I’m incredibly insecure about friendships.
This is post-Grandma’s-salon, age 13.
Why? One of my best friends asked me to explain the other day, and that’s a really good question (especially because I’ve known and loved her for 20 awesome years!). I grew up in a really supportive immediate family, and still have a lot of support, not to mention a group of amazing friends who are always there for me.
However, there are two facets that have really contributed to my reality of insecurity.
First, my therapist has posited that something occurred to stick my mind in the 12-15 year old phase, when adolescents really care about what other people are thinking about them, and their entire focus is outward that way. There weren’t any serious or traumatic events in my life during that period (other than middle and high school, which, traumatic enough, please see the middle-school photos), but some part of my psyche is still stuck there. I had pretty low self esteem back then, and although it’s much improved by this point in my life, it still exists around friendships.
Please note the oversized Disney character sweatshirt. Awkward.
Second, I had two weird friend break-ups in college. I don’t want to talk about them in much detail here, because these two people still exist and there’s a chance, however slim, that they might read this. I want to be respectful, and be clear that although I’m describing my side, I’m quite sure that I am at least half responsible for both friendships ending.
But here’s the outline: I became friends with Friend #1 at the beginning of college, and we had a lot in common, so immediately became very close. When we began to grow apart two years later, she also started dating a new guy. Many issues/events ensued, and finally we had a blow-up argument, I defensively and untruthfully said, “Whatever, #1, I don’t care anymore.” She followed that conversation with a long email about the fact that I didn’t care is why she didn’t want to know me anymore, and then listed about 20 other things she disliked about me.
I know for sure that I’m not blameless in this scenario, but the aftermath was pretty difficult for me to deal with. Our group of friends was still friends with her and the boyfriend, and it led to awkward moments, like a birthday party being held for him at the off-campus house I rented with four of our mutual friends. I didn’t know if I should stay or run away, so I ended up poised, terrified, behind my desk in our computer area, looking at cute dogs on the internet with another friend (…who went on to stick by me for the whole evening).
So I was very defensive and untrusting, and that led to the demise of another, shorter-lived friendship with another person in my social group, Friend #2. In that situation, I feel like I was probably even more than 50% responsible, since I had sort of pulled inside myself and was not treating people very well as a [useless] defense mechanism against being hurt again.
As I cleaned up after that fallout, it occurred to me that there was something very wrong with me when it came to friendships. After all, if you have two similar events very close together, and you’re the only common denominator, the conclusion has to be that there’s something wrong with you, right? I still feel that way, although I’ve forgiven myself.
What’s worst: my skin, my braces, or the fact that I apparently couldn’t fully open my eyes? Or that mask.
For the past ten years, I thought about both of these incidents all the time, and brought them up constantly, rehashed events, tried to assign blame and figure out exactly where I went wrong so I wouldn’t repeat my mistakes. I recently casually contacted both #1 and #2 in an effort to smooth over the past and help myself get past all the regrets. I wanted to apologize and just sort of mentally return to neutral territory with those people. With #2, this worked great for my brain. We became friends on Facebook and I really enjoy following what she’s up to: I seriously admire her and the area she’s working in. I really just love feeling like I don’t have to think about that past event anymore, or be upset about it.
With #1, however, it wasn’t quite as smooth. We messaged back and forth a few times, but it was stiff and awkward. Again, I didn’t expect to fall back into the very close friendship we once had, but I had hoped that it would be a little easier. When I went back to reply to her last message, I found that she’d closed her Facebook account, so I had no way of contacting her again (other than going through mutual friends, which I didn’t feel comfortable doing). Because it didn’t go well, this experience only served to amplify my regrets and rehashes.
About six months after that, out of nowhere, I was in the middle of cleaning my house, when somehow the idea of visualizing letting go of this issue occurred to me. I guess I’ve read about that type of exercise before, but I’ve certainly never tried it. I’m still unclear where the thought came from. So I dropped down onto the sofa in my library, closed my eyes, and started: I felt all that anger and bitterness and I wrapped it up into a cohesive package, and then I visualized removing it from my heart area [aggh this is cheesy], holding it in my hands, and then watched my progression through my house, out the door, down the stairs, across the parking lot to the giant condo dumpster. I saw myself type in the code to open the dumpster door, and then threw that boiling package of anger and defensiveness and bitterness into the blackness, slamming the door behind it.
14: A painful, awkward year. (P.S. This is not my baby; I meant the severe acne was painful.)
And this is amazing, it’s been three or four weeks and I don’t feel those emotions of regret or defensiveness anymore. There’s still a bit of regret, but when I focus on it I get distracted pretty easily–my brain just doesn’t care to think about that whole situation anymore. Can it be that easy?
This is truly one of the biggest psychological breakthroughs I’ve had, personally, and I feel really powerful after it.
My remaining issues are that I worry I’m never good enough to be someone’s friend, or that if I do something wrong I’ll be dumped immediately. As a couple of my college friendships have petered out, I’ve become even more insecure. My mental script goes something like this: “Why don’t they talk to me anymore? Was I an awful person in college, so they’ve decided I’m not worth the time? Maybe I’m just not a quality friend at all. So who will fade out next?” And on and on and on. Exhausting.
I don’t want to be insecure, or afraid of my own thoughts, or angry at myself for invented slights, or constantly trying to decipher someone else’s actions or non-actions. I want to concentrate on the people who love me right now, and make that obvious through their words and actions every single day.
I’m going to try the visualization exercise with my remaining insecurities and hang-ups, and work on changing my focus. I’m sure my friends will thank me, because if it works as well as it originally did, they’ll get a break from my constant doubts and questions.
Do you guys have friend insecurities? How do you deal with them?