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Starting and Maintaining Friendships

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Has anyone read the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People"? I was struggling socially in high school and my mom suggested it. At the time it was a game changer, temporarily anyway.  I suppose I am an introvert, and the big takeaway was to become more "interested" in other people, which I did.


I started by being more interested in people at work. It worked for awhile, but it became exhausting. I have always been very ADD and memory retention has always been a struggle and still something I struggle with. I found that people loved talking about themselves, really didn't care about me or my life, possibly didn't even like me, but liked having someone interested in their personal drama. I realized I felt responsible to remember all these details, events, names in all these day to day stories of all these random co-workers who didn't give me the time of day a few weeks prior.  I felt responsible for following up on the day to day stories. Sure, I made some close friends at that job but a lot of it felt fake too, and now I was accountable for all this information and follow up. Some people I couldn't stand but kept up the facade. I found myself finding excuses not to hang out with them because they would want me around but I didn't really want to go or I hung out with them anyway because this is what I wanted, right? It felt very fake and I started to feel like I shouldn't have to "win" friends. I became jaded, and it became too much mentally. I have struggled since to find my footing in social situations. Since my late 20's, I have found it hard to relate to many younger people (although I do have some younger friends), don't really care about mindless drama, and don't have the energy to pretend to. I am also finding it hard to relate to people my age, because the majority are married with children and I am not. 


To this day, with a new/old friend or acquaintance, I tell myself "I need to remember this/write this down" to follow up. Sometimes I remember, often I completely forget, and more often I screw up the names/dates/details and look like a jerk. I really wanted to remember, and I really meant well, but now they are insulted because they perceive that I don't care when I do.


I am in my late 30's and social situations in general make me very anxious.  I am pretty sure it stems from feeling like I can't be myself or have to say/do all the right things to fit in, and it feels like a prison. I also have used alcohol as a social lubricant for most of my teen and adult life and wish I could just hang out and be fun and have fun without drinking, but really feel like I don't know how. Sober me and drunk me are two different people. Sober me believes she is anxious, awkward, and boring, but she longs to be fun.


I also have an issue where I want to put myself out there, introduce myself or chat someone up but something always stops me. If I take a chance and chat someone up, I feel like I am dying inside because of my lack of confidence. I am at a new job and keep to myself because I am overwhelmed and anxious but don't want people to see it. That is my defense; I put up a wall until I feel comfortable in my surroundings. Sometimes it takes years. It isn't necessarily lonely, more isolating. People think I am stuck up or weird when in reality I'm just dying inside. Being alone doesn't bother me (until it does) and disappearing has always been my way of dealing with problems, which definitely puts a strain on the relationships I do have. 


They say as you get older, your circle gets smaller. I am lucky to have a few close groups of friends, but I used to have more. I just felt overwhelmed and couldn't maintain nurturing and balancing friendships and thats too bad. Sometimes I distance myself because the social dynamic changes and my social anxiety creeps in so I don't go. Now my friends are married and have kids, I get invited to family gatherings and often feel internal panic when I go, even if I know a few people there. I feel like putting myself out there has made this worse instead of better, and I worry that this will continue to be a problem.  The friends I do have I keep at arms distance often and then drown myself in new hobbies, alone time, or working all the time. I do the same with family, honestly. I still feel overwhelmed by the work it takes to maintain friendships. I am trying to make an effort but it doesn't necessarily make me happy. I am doing it for survival instead of because it brings me joy.  Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and family and am lucky/grateful they are there. I am aware that I need to start making more of an effort long term. If anything, I wonder what's wrong with ME. I have this image in my head of what I want to be, and have tried to be, and its never really come to fruition, even with work. 


I don't want to keep living my life feeling like that. I want to be someone that made and kept friends because she was a good friend and really cared. I want to be someone that walked into a room and made it brighter, someone who could talk to anyone or chat up the person who is there alone. I want to be approachable and funny and kind. Sometimes I am those things. But often my head tells me I am not and never will be accepted or good enough. I often wonder if I am a narcissist or on the autistic spectrum but at this point I don't need a label, I need a mental shift. I want to fall in love with life, radiate love and happiness, without relying on booze to have a good time.






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It seems you have a sense that the someone you expressed that you want to be, you actually already are. 


But the thought arises, “but often my head tells me I am not and never will be accepted or good enough”… and what’s overlooked is that that is, a thought. A belief. It’s believed that “my head tells me”. That’s a problematic belief, because it sets up an impossible expectation. It’s basically saying unless I am without “the head that tells me”, I will never be ‘who’ I really am, all the time. It assigns blame, to “the head that tells me”. 


Then what’s said is “I need a mental shift”. That’s the next belief, which is a response to the first belief. That you, need something. This reasserts that you are not enough as you are, that something is needed for you to be, yourself. This sets up another impossible to meet expectation. The expectation is that you must become something, beyond, or better than, yourself. My friend, this is impossible. You are already whole, complete, magical, wonderful, perfection. 


And perhaps there are some beliefs to the contrary, which can be inspected and dispelled. 


In terms of starting relationships… what if the start, is now. Not a now in which a past is carried over into now. A fresh start. A real start. A new now. A story less actual start. A start without expectations which must be met. 


Is this making any sense?


Without the belief there is someone acceptable or unacceptable, without judging anyone for accepting and or not accepting…

without the belief there is someone good enough & someone not good enough, without judging anyone for believing you are good enough, or aren’t good enough… is there still a problem to be solved?


You said you want to fall in love. You also said a mental shift is needed. 

A mental shift would be to different thoughts, to a different perspective. A better feeling thought, a better feeling perspective. 

A mental shift is, mental. 


But mental isn’t what it sounds like you’re wanting when you say in love. I don’t suspect you want some good feeling thoughts about being in love. I suspect you want the full blown feeling that is in love. 


It might seem like now I’m gonna tell you how to get that. Wish I could. I would. You can’t. That’s the ‘thing’. You already are “that”… and also there are some beliefs about mental shifts, when what’s actually wanted is feeling emotions. But that hasn’t been acknowledged yet, and will take some time. 

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