The Number of Friends You Have Doesn’t Define You

I’ve been thinking about how often we use someone’s popularity to ascribe to them the level of worth we believe they deserve. As I have gotten older I find it harder to make and maintain friendships. I prioritize similar values much more highly than other traits and characteristics, such as similar hobbies, appearance, or even personality. I also suffer from social and generalized anxiety.

Do you struggle with making or keeping friends and perhaps relate to some of what I’ve written here? I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic.

Why Friendships are Difficult for Me

Friendships are very difficult for me and have been for a while now. Growing up, making friends was easy. They were basically built-in to my church and private school experiences. I didn’t have to go out of my way to find them. By attending church and school (which I didn’t have any choice about, anyway), they basically were offered up to me on a silver platter. After college, finding and maintaining friendships became a lot harder. I had to go out of my way to find people around my same age who held similar interests and values.

Also, as I’ve aged, I care more about shared values than I have in the past. I realize a friend is more than just someone who is fun to be around. A friend’s world view, priorities, and goals should closely match your own.

Friendships must be maintained like a houseplant that needs sunshine and water every day. I often don’t have the energy to put this kind of effort into a relationship with another person. I’ve found distance can make the heart grow fonder, but only when you make the effort to stay in touch. Otherwise, distance often makes the heart grow…more distant.

I hate relying on/asking things of other people. And this is an inherent part of true friendships. You’re supposed to be able to depend on your friends in hard times. While I find myself more than willing to jump in and help others (including strangers), I hate opening up about my own struggles, burdening others with my problems, and asking for favors. I hate the thought that someone would help me because they feel it’s somehow owed to me rather than out of a true desire. I know much, much more about other people than they know about me and often people feel comfortable divulging very intimate, personal details about themselves to me. But I very rarely reciprocate.

Related to the previous point, I’m easily taken advantage of. Friendships for me often end in doing favors for other people. My kindness is often taken for weakness, and, because of this, I have learned I have to be extra careful in who I allow into my life. I am very much a people-pleaser (a trait to which I hate admitting).

I have bad social anxiety which precludes me from striking up conversations with people and being outgoing, especially with strangers. I struggle feeling comfortable at social events, especially where there will be lots of people. And yet it is impossible to make friends without interacting with others. I have considered using one of the online sites that allow you to find and join social groups in your area, but just the thought of meeting up with strangers is overwhelming to me.

I feel discouraged from making friends when I feel my life is in shambles. I feel that I need to have my life “figured out” before I make friends. I don’t want to invite people to a car wreck. I guess I feel I am not currently worthy of friends…

I know how important friendships are for mental health, but finding and maintaining them is an exhausting process for me. Does anybody else struggle with similar feelings?