Signature Move


For the last few weeks I’ve been making a concerted effort to be more sociable and to try to make new friends. I daresay that I’ve even had some success: I feel like I’ve made a few connections with some kindred spirits, and that with a little cultivation, we might become actual Friends.

Who says you can’t make new friends after thirty, amiright?

Right?

Well, now the doubt is settling in.

I’m beginning to recognize this as a pattern:

Phase one is an enthusiastic introduction- (“You like potatoes? I like potatoes! We should be friends!”)

Followed by a brief period of hopeful elation (“I made a new friend!”)

Followed by intense paranoid doubt: (Do they really like me or are they just being polite? How often can I message without seeming needy? Have I already been too needy? I’ve totally been too needy: I should play it cool for a few days. *obsesses*).

Followed by detachment.

Followed by quietly falling out of touch.

It’s my signature move.

You would think that by age thirty six I would have caught on to this pattern before now, but honestly I never really went looking for it. If asked about who I consider my friends I freely admit that they are few and far away: My high school bestie. My college confidant. My grad school collaborators. My pen pals. But when I think about them, I realize that in a lot of cases we don’t really have much in common anymore, and sometimes we don’t even talk that much. It’s like I’ve filled my life with the idea of friends rather than actual people.

Nobody REALLY likes you. Says the voice in my head, but it’s a liar. What it’s really saying is: there’s a chance this person might hurt you because you trust them. Get some distance now so that you can protect yourself.

I’m beginning to recognize this as a symptom of my personal brand of Trust Issues in which I struggle to believe that people will like/accept the real me. Or, if they do like the real me then they will let me down as soon as I ask them for something. These are the dual prongs of my deepest fears, and I cope through self-reliance. I don’t need help: I will help myself. I don’t need people to like me, I can like myself.

I am a rock.

I am an island.

I am a mighty lone wolf.

But who am I kidding? I want lots of friends. I want to have people that I can trust around me to help me, but I’ve been working against myself for so long that I don’t quite know how to break out of the cycle. I can feel myself right now teetering between phase two (hopeful elation) and phase three (paranoid doubt). Actually, that’s a lie: I’m all the way in paranoid doubt, only this time I’m aware of it. I’m hearing the voice in my head telling me to play it cool, to let it go, to pretend like I don’t care until this horrible, dangerous friendly feeling goes away.

I don’t quite know how to snap out of it. How do I prevent myself from disengaging while also preventing myself from overcompensating and actually becoming too needy and clingy to the point of pushing people away? I don’t really have a plan except to respond when I get messages, accept as many invitations to do activities with them as become available, and pace myself on reaching out to follow up.

It will be a grand experiment.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 20, 2018.

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