Introverts are not exactly known for their great social lives. Having to ride this line between wanting to be someone I wasn’t and needing my space has taken a lot out of me. Submerged in this world of social media means seeing everyone with their happy little clique and wondering where my people were. Why does everyone else seem so happy in their groups? Why do they seem to always know the right thing to say and do? Is there a class somewhere where I can learn these social skills I have clearly missed out on? We have this culture of more friends, equaling higher numbers, in turn meaning you have more value. Where do we get this idea that many distant friends have the same value as several close ones? How do some people get these great lifelong friendships with so many people ? This struggle has dominated my life as I try to figure out who I am and my value.
As a young girl, I had a best friend. She was wonderful, and quirky, and perfect. I wanted to be her best friend to have part of that joy she seemed to radiate. We grew close, but eventually I switched schools. Still living close together, we mainly hung out over summers. I spent nights with her camping out in the backyard, splashing around in the hot tub, and developing a love of old Audrey Hepburn movies. We went to her child theater plays, and did everything normal child best friends would. The introverted nature inside me declared her my best friend, but I knew that I was not her only friend. Over the years she grew closer and closer with the classmates I had left, while I stayed focused on my friendship with her. I held her to this childish pedestal, which over time evolved to where I thought people would like me more if I was like her. Instead of choosing my clothing and activities based on what I liked, I tried to emulate her. I obviously failed horribly and eventually we drifted apart as teenagers. Never learning from this experience, I brought this baggage along as I tried to find my place.
I then met my adult bestie. We met through dance class, and hated each other instantly for no real reason. Eventually we became friends at the school and got to know each other. She was rough in the doesn’t take any crap way, and had a hard life that she grew from. I admired her so much for her strength and ability to stand strong when everything in life came down on her. We started to get super close and looking back I realize what I was looking for in this friendship. I needed someone who would look up to me the way I had looked up to my childhood friend. I wanted to be the cool one. I wanted to be the one that someone would want to be. She did, in her own way want to be me, but only so much as have the simpler life I had. Beyond that, she was free thinking and could never have been swayed by my basic thoughts. Whereas I wanted to be accepted, she just wanted to be able to be herself. Somehow we were perfect together. It wasn’t paradise, in fact most of the time we were arguing or mad at each other for some stupid reason. Yet, we made it to 11 years of being friends until it all went downhill. At this point we were adults and she was living with her boyfriend. While I didn’t do anything wrong, my quest to be accepted resulted in an awkward situation that I should not have been in. From there on out it was rocky footing. Accumulating tension until my birthday, we tried to continue on as normal. I then went to dinner with my mother and ended up having to cancel my plans with her, before she decided she was done with me. Heartbroken and bitter I moved on, never really letting go but accepting that we weren’t meant to be.
Trying to move on, I met a wonderful girl at my college. She was popular, and liked to party… I was hooked. Finally, instead of chasing people I could go after a lifestyle that was sure to bring friends to me. I spent all of 4 months partying, before I started to hate my life. I am a person who needs alone time, yet I was spending it all on people who didn’t care about me. I started to crawl into my shell when the stress of the semester kicked in. But, every once in a while I would go out. After some time I couldn’t go out one too many days and they all moved on. No longer did my phone buzz with invitations to the bar and instead it stays silent with only a few people who occasionally contacted me. Yet, I don’t feel sad for myself.
For my childhood friend, I just wanted someone to acknowledge me and accept me for the single individual I am. I saw in her the person I wanted to be and instead of seeing her for the human she was. She was wonderful, but she was also flawed in ways it took me years to finally see. She did not need approval, but also didn’t have any close relationships like I did later in my life. Now, I can accept that she did not know who I was as a person, but I also did not really know her either. The person who, to this day I would call my closest friend, was actually someone I needed to get acceptance from. I still call her that, because of everyone in the world, she is one of 3 people who, I feel, knows who I am at my core and loved me for that. As I say that, I also have to accept the reality of the situation, and that is that we fed each others issues. She gave me acceptance and I gave her someone who needed her. When we grew up, that complex stayed in place, but we both tried to reach above it. I tried to not rely on her for my only source of feeling belonging, and she created her own life that didn’t need me. Now that we don’t talk, I can say I hope we both have achieved those goals. I know I have, but that is a story for another time. When I finally got to college, I gave up on anyone really knowing me and just wanted the image that everyone else had. Forgetting what I wanted, I figured if everyone else could be happy this way, then so could I. Everyone had these picture perfect friends that did everything together. I just wanted to look like I was apart of this normal part of life. But, part of growing up is accepting that that you are who you are and that is ok! Eventually, I hope to have a small horde of people who love me and can be added to my list. Until then I will learn to love myself and have that be enough.
When I find a ‘Best Friend’, they are the only person with that title, and I would do anything for them because that is who I am. But, for these relationships, it was mainly my need to be accepted that resulted in me feeling more alone than ever. I doubt I will ever actually find someone who can make me feel what I am searching for, because I have to do that for myself. Instead of looking to the rest of the world, I need to let go of this desire to look like everyone else does. There are bigger fish in life, and I hope that instead of trying to solve my problems with people I can try to solve them myself.
Thanks for reading my heart-to-heart, and if anyone feels as I do I would love to hear how you learned to accept yourself. Life is a journey, and as I go along I hope each day will be better than the last with learning more about myself and others.