You want to be liked. But it seems like everyone overlooks you and ignores you, or the ‘friends’ you do have are not nice to you.
You feel lonely. What can you do?
Sometimes our definition of friendship can be part of the problem.
We live in the era of social media, with its focus on appearances. Perhaps you want friends who will make you look good, and help you feel accepted.
But friendships where we feel connected and happy are actually based on shared personal values, not appearances. So the first step can be identifying what really, truly matters to you in life.
Personal values matter even more than shared hobbies or interests. If you love sport because you value competition, but another person loves sport as they value team spirit, you probably won't make for good friends.
Here’s the thing that many people do if they want to be liked - they pretend to be someone they are not.
But if we are always pretending to be someone else, we can stop remembering who we are at all. Other people feel confused instead of attracted by us. And it can lead to a complete identity crisis in the future.
Not being yourself also takes a tremendous amount of energy. You have to be vigilant about others ‘seeing through’ your act, which can dominate your waking hours, until you stop getting ahead in other areas like your career. Bit by bit, depression can set in.
The biggest secret to making good friends?
Change “I need friends’ to ‘I need to be my own friend’, and the first problem takes care of itself.
If you feel happy when you spend all your time doing crafts, but your childhood friends say it's lame? Sure, you can go along with what they want and go clubbing every night. Or, you could sign up to a crafts class, and find yourself meeting people just like you. You might then learn about starting a small business online, or grow in other unexpected ways.
Part of being your own friend also means noticing your self-talk. Other people tend to take cues for how to treat us from the way we treat ourselves.
Try this - write a letter to someone you really like and respect telling them what you appreciate about them. Now change the name at the top to your own. What does it feel like to talk to yourself like a friend? How could you do that more?
If you really struggle to make friends, it is worth considering if there are issues you might need help with. Sometimes we need support to troubleshoot the ways we relate to others.
Here are some psychological challenges that can make friendship a challenge.
If we secretly think we don’t deserve love or good things, then we’ll tend to make choices to prove this core belief true. This can look like always attracting people who are critical and mean instead of friendly.
Have you always tried very hard to be a good friend by making others happy, pleasing them, being funny, always saying and doing the right thing? Codependency means we take our sense of self from other people's opinion of us, and spend all our time trying to 'earn' attention. But it backfires. Others sense they are actually being manipulated.
Being on the autism spectrum can mean we have different ways of relating than other people. We might not have a natural talent for understanding social cues, and need to learn how to navigate socialising.
Do people seem overwhelmed by the way you think in circles, change the topic of conversation, are always late, or have a tendency to interrupt? Adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can mean that your mind is so distracted, it affects your behaviours and relationships.
Do you tend to make intense friendships really fast, but then the other person disappoints you and you back out? Are you known for always changing friends? Or have you been told you are too ‘full on’? BPD means you are more emotional and impulsive than others, and have a deep fear of abandonment. It makes relating more of a challenge.
A personality disorder means we see the world in a way that is different to ‘the norm’. And if we think differently and act differently, it can be hard to connect to others or ever fit in.
Sick of being lonely and left out? Time to deal with your issues, and learn to have real friendships at last? Find a therapist you like at a price you can afford today, and get talking.