Introvert Life

Becoming a Better Friend to Myself

I used to feel so torn apart by the idea of friendship because it never seemed like I was doing it right. I seemed to either be incapable of making a friend, putting more effort into them than I was getting, feeling confused about why I didn’t feel the same intensity, or navigating an ambiguous space until it eventually phased out. I often feel like I am from a different planet than everyone else, doing my best to adapt to every interaction and situation. I thought I was missing special skills or broken because very few people felt right to me. I would tell myself, “well, I wouldn’t want to be my friend either,” to justify my lack of connections. I prided myself on being the independent lone wolf to bury my loneliness.

As I review and reflect on my previous writings, questions, and thoughts about friendship, my inner turbulence makes so much sense. One, many of us weren’t shown how to cultivate healthy relationships. We learn from watching our families, school, the media, and other guides, but there wasn’t necessarily education on what that means or how it looks. Growing up, I heard phrases like “it’s nice to be nice” or “a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet,” but that doesn’t capture the nuances of interpersonal relationships. That doesn’t teach you about intention, feelings, needs, and values aligning. What the heck is reciprocation? How do you build mutual trust? Instead, we make friends by proximity, transactions, and superficial interests making the activity harder as you get older.

Another reflection is I did not have a secure connection or attachment to myself. I have held many shame-based beliefs that were blossomed from the systems I interact with every day. It’s glaring how wrong and hurtful they are and their effect on me. The trust in myself was severed and wounded for a long time. I learned to ignore the messages from my body and adapt to what I felt others would want from me or to protect myself. Say hello to becoming a parent-pleaser, people-pleaser, and empath! When what I wanted didn’t align with someone or if I couldn’t pinpoint the cause of an unpleasant feeling, I felt like a bad person. Unfortunately, this meant instead of sitting with the questions I had about people, I swallowed my doubts and entered/maintained relationships based on hopes and potential instead of trusting myself.

Now that I look at myself from a different perspective, I can’t help but want to slap myself on the forehead. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with me! All the gifts I dole out, attention, emotional support, encouragement, trust, validation, and more, I need to direct to myself. It’s also not wrong for me to want those qualities from other people in return. I felt ungrateful for being dissatisfied, but my silence and perseverance was an act of self-betrayal. I was so focused on making others feel safe and cared for that I forgot that I am the one that brings that magic; and, it’s not effortless. The gut feeling I get about people isn’t necessarily about me being incapable; it’s my body trying to keep me alert and discerning. My nervous system knows things before I do; I need to listen to it; I need to listen to myself.

It’s funny all the things that I thought were “issues” are the exact things I want now as an adult. Even as a child, I didn’t have an interest in small talk. Talking about toys and cartoons is boring; tell me how you got that scar on your leg. I love to be alone, but I also like processing and analyzing with a companion. I don’t like loud, busy environments that may seem “fun,” but I thoroughly enjoy talking and laughing in a quiet space. I am fascinated by how my mind works, and I am intrigued and curious about others’. These are the qualities I have and what I want in the relationships I co-create. I am not stuck up or weird for having standards for the relationships that impact my life. Nor is it wrong for me to end or shift friendships that do not nourish me. We can always change to cost of admission to access us.

I am my own best friend and partner first. Being aware of that makes me appreciate the close friends in my life who are in my inner circle. I am grateful for the people who show up for me, grow with me, understand me, and love me. We model for each other what we deserve. Not everybody is my person. I am socially selective and intentional about where I invest my energy. What I offer externally to others, I can offer myself internally. That looks like communicating with myself, respecting my boundaries, holding myself accountable, encouraging myself, showing myself compassion, making myself laugh, giving myself affection, and ensuring I have the support I need. Do I like the person you are? Can you meet me where I am? How do you make me feel? These are the questions I ask myself now. The harder I love myself, the more authentically, honestly, and openly I can love others.

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