For the longest time, I thought there was something wrong with me: on some days, when the sun refused to shine, I would slip into a sullen state of emotional treachery. Most times, this ended with me feeling utterly alone and friendless. It became unbearable not only in terms of loneliness, but also, to a certain extent, bitterness.
The trouble always starts off with assumptions. Although I’m simply a person who has met a lot of undergraduates from U of T, people always assumed that I was this ridiculously extroverted person who had a whole ton of friends. The truth is that I’m actually as introverted as introverts can be. Add to this the fact that school makes the Gossip Girl type of glamorous social life an impossible feat, and the number of “I-will-pee-on-you-if-you-get-stung-by-a-jellyfish” friends I have here at U of T is probably something like three. If you round it off, it’s pretty much non-existent.
Let’s face it: even though we don’t consciously project expectations of our undergrad lives in terms of building friendships, who doesn’t wish for that sense of togetherness and belonging that emanates from TV shows like Friends? Fine, your GPA might be a little sucky and your career prospects might not be looking up anytime soon, but while in university, we could at least build a strong support network that would leave that part of our lives fulfilled.
The key reason for the difficulty in establishing and building genuine friendships, I believe, is that most of us take friendship for granted. True, on any given day you never know whom you’ll meet, and in that sense, building friendship is a rather serendipitous event. But anything beyond merely becoming acquainted involves effort, something that most of us are lacking — for school alone.
Like romantic relationships, platonic love is a bit of a gamble. While you can’t point to a stranger and immediately foresee whether or not you’ll end up becoming great friends, you have all the chances in the world to take a risk, a leap of faith, and initiate a conversation to get to know him or her better. Good things are often unplanned. In fact, I met all of my closest friends this way: we started talking about something trivial, found out that we didn’t dislike each other, and, through a series of fateful interventions and conscious efforts on both parts, brought our friendships through some major roadblocks.
So why not join a club? Challenge yourself by exposing yourself to something new? Cool people exist in every corner of the world — you just got to find them. Keeping an open mind is important for accepting other people, but also for monitoring your own growth.
Closely linked to the phenomenon of “no friends” is the significantly more destructive issue of “bad friends.” These people drag you into toxic relationships. Below is a list of initial warning signs signalling such an unhealthy situation:
- I feel terrible after talking to this person; OR I feel guilty for not talking to this person
- This person is really hard on me and judges me harshly
- I feel like I have to walk on eggshells around this person
- I feel bad about myself around this person; all my insecurities flare up
- This person encourages my bad habits or addictions
- This person is very negative, depressed, and does not take care of himself or herself
- Our relationship is all about this person; there’s no room for me in it
- I am incredibly bored, uninspired, stressed out, or unhappy when I’m with this person.
(Adapted from 20 Something Manifesto by Christine Hassler)
Under these types of circumstances, you have a few options: to develop a plan to change your relationship with the person, to avoid interacting with him or her in certain situations, or by simply ending the relationship.
Ultimately, your goal is to conserve mental energy, and feel happier from the inside out. A key aspect of this is the establishment of healthy relationships. Keep an eye out for future posts regarding this topic!