reduce the idea that you're just some hanger on with no iideas of your own. It will make you a person around which people can see fun things.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:52 AM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know.

This one is easy. Instead of trying to find the places that everyone will find tasteful and cool -- which don't exist -- you go to and invite people to the places that you like. If someone else doesn't like that place -- which will happen sometimes, because no place pleases every single person -- then that person may not be well suited to being your friend. (or you just have different taste, which is fine.) And the other people already going to the places you like, well, you have something in common because they like some of the things you do.

You're burying your own judgement and taste under your fears of what others will think of you for having those opinions.
posted by ook at 5:56 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Again, listen to ook. Friendship comes from spending time with people you LIKE, not people you want to BE LIKE. There are no rules about how to be. There are some rules for how not to get excoriated by assholes, I suppose, but anyone who tries to live by them would lead miserable, limited lives.

For what it's worth, I met one of my best friends in the world in a cheesy Irish tourist pub in NYC. At a friend's birthday party. We're both successful, socially competent ladies. Stop judging the experience by what nasty people might say about it, and just see if there's something you'll enjoy. Allow yourself to enjoy it, whether or not someone else enjoys it.

You have to take changes and accept that you're going to be judged by the decisions you make. We all are. That judgement is not the end of the world. Learning how to accept and cope with this is another thing that therapy can help you with.

I'm glad that you wrote this question, because I think you have articulated a lot of fears that SO MANY others feel but are too scared to say out loud. But I hope you get some help.
posted by elizeh at 6:19 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even something as small as saying I like a restaurant or venue is terrifying. There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know.

It is almost entirely your choice whether you want to be this kind of person, and/or be around this type of person. If it doesn't come naturally to you, it's going to be really hard to keep this up. And it does keep up. It's not like these people stop at a certain point - there are 75 year olds who still have to go to the right restaurant or the right party, who always wear the right clothes and look down on those who don't. I couldn't live my life that way, personally, I couldn't even live my early 20s that way. I'm sure there's good advice to be had here or other places about how to know what's cool, always stay on top of trends, etc. But remember it's a choice. You can totally get off that train if you think you'd be happy not on it.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 6:34 AM on February 13, 2012


Yeah, I'd like to clarify that by "cool" events I mean those that YOU think are cool. Could be a lecture on asteroids if that's what you like. It's not so important to impress everyone as to find out those people who share your interests!
posted by Omnomnom at 6:39 AM on February 13, 2012


Of all the people I've met who ever admitted the thought "Basically, I don't know whether I'm just terrified people don't like me", the biggest flaw any of them ever had was that they were terrified people didn't like them.

No matter who you are, someone out there doesn't like you. Meet more people, and you'll eventually find folks that click. It sounds like you're in a new city/new social scene, and things like that *always* take time to fall into place; about two years, if I had to guess from experience.

And if things really don't click after two years, yes, you really can pick your best friend - even if they're not that great of a friend - and ask them what the hell you're doing wrong, or ask "hey, what can I do better as a person and a friend?" They might not give you a straight answer, but someone eventually will give you enough of an answer to piece it together.
posted by talldean at 8:07 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


re: vividpostcard - The thing about inviting people places is that they don't show up, like when I tried to invite people to my birthday party. That's the last time I ever tried to invite people anywhere. Plus, then there's the whole issue of where to invite people, because even though this city presumably has so many things to do, only a small subset are okay to like, and I haven't been here long enough to know which. Imagine if you invited friends out to a fratty, gross meat-market bar, or really cheesy Irish pub for tourists or something, and they hear that you like the place and think you're out of touch or uncool or sleazy or worse. Now imagine not knowing the difference. It's terrifying. Even something as small as saying I like a restaurant or venue is terrifying. There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know.

Okay. Some things (note: I read your prior question to get some context) -

The birthday party is proof of nothing. I know it must have sucked, because lord knows the whole throwing-a-party-that-no-one-shows-up-to is a major phobia for a lot of people, but there are so many confounding factors to this that you don't seem to take into consideration, such as:
-- You are new to this city. Maybe you are still on a friendly acquaintance-level* with many of your invitees, which means they didn't feel that good-friend obligation to show up to the shindig
-- How are you handling these invites? When did you send them out? How were they worded? There are so many ways that this could have contributed to things, but consider that the bare minimum leeway for sending out invites to a casual birthday dinner (which is not an all-night invite) is a week in advance. Party parties may require two or three. Anything shorter than that risks conflicting schedules...and even a week might not work for a lot of busy people.
-- Was this a big, throwdown event (Party of the Century!) or just a casual dinner or cocktail thingy? I've reached the age where Parties of the Century! are reserved for special occasions only, as my friends are bouncing down the new-parent trail. Parents go to bed early. Parents have to get up early. Parents worry about whether the babysitter is letting their shiny new baby drown in the tub. Even if they yearn desperately for my PotC!, they can't often attend.
-- If your birthday is near any major holiday (like mine) you have to plan accordingly. I can't expect anyone to ever show up to my party if I hold it the day of my birthday. It's just not happening. So, I do things the week before.
-- There are any number of work-related, religion-related, family-related, identity-related, culture-related reasons for why they didn't show up. These details aren't addressed in your questions, but they may very well be the explanation.

