I think most of us want people to like us. It makes navigating life easier if those we encounter find us likeable. Friends are a good thing to have, too. They support us and add quality to our lives (if they don’t, they might not be our friends – but that’s another post). Having friends is more apt to happen when we’re likeable. That’s where we can encounter trouble; finding friends can be tough, sometimes. Not everyone is gonna like us, and that can add stress to the process.
This stuff is obvious to most of us, sure. I share it for understanding and empathy.
Most people want to have friends and care about being liked.
Most people experience at least a little social anxiety now and again.
I’m gonna guess i had some grasp of this from before i have memories. My mother was volatile and abusive. When she was happy i was happy (even when i wasn’t), and when she wasn’t i was miserable. My life still wasn’t free from abuse when she was happy, but the alternative was far worse. My early years involved a number of abusers, and it was my job to make them all happy. And if they weren’t happy, there’d be hell to pay.
I’ve been a people-pleaser all my life. Even though the abuse is decades over, i’ve remained terrified of anyone not liking me. I survived my childhood trauma but i never left it behind. I’ve been like a ghost, haunting their own murder scene.
Once i started making some decent headway with my therapy, i began to see in how many ways my interpersonal relationships were problematic. The other person had all the power and i had none (whether or not they knew that). I hadn’t asked myself if i was getting what i wanted out of these relationships – it hadn’t occurred to me i could. I’d not thought to ask the most basic question of all: Did i even want to be friends with this person?
My social anxiety, and anxiety in general, is on the level where, once i was getting all with the deep and nitty grittiness of therapy, it became the easiest and most conducive thing to become a hermit. The stress added by others was mucking up the gears of my progress. Turns out, underneath all of that people-pleasing, affability and charm, was a die hard introvert who’d never had their peopling batteries properly or fully recharged. It took years to fill me back up.
Along the way i’d dumped my close real life friends (those who hadn’t left already when i was in the grips of crazy), many internet ones, and all extended family members save one. I’d also removed myself from party circles, as it can trigger mental/emotional issues, and is physically unhealthy to boot.
Which bring me to last week, and the reason for this post.
These last months i’ve been functioning mentally and emotionally so well, that i’d increased my focus on my physical health. I’ve needed to shed some weight, and i wanted to be more fit and incorporate more physical activities into my life. To that end, i’ve been walking. I love walking, which makes it readily adoptable into my routine. I live with chronic pain, and walking is one of the least taxing ways to exercise. It’s also giving me more control over my system’s urge to take off walking when i feel afraid, threatened, or overwhelmed. I spend some of my time on the road talking to my Bits N’ Pieces; addressing their needs and allaying their fears. More control – i haz it.
Last week i’d walked into town and was heading to a local park to meet my husband after he got off work for a jaunt or 2 around the lake. On my way i bumped into someone i know, and we stopped to exchange pleasantries.
And that’s when it happened.
A full on, holy shit moment smacked me right upside the head.
Lemme shine some light on that for y’all.
Three of only a handful that i still consider myself friendly with in this town, belong to a group of women that hang out together and do a lot of fun stuff. From the first time i met this woman, i liked her, and wanted to be friends with her. As i got healthier, i went from wishing it were so, to trying to make it happen. A little bit. Here and there.
Last week as i was walking away from our exchange on the sidewalk, i finally realised that she is not interested. Based on results, she doesn’t want to be friends with me.
The amazing thing is, it didn’t bother me all that much. She might not have the time. She might not like me enough, or even at all. I could have given it more time and ascribed more potential reasons why, but i know the bottom line is it doesn’t matter and it’s not my business anyway.
I’d already figured out i didn’t want to be a part of the group she’s in (which is a good thing cuz i ain’t welcome), and that felt liberating. Recognising that a friendship with her isn’t going to happen didn’t feel great, but it didn’t devastate me. It stung a bit, but it also felt liberating. It opened up some real estate in my brain and liquidated some mental currency that i could better use somewhere else.
She has politely refused my offers and it didn’t kill me and i don’t hate her. In fact, i still like her and i’m not scared about it. The next day i looked over a bunch of pictures of her and her group doing the fun stuff that i thought i wanted to do with them. I don’t belong there. They knew it and i do, too. I looked at other pictures, where she’s living her life and doing her thing, and i saw that i didn’t belong there, either. She hasn’t invited me in, and after looking for a bit, i don’t want her to. Friendship requires that both parties consent, and with the knowledge that i don’t have hers, my own desire has withered to almost nothing.
This is a big victory for me. I’ve smashed yet another sick construct my abusers built into my brain, and become that much more capable of functioning well in everyday society. I was rejected and i didn’t die.
And a week later, the lesson is helping me plan for my future.
I was vague again, i know.
Elucidation is coming… Eventually.
Love and Peace To All,