Will I ever stop feeling lame for not having many friends?

Even online I have a hard time meeting people and becoming friends with them.


Friends can stand with you, but not for you.

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Hello Diner. I will respond to your question with a question. If “not having many friends” makes you feel lame, how many friends will be enough? Ten more? A hundred more?

Satisfaction is naturally impossible to achieve so long as you’re unsatisfied. I think there is another question in there, which I’ll address later, but to answer your original Order, you will stop feeling lame when you stop feeling lame. “When” depends on how long you continue to criticize yourself for not meeting your own expectations.

But you eventually will. The more life you experience, the more people you will meet. Some of those people will have compatible personalities and will gladly be your friends. Furthermore, having more years of practice living in your own skin, you will be more comfortable in it. You will stop worrying about whether you belong, and simply belong.

It is very much like the time you realized you were an adult. I don’t mean being old enough to drink and vote, but when you simply were an adult. One day, you realized you’ve been meeting your responsibilities and living as you chose for some time now. You just didn’t notice when it happened.

That’s how being comfortable in your social group feels. You just become content. If that’s all you were wondering, great, but I’m guessing that’s only part of your question. If that’s true, your question is probably, “how do I stop feeling lame, faster?” or “how do I feel like I belong?” or maybe even “how do I belong?”

Again, the question of “how much?” comes into play.

So let’s ask the question this way, Diner: How do I be universally liked and accepted? Let’s assume “how much?” is “everyone,” OK?

We explored in this Fortune that groups, when first encountering an outsider, naturally reacts coldly toward that person. In that last Fortune, the “outsider” was a student dressed in a black bag as a political statement, not knowing at the time he will be the classic example of a scientific theory.

This is probably the reaction that discourages you. You then go into a cycle of feeling like an outsider and withdraw before the group has a chance to know you–making you feel more ostracized. What’s worse, you might even go looking for signs that people dislike you. Good old confirmation bias. But remember that things got better for the student in the black bag. The other students started protecting and defending him, without ever finding out who he was.

So show up and be present. Participate. As always, never be afraid to discuss this with a counselor. It will be scary at first, but without noticing the change, you will get better, find your equals, and simply belong. Science has proven this. Good luck, Diner.

Why can’t I make new friends?

I talk with college friends, but they live in other states. I’ve moved around in the last few years and now that I’m settled, I can’t connect with anyone new. I make sure to participate in group activities (gym, etc) where I can interact with people of similar hobbies. I have a significant other, which is fantastic, but I need a local friend. My coworkers are kind but do not include me in socializing. I’m sad I haven’t made new friends but don’t know how to fix it.


Sailors look to the North Star because it is exactly where they would find it.

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Hello Diner. The closest things we Fortune Cookies have to what humans consider friends are you Diners. But seeing as you crush and eat us after our first meeting, Fortune Cookies have a unique and short-lived view of what friendship is. I say this with no malice. You are our purpose, and our life’s work is to help you. You, Diner, are truly my friend. Making friends is easy for Fortune Cookies; we come with your bill. You found us. But with your existence spanning decades and cities, your friendships become orbits through so many dimensions that we marvel at the complexity of your long, unmasticated lives.

So how do you make friends, you ask?

Just show up.

Since the 1960s, social scientists have been studying the mere-exposure effect. In his study, Dr. Zajonc cited this very interesting story about how an Oregon State student showed up every day to class covered in a black bag as a political statement. The act serendipitously became a famous psychological case study. At first the other 20 students were hostile toward this student. But just by showing up, the Black Bag received warmer and warmer reception from the class. By the time the press started coming to class as the Black Bag’s story became more widespread, the class even protected him from excessive harassment. Zajonc’s study scientifically validated this effect.

You’ve mentioned you participated in a few group hobbies, but you’re still having difficulty finding a local friend. Please understand that I’m not saying you’re harder to befriend than a guy in a black bag. Remember the students in the Black Bag’s class were hostile toward him in the beginning. He had personal reasons for keeping it up, but imagine how hard it would be for anyone to face that hostility, let alone someone who is shy and self-conscious? What we can learn from the Black Bag is that if you’re present and true to your values, your equals will find you.

What you need to remember is that friendship is a relationship just like romances are relationships. We mention in this Fortune that finding people who click with you is largely a matter of working on self-doubt and simply having enough people to choose from. Read that Fortune. The same advice applies here. Keep looking and keep showing up. Your situation will get better. After all, you found me, and that’s not a bad start at all. Good luck, Diner.

References:

Zajonc, R. (1968). Attitudinal effects of mere exposure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9 (2, Pt.2), pp. 1-27 DOI: 10.1037/h0025848

Vleugels, A. (2012). Ten unusual experiments in the name of science – The black bag experiment. Retrieved August 8, 2014 from http://www.united-academics.org/magazine/badscience/ten-unusual-experiments-in-the-name-of-science-the-black-bag-experiment/