I have social anxiety, an illness that takes enormous amounts of energy out of me each day and pushes my friendships to their breaking points. If I don’t get constant reassurance that I am loved, or even liked, I will assume that everyone collectively hates me (which isn’t at all logical when you take a step back, but hey, it still happens).
Because of this, I am not the most popular or well-liked person in my school and don’t have a large friend group. I don’t go to parties or small hangouts, I get anxious when in social situations with people, and am absolutely terrified of getting left on read receipts on Snapchat or texts.
I’m okay, though. I survive. I’m fine with eating lunch alone some days and hanging out with a select few people on the weekends, and I’ve come to realize that maybe everyone else is going about this all wrong. Maybe it isn’t all about having ten best friends–all you really need is a few. Maybe it isn’t about the popularity and the parties; it is okay to have friends that you can’t completely confide in and friendships that you are still building.
These friendships that are half built, undergoing construction, are what I call ‘grey area friendships,’ composed of friends that you can’t call your BFFs but are a step up from acquaintances. These are the friends that you text every month or so or maybe have a Snapchat streak with. The friends you know well enough to ask how they’re doing but not well enough to ask them what their plans are after school.
Sadly, knowing that these friendships exist does not mean I have come to peace with them. I constantly find myself getting sucked into the void of these friendships with people who don’t have any interest in building our gray area friendship into a stronger one, nor do we have remotely similar personalities – I just want to be liked, to be surrounded by friends at all times.
So how can you recognize the fact that it is okay to not have solidified friendships and actually accept that? To not be constantly liked? Furthermore, how can you convert a select few gray area friendships into real life, unbreakable ones?
Step one: Conquer FOMO.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is something everyone experiences, and something most everyone hates. In order to get over this fear, you need to understand that there might not have been a reason that you were not invited. Nobody is purposefully excluding you from things, nobody forgot about you, nobody is trying to be rude to you. These are all just exaggerations of what really happened: nobody thought to invite you. Maybe it slipped their mind, or maybe they were thinking of you and just thought that you wouldn’t enjoy the event. In any case, FOMO is a force to be reckoned with, and it can be with baby steps.
Step two: Ask people to go to lunch.
The worst answer you can get is a ‘sorry, I’m busy’ unless someone is unbearably rude (and if they are, you shouldn’t be friends with them anyway). Asking people to grab lunch with you is a simple task that doesn’t require much effort and can build bonds very quickly. Get a Chipotle bowl whilst talking about life, or go for ice cream on a hot day. Even better–find a strange food you both like and create a common interest with it. Do you both like sushi but without the rice? Great. Candy corn? Even better.
Step three: Be confident.
Being confident is really all that makes people ‘popular,’ and all the kids that peak in high school all share their grotesquely-sized confidence in common. Being confident is very easy said and hard to do, but with time and daily boosts of your ego you can rise atop and be the most confident of them all.
Step four: Accept that not everyone wants to be your friend.
Even though you are a hella awesome, inspiring, beautiful person, not everyone can see that. Not everybody will bond with you and not everyone has to. It’s okay. It doesn’t mean that people hate you. Not everyone is required to love you, which just makes those who do all the more important. Treasure your friendships and hold them as close as you can, but don’t over do it. You don’t need to be the person who is friends with everybody.
Step five: Be patient.
Take your time with friendships. Not everything has to happen so fast. Patience is tough, but it is a learned and useful trait to take friendships to the next level (but not in that way).
Be sure to remember that not everybody has to love you, nor do you have to love everyone you meet. But, after these five steps, you should be able to take a few gray area friendships and make them into solidified ones while also being able to acknowledge that not all of them have to progress at all.
Featured Image via Sam Elkins.