Get in where you fit in

Hello, my name is Holly. I’m 45 years old and I still struggle to make new friends.

I’ve got some friends and a lot of acquaintances. But I’d like to find the kind of friends who will be a support system to me when I need it–especially with my husband’s cancer fight.

I need more face-to-face friends who aren’t only available by online messages and texts. I have a good handful of the former but there’s something more valuable about local people who know you and can actually meet you for coffee or a chat in person. I’m cautiously hopeful that I may have found one, so that’s a start.

Therapy is interesting because a good therapist (whom I cautiously hope I’ve found) should leave you thinking about what you discuss for days afterwards. And I’m still thinking about my most recent session and what we discussed about friendship.

I have tendencies to settle for abusive and unhealthy friendships because on some level, I think that’s all I can get. My therapist said that’s ultimately a self-confidence issue, so we’re going to work on improving my self-confidence.

The bigger truth, though, is that my world is too small. My husband and I are best friends and we’ve created a very comfortable world of just the two of us. But as good as that feels, it also feels fragile right now. I don’t want to develop other interests that would take me away from him, so I think I’m resisting it on some subconscious level.

Part of it is finding the right people. And ultimately, what that may require is getting a driver’s license for my youngest as soon as possible. I need a part-time job outside the home again. I get this inertia when I work at home, where I almost resist leaving the house even though it does so well for me to do so.

I’ve met people who liked me in recent years. I deeply regret quitting my part-time library job I had a couple years ago. The kids’ transportation issue was a problem with that job and I also got sidetracked with the offer of a full-time writing job from home.

But the point is that most of the people there liked me. They were bookish and intellectual, interested in talking about interesting things. They never made me feel weird for not having seen the latest superhero movies (even if they liked them) because they had more interesting things to discuss.

When I volunteered with the food bank and the homeless shelter, the people there liked me, too. The people at the episcopal church I went to were overly welcoming and friendly, even if the religion didn’t feel right for me. Similarly, when I joined the evangelical church, I had a lot of friends there. I just didn’t like hiding my real self anymore.

So the problem is not that I’m unlikable. The real problem is that I need to get out of the house and I need to be around people who are a good fit for me. I need to stop going to places where I don’t fit in.

But that also means I have to overcome my inertia. I know myself and I know that I will use the transportation issue for my youngest as an excuse for as long as it’s applicable. There’s also the fact that I’m not a morning person and I pick him up at the most difficult time of day to schedule anything else around.

I also know that I need to have a sense of obligation, a place where I’m committed to be at a specific time. If it’s voluntary, I’m likely to find excuses to avoid it.

I think that the solution of a part-time job is the answer, but I need to get the kid driving. My cognitive skills are making it very difficult for me to do my freelance writing work lately, so I really need something else anyway. Plus freelancing isn’t a great fit with the constant staying at home and the self-employment taxes.

While it’s true that I have some self-confidence issues, I don’t think they’re preventing me from having friends. (Though, certainly, having more confidence will attract more friends.) I’ve actually made friends in almost every group I’ve ever joined. Not everyone liked me but there were always some who did.

The truth I’m coming to realize is how much the one long-time friend I’ve previously written about damaged my self-esteem. From making fun of me for doing roller derby (something I loved and where I also made friends) to making me feel like a freak for not watching the latest movies, she was far more damaging than supportive. I realize she is a lot of the origin of when I started to really feel bad about myself, which my husband agrees with. I was more sure of myself and liked myself better before I met her.

So I’m not a lost cause. I’m more confident than I used to be, as evidenced by the fact that I chose to break off one of my longest friendships because I knew I deserved to be treated better.

My youngest said he doesn’t know if there’s an afterlife, but if there is, my husband and I deserve to be there because of how we treat people. That gives me a feeling of self-worth, too.

Now I just have to put myself out there, and that’s going to mean leaving the house more. I feel reasonably sure that if I have something I’m involved in, whether it’s supporting a political candidate, taking yoga classes, or getting a job, people will like me. I’ll make friends. I guess the next step is getting the youngest to drive.

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