The experience was traumatic for you because of the high stakes nature of the event - it was a whole party, so understandably! - but still isn't the smoking gun proof of your friendlessness that you might think it is. Maybe it would be better to ease into these events: invite one person out for coffee. Invite a couple to go on the gallery stroll with you. Let people know that you'll be checking out Show X, and invite them to tag along. If you're feeling burned by the party, then don't always go for high-stakes events. Start small and casual, and ease into larger things.

About rest of your comment, you seem to be very worried about, and concerned by, "The Right Way" to socialize. You mention byzantine rules. You're afraid of restaurant selections. You don't know "the right way" to like "the right things."

There is no right way.
If you like knitting in coffee shops, invite people to join you. Invite new acquaintances to join you. Invite cool people you meet at the yarn store to join you. Or if you like hiking, invite people to join you. Invite new acquaintances to join you. Or if you like bad B-movies, invite people to check out the new midnight showing at the rep theater with you. Or - whatever. Keep these invites loose and flexible. Don't feel bad if some people only attend sometimes, or not everyone shows up**. Try out new things. Be adventurous. Invite people on your adventures. Eventually, someone is going to realize your adventures mesh with their adventures, and then they'll be like, "yay! adventure buddy!" And keep your eyes open for adventure buddies of your own.

There is no right way.
You are getting yourself worked up over a situation that doesn't exist.
I know you are probably tired of people saying the same thing on here, but seriously: consider therapy. Not because you are broken; you're not. Not because there is anything wrong with you; there isn't. But because you seem to be making judgements about others, situations, and yourself that don't really reflect the experience of a lot of people. And because you seem concerned about your ability to navigate interpersonal interactions. Which may or may not be a reflection of how things really are.

But the nice thing about therapists is that they give you actual tools to navigate these situations, and help walk you through the ways you end up sabotaging yourself (or, additionally, will walk you through the ways that factors are beyond your control - like the party example I worked through - and will help remind you of external limitations and situations that have nothing to do with who you are personally, but that can impact what happens to you). Ah, hell - a therapist can probably help you figure out how to send invitations. Don't laugh; given the proliferation of wedding magazines that revolve around that very topic, it should be apparent that sending invites is not some natural skill that everyone has. You have to learn it. Maybe the therapist can help you with that.

You may very well have some awkwardness that you are contending with, or may run the tendency of misreading social cues. But I bet that the situation is far more likely to be the result of misinterpreting things that are happening to you, which you then use to cast judgment on yourself.

* Friendly acquaintances can become friends in short order, given some time and care.

** You know what? In our friend circle, we have a friend. Let's call him Ted. Ted is great. Everyone LOVES Ted. For real. The thing, though, is I know he feels sad, because few people/no one regularly shows up to his invites. This is not because we don't like Ted. We LOVE Ted. But it's because he has the tendency to send out a mass text at 6 PM on Friday, inviting us out get wings later at the restaurant by his house. Thing is, by the time we've all read the text: my partner and I will be getting dressed for that night's symphony we've already bought ticket for; our friend Joe will be out of town; Ann and Jim can't find a sitter for little Suzy; Pat and Terry already told other friends they'd meet them for cocktails; and a few other people are exhausted from work, know that Ted lives WAY out in the suburbs, and are just too tired to bear the thought of driving all the way out there, only to have to drive all the way back at midnight or 1 AM.

So we don't show up. Maybe a therapist would point out to Ted that his method of communicating his social needs doesn't leave people a lot of room to respond positively, but that is because of logistics. Not because Ted is bad or broken or a friendless fool. That is not the case. We LOVE Ted, after all.

posted by vivid postcard at 9:41 AM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reading your last responses, I was suddenly filled with doubt regarding the course these threads have taken, and reminded of this AskMe quote: "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."

Are you?

