Friendships are important. Having inner circles of friendships where you can relate with one another, be real, and share feelings and experiences are incredibly good to have in your life. Have you ever been facing a situation and felt so alone? You wished you could talk to someone. Share your heart. Find encouragement because they too share in your struggles. Isn't it so true that you can connect well with an individual when they have gone through or are going through similar things as you? I was a shy, homeschooled, terribly awkward child. Getting out and making friends was not an easy feat for me and it only became more difficult as I got older since creating friendships became more complicated than running up to a fellow small person and saying, "Hi! Wanna play with me?". At the age of 9, my mom prompted me to take up some kind of activity. Dance lessons sparked my interest when we visited a dance studio and I gazed through the viewing window at all the pretty ballerinas all done up with their leotards (sometimes they wore skirts!) , ballet shoes (with ribbons!), and slick back buns (with flowers!). There are two things I learned at dance class (besides dancing of course). One was that I LOVED to dance. Two was that girls are mean. Very mean.
I got bullied. Not nearly at the same level of severity as many others go through, but it was hurtful enough that I can acknowledge that it was indeed bullying. I faced condescending remarks and felt like an outcast. "You wouldn't get it. You're homeschooled.", "You probably don't know this stuff.", "You're so skinny.", "You'll never have a boyfriend." Girls would close their circles as I tried to join. They'd laugh and whisper and stop as I came close. Not all girls were cruel of course. I did make a couple little friends. But you know that saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me"? That is certainly one of the most untrue statements you can say. Those words that were said to me planted poisonous seeds of insecurity, self hatred, and depression into my heart. I began to cave in on myself. I believed I was worthless. Not worth knowing. Not valuable. The rejection I faced as a kid and right through to early adulthood was so very challenging. Sometimes I would get to know people and think they cared for me or that we could be good friends but it turned out they really had no interest in pursuing any kind of relationship with me. Those hurt. Because I would feel so hopeful only to have that hope squashed. The aching desire to belong somewhere and truly feel like I was worth something was always there. I promise I will get out of the dumps here! Something eventually happened… can you guess what it is? I made friends! Woohoo! Now I'm talking real good genuine friends. But now I had to work through many toxic thoughts and feelings that showed up. Because after experiencing so much rejection and heartache, I found I almost didn't trust the friendships around me. I would leave interactions constantly thinking, "They probably don't actually like me. They're just being nice." I found that I was extremely insecure in my relationships. Even though I had great people in my life, I still had these beliefs in my heart that I am not valuable or worth knowing. These lies were hindering my ability to truly allow myself to belong somewhere. The good thing is I was able to recognize this part of myself and do some work. And to be honest, I'm still cleaning up the poison. I still have toxic thoughts pop in my head and I do still spiral into self induced loneliness. But I am trying to grow! And I know that I am.
My purpose for sharing this today is to reach out to you who have experienced or are experiencing similar struggles. Do you believe you are worth knowing? Do you believe you are valuable? Below I've written a few things that I have done and are trying to do to grow in this area of cultivating meaningful friendships.
Be bold and PURSUE friendships. Don't do what I did (And ashamedly I admit…still do…..) and sit in a dark corner thinking, "Well if anyone cares, they will reach out to me." Do you want friends? Go get 'em. Initiate getting together. It's so easy these days to text someone a quick, "Hey! When are you free for coffee? I'd love to catch up!" Let go of people. This is something I've really been working on. Friendships, just like any relationship, take two. I have gotten very upset because I have chased and chased relationships with people that literally never initiate a single thing with me or show any interest in getting to know who I am. It's ok to let go of those people. It's ok if you don't connect with everyone. Replace negative thoughts with the positive. Battling negative thoughts was and is a huge part of stifling insecurities. The first step is recognizing those thoughts when they come and replacing them with something positive, or even just a simple rebuke, "That thought is a lie." Override lies with truth. Stop overthinking. Part of having insecurities or something like social anxiety means you overthink every interaction with people. Maybe you leave a conversation and can only dwell on how you said something dumb, or you laughed too loud, or stood too awkwardly… But the thing is, people most likely don't notice anything strange or unusual at all. Or maybe you are being awkward because of the overthinking! Relax. Be yourself. I am so grateful for the people in my life. Sure, I do still struggle, but I believe I am coming to a place where I can truly accept that people might actually like me for me. It starts in your own heart. If you don't like you, you won't believe anyone will. Start there. Be a kind friend to you, then be that for others.