You crave the time when you can laugh with your friends, or share a terrible, horrible joke about someone you know, or just walk aimlessly in the mall, without any need to say something.
Yet, you’re here.
Reading this article.
And wondering why you’re keeping yourself far away from your friends, even though you really, really, really(!) miss their company.
Don’t let me touch your heart.
Touch your own heart.
Deep down, you know that you want them.
But you’re keeping yourself away from them.
I’m sorry. I know it hurts.
I know what that feels like.
Because I’ve done it all too many times.
In 2014, following the release of my A Level results, my friend kept reaching out to me. She wanted to meet for coffee.
But I didn’t want to.
And here comes the first reason why.
Because we feel unworthy of their love.
I had done badly (in my eyes) for the A Levels, the national exam that determined where we went to for university.
I felt deeply ashamed to meet her. She had done incredibly well, and was on her way to one of the best universities in the world.
And who was I to waste her time, meeting her?
That may be running through your mind today. You’re embarrassed of something that you’ve done.
You feel as if meeting them would almost be ‘wasting’ their time.
And you keep yourself away, although you know that they still accept and love you for who you are, whatever they have done.
But perhaps a reason we often don’t explore is also that our pride has been hurt by an unexpected outcome.
In my case, it was an exam result.
In your case, your friend at work may have gotten the promotion ahead of you, and somehow, you just can’t feel happy for them.
You’re not jealous. But you’re just sore. You question yourself,
Was I really that bad compared to her?
And the natural answer is no, no, you’re not.
But you keep yourself away because you’re worried your lack of happiness for your friend’s success would show.
We want to feel wanted
2 weeks ago, I spoke to my therapist about this and he mentioned how in the Philippines, they had a Tagalog term for this.
Or hard to get.
It made sense.
You don’t just want someone to initiate a meeting with you. You want someone to go to some effort to get you there, to show that you’re really wanted there.
You’re not just being asked out of politeness, but you’re asked because your presence matters to the people there.
Why do we have to go through this complex process of keeping ourselves away, to make ourselves hard to get, just so that we can soothe our own ego?
We want friends to validate us
Because we might crave that sense of validation from our friends.
We want our friends to say,
oh that party wouldn’t be the same without you.
We would miss you there.
You’re the life of the party! How can you say you’re not coming!
But you’re so funny, John! You always bring so much good cheer.
Often, as you go through work, particularly in Asia, you’d be scolded for not doing well in your job. But you rarely have someone say to you,
Wow! That was a really great job.
And sometimes, we go to our friends to look for that, because we expect them to be a deep source of mutual affirmation and respect.
It’s not easy though.
Well, these reasons can often be hard to overcome.
But I’ve come to see two things that help.
Recognise that it’s okay to keep yourself away sometimes
You might be keeping yourself away because…
Let’s face it, friends need maintenance.
Whether they are high or low maintenance, they still need it.
That means that they come to expect that you’re going to enquire about their lives, listen to them, be interested in what they say, and make jokes.
If you don’t, you might be asked,
hey, what’s wrong?
But sometimes, nothing is wrong.
You may be going through a tough time in your career. And you don’t want to talk too much about it. Because talking doesn’t change the fact that you still need to solve the problems there.
Or it may just be the seasonal changes in mood.
When you feel low on social energy, you might want to take greater effort to rest and recharge.
It might mean active rest like:
- Going for a run along the coast
- Playing soccer with strangers at the park
Recover yourself in a different group of people you don’t know, so you find your confidence again
Sometimes, finding confidence in your social skills again can mean going to a new group of strangers, and having no commitment to say or do anything there.
It’s up to you if you want to be the funny, cheery person, or if you choose to take on a different persona.
But it does matter that sometimes, you move to a new group of people, so you don’t find yourself having to always put on that comfortable persona everyone has come to know.
Because it is, tiring. To be funny, full of jokes, and the person friends have come to know.
And sometimes when you don’t feel like that, you keep away. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Friendships are for a lifetime
Ultimately coming to recognise that friendships are a lifelong affair, and not just something that’s seasonal, can come to help you to see that in friendships, it’s okay to pull away at times.
Because sticking to your closest friends all the time can sometimes leave things stale and boring, with nothing fresh coming into the mix.
But if you take the time to pull away, rediscover yourself, you may just have something new to bring to the table the next time around.
Just don’t stay away for too long. 3 months seems to be the upper limit for your closest circle of 5, before they suspect that you’re no longer interested in them.