You sound so terrified. And we've all been operating from the assumption that it's all in your mind, because most people really are rather tolerant and accepting and don't warrant such social anxieties - but now I'm suddenly starting to wonder if the problem actually might be the crowd you hang out with and try to befriend.

Are they nice? Are they kind? We've been doing our best trying to reassure you how you should just relax and be your own, unique self (and you should!), but maybe you actually hang out with shallow, judgemental people who'd actually look down on you for choosing an unhip hangout venue.

In that case, you don't have to find ways to fit in and make yourself acceptable. You'll need to ditch these depressing, immature people. Maybe spend some time gathering your energies and just liking yourself (yeah, there it is again, but it's a skill you'll also need to relearn if you've been wounded by other people). And then, in time, find some nice, quirky, accepting people who will dig you just the way you are, gaffes and clumsiness and anxieties and uncoolness and all. Embrace all those things, all you really are, and let that guide the people you choose to have in your life.
posted by sively at 12:37 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


hello. I am you. and I can't stand it and I live in a bubble of self-loathing (and may or may not be the object of everyone i know's loathing/disrespect) and it sucks. I am sorry you are getting some of the responses you are getting because this is a very real thing and it's not a ploy for attention or pity (SERIOUSLY if ONE MORE PERSON tells me that i'm gonna... go inside and sit down.) memail me if you like, but I doubt I will be very helpful*.

I saw a therapist (four actually) and they have all said I am depressed. so that might be a thing for you to think about. (I'm working on treatment of various stripes but it is slow. I'm most likely going to go on medication.)

you are awesome for putting up the effort, and if it is sincere and you are sincerely showing or trying to show an interest in other people, then I think it's the people, not you.

Re the tacky bar thing: a friend who likes you would say something about it - like jokingly say 'you want to go *there*?' or 'why don't we go to XYZcoolbar instead?' another tack to try is ask a week or so in advance, 'hey i have off work/class, do you guys want to go out for a (drink|movie|outing) next week? i'd like to try ABCtackybar, I hear they have excellent frito pie, is that place any good? no? where do you think we should go?'

I deleted my facebook and stopped leaving the house because this stuff stressed me out so badly. i'm seriously a bit jealous of you for having the strength to (at least temporarily) suppress all the shit your brain is giving you (I *think*, and don't quote me on this, but I think that normal people normally do not have to deal with these sorts of feelings, they just exist without them somehow) enough to go out, do things, and invite people to things. I think you should keep doing that, and with different people.

* I believe this fully, but I cannot control it and so I must disclaimer it
posted by sarahj at 1:08 PM on February 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know.

[to one friend]

you: hey, i'm trying to get a few people to go out together on saturday, night. do you have any plans?

friend: sounds fun. where did you want to go?

you: hmm, actually, i don't know many cool bars in our neighborhood. do you know of a few places that might be good?
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:22 PM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I just learned that some friends, including one friend I thought was fairly close and liked me, went out last night without inviting me or even telling me, which is another thing I'm not allowed to be upset about or even bring up."

Yes you are. I know this feeling too, it is the most ugggggh feeling in the world, and it makes my 13-year-old OMG AM I POPULAR sub-lizard brain go berserk with anxiety. But, look, in addition to the fact that sometimes this just happens (TO EVERYONE), you are absolutely allowed to be upset about it AND to bring it up. Now, I think the difference between immaturity and maturity here is HOW you bring it up: I would say (and I have said!), casually, to one of the organizing folks, one-on-one, "Hey, when you all went to the pottery-painting class on Saturday, I would have loved to have gone. If you go again, would you let me know? I love that kind of thing." 99% of the time people say, "Oh, gosh, I didn't have your e-mail," or "I had no idea you liked that," or "Sure, I'll totally invite you next time!" You can also INSTEAD say, either to the person who organized it or to someone in the group you're close to, in private, "I saw that everyone went to Postino's on Friday, and I was a little hurt to be left out." Sometimes it's easier to approach the organizer; sometimes just someone in the group who can kind-of advocate for you in the future. That requires courage because you're admitting vulnerability, and you might get hurt, but as long as you bring it up privately and without an accusatory tone, you can totally say and do that.

What isn't so advisable is to Bring The Drama and turn it into A Thing. But speaking privately with an individual friend about your desire to be included is absolutely "allowed." It does not make you a bad person.

(To be clear: Doing it over and over again would cross a line, but clearly speaking up about your emotions and desires is not a bad thing.)

"Plus, then there's the whole issue of where to invite people, because even though this city presumably has so many things to do, only a small subset are okay to like, and I haven't been here long enough to know which. Imagine if you invited friends out to a fratty, gross meat-market bar, or really cheesy Irish pub for tourists or something, and they hear that you like the place and think you're out of touch or uncool or sleazy or worse. Now imagine not knowing the difference. It's terrifying. Even something as small as saying I like a restaurant or venue is terrifying. There are so many unspoken, byzantine rules of taste that everyone but me seems to just know."

If this is really a make-or-break issue that people are willing to friend-dump you over? YOU NEED DIFFERENT FRIENDS. (In short, I agree with sively.) Once you're out of college you're definitionally out of touch, and once you're over 30 you can no longer be "cool." People who keep chasing these things, and acting like mean girls in high school besides, are usually kind-of rotten people. I love lots of super-lame things and I love them unironically, and I know next to nothing about most types of things that are trendy. (Frankly, being trendy seems exhausting.) Most people adults find enthusiasm attractive, even if it's enthusiasm for something lame, and may view the object of your enthusiasm with amused toleration but will admire you for being enthusiastic. If your putative friends spend all their time judging what is cool and what is lame, they need better hobbies and you need better friends.

"complain about it later behind your back."

Here is the complete list of people I complain about behind their backs, but that's only because I refuse to be friends with them any longer so I can't complain to their faces:
The girl who was engaged to my good friend and dumped him by getting caught having sex with someone else
A woman who attempted to break up my marriage
A particularly crazy woman who threatened other people's children

Here are the sorts of people I roll my eyes at but like anyway:
The guy who is constantly telling us what music we can and cannot like
The girl with such restrictive eating habits that her calorie count dictates what restaurants we're allowed to go to and we can only go to chain restaurants because local places don't post calorie counts for meals
The breast-feeding activist who cannot see a baby anywhere without launching into a screed on the evils of formula (and there are a lot of babies in the world)
The guy who LARPs and constantly tells us about his latest pair of tights with vast excitement
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:47 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


You know, something that makes a lot of unhelpful attitudes so hard to overcome is that it's possible to find grains of truth in them. For instance, ordinary people really do sometimes say mean things about other people behind their backs, scapegoat them, or judge them to be annoying losers. I don't think it happens nearly as often as you seem to believe, but no one can honestly tell you that it never happens. The answer is not to attempt mental gymnastics where you try to convince yourself that your concerns are totally invalid and unfounded.

Instead, be open to the idea that you've been thinking in overly rigid, black-and-white ways, at least about the social world. Work on seeing more shades of grey, more nuances, more contradictions that co-exist with each other. Take yourself and other people less seriously. Vivid postcard gave you a great example of this kind of thinking when she described how she was shut out at a social event. She attributed some kind of realistic thought process to the other people (shades of grey), observed that at that particular time, she was just too tired to turn the situation around (nuance), and finally, showed a somewhat comic view of the situation by calling it "awkwardpants."

Another technique that really helps me: observe how some other people's negative, defeatist world views - world views that you don't share - affect those people's lives. Notice how they actually have some legitimate point that they just focus too intently on, to the extent that they miss other things that would contradict their view, or where they fail to see the big picture. See how their fears become self-fulfilling prophesies. Relate this pattern to your own thinking, and consider what you can learn from it.
posted by Mila at 9:42 PM on February 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you have spare time and energy (i don't know the particulars of your work life) i'd recommend some volunteer care work.

When i first moved away from home i was in a slump (what the fuck do i do now i cant be an adult i suck) i had a couple of shit jobs then got a job working with adults with learning difficulties. As well as sorting out my money problems the job had the unexpected effect of sorting my head out. Part of it was meeting the compassionate people who worked with me but a bigger part was having my own situation put into perspective.

I was supporting people who couldn't preform even the simplest tasks for themselves, people who were completely dependent on others to exist in the most basic way. The effect this had was to take me out of my own situation and give me some perspective. It also made me realise that i was full of potential, i had a mind and the ability to change and learn. Also providing that level of support, helping someone to exist, is good for the soul. The other reason i'd recommend working with people with learning difficulties (especially the more severe end of the spectrum) is the relationships you form have a very refreshing simplicity. It's great to spend time with someone who doesn't give two shits about how you look, what your wearing, or how cool you are as long as you treat them well.

I hope this might be of help and doesn't come across as flippant, i don't mean to trivialise your problems or imply that if you just see some people with 'real' problems yours will all disappear.

The main thing i wanted to say is use your introspection make it purposeful, you have the ability to change your situation and being around people who don't can be a very visceral reminder of how attainable and profound the ability to change can be.
posted by chelegonian at 3:54 PM on February 18, 2012


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