The Flaws of my Socialization

One of my big goals for 2014 was to be a better friend. My tumultuous childhood gifted me with a slight awkwardness when it comes to socializing.

I’m happy enough with most of my quirks, with the exception of one blunder. I have difficulty assuming people want to hang out with me, even my friends. As such, I have spent many weekends of my life alone and lonely, taking the lack of a friendly phone call or text as a sign I wasn’t wanted.

Half way through high school, I finally realized the flaws of my logic thanks to a helpful friend. For the purposes of this article, let’s call her Beth. Beth was almost exactly like me. Along with sharing many of my interests, she also suffered from depression and low self-esteem. I saw myself in her. We mixed well, but both spent our share of weekends lonely.

Then, it dawned on me. Beth was doing the same thing I was. She sat at home, sadly waiting for the phone to ring without giving a thought to picking up the phone herself. If we both did this, how would we ever hang out together?

This realization was another step of my growing confidence. Perhaps it seems like common sense to ask someone to hang out with you, but it was a new development for me.  I started calling people here and there to hang out. Turns out, most of my friends were more than happy to spend time with me. Who would have guessed? As the years went by, I eventually started college and thought I was past this poor social habit.

Fast forward to the end of 2013. I had a friend point out to me that I had a habit of not inviting her to various events and excursions. Sadly, I had not even thought of inviting her most of the time. In fact, I was right back to where I was in high school. Without giving any thought to friends who might like to do something with me, I just acted.

I had been a horrible friend.

Here was a person who valued my friendship, and yet I had done many things without considering whether she would want to join me. I hadn’t considered whether any friend would want to join me. Who did I think I was?

This photo, “friendship” is copyright (c) 2014 Celestine Chua and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Since setting the goal of being a better friend, I think I have gotten better. Just last Friday, the boyfriend and I decided to see the new Captain America movie. Immediately, I suggested we invite our friends. Through that interaction, a friend who could not be there Friday invited us to hang out Saturday night. Just like that, I was able to enjoy a pleasant weekend with some of the most important people in my life.

I’m far from perfect at this whole friend thing, but I’m happy to report that I am improving. Perhaps there is hope for me, yet.

As for Beth, I haven’t seen a lot of change in her. Of the group of friends we had in high school, almost all have moved away. She, however, still lives in that small Iowa town. Honestly, I wonder and worry about her. Has she made new friends, or is she the same as when I last saw her? From my own invitation, she has come out to visit me a few times, but does she ever ask her friends to visit her? Does she call and ask about going out to visit them?

Beth and I both shared childhoods filled with an uncomfortable amount of bullying. It’s easy for me to understand how a lower self-worth contributes to a lack of socialization. To someone who hasn’t experienced that kind of self-esteem issue, her inability to reach out to others comes off in the same way it came off to my friend last year, rude and offensive. It becomes a self-fulling prophecy, hindering one’s ability to make friends.

I was lucky, then and now. Then, I saw myself in her. More importantly, I saw my own flaws in her which provided me with the motivation to change. I hope she has noticed as well and sought to change herself for the better. No one deserves to live a lonely life. Now, I am equally lucky to have friends who are willing to point out my flaws when I don’t notice them without also throwing away our friendship. I suppose it all acts as proof that practice makes perfect. Without at least attempting socialization, how would I have ever improved?

Have you, like Beth and myself, assumed that people didn’t want to hang out with you without bothering to ask? Have you been on the other side, and assumed a friend didn’t want to hang out with you because they never called? The most important question here may be, how do you tell the difference between someone who is truly rude and someone who doesn’t have the self-worth to assume people want to hang out with them?

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43 thoughts on “The Flaws of my Socialization”

  1. I’ve felt that way before, thinking no one wants to hang out if THEY don’t make the effort. I realized mid-highschool too that this was the wrong way of thinking. However, it’s never been a major problem for me. Out in the public I am social and outgoing, but I prefer to stay indoors. Hanging out with people and doing things is draining, and being alone and by myself helps me recharge. I think the people that matter know this about me, and respect me enough that when I say “Nah, I think I’ll pass” on whatever event, to not take it personally.
    Anyways, I feel for your situation. But like mine, I think the people that really know you shouldn’t be that offended.

    1. Well, they can only get to know me by hanging out with me… something which may not happen if I never make the effort to call them.

      Last year, my problem was that I had quickly gotten used to it just being myself and my boyfriend. We had lived here for a while without any other people to hang out with. Then, when we started to make friends, we’d talk about “oh, we should see this movie sometime” or “let’s go here sometime.” But we never made any real plans so sometimes I just went to that movie without even thinking about whether or not one of my new friends still wanted to join me. That’s offensive. It’s not the same thing of thinking of someone and deciding not to tell them… but it’s still offensive because it literally didn’t cross my mind to think of them. I never gave any thought to whether or not someone out there wanted to hang out with me.

      I like time to myself as well, but I’m still expected to be a friend and make sure they know they are welcomed.

        1. I don’t know what else to call it when I don’t even consider my friends when I go do something. I may understand that it did not come from a bad place, but it was rude nonetheless. Thank you though. I can agree that I certainly wasn’t trying to be a bad friend.

  2. You know when someone is happy to see you or when it is fake, so if a person that is happy to see you, does not call you, it is more likely that he/she just does not dare bothering you.

    1. sure… but if you’ve just met the person, how are you to read that? How do you know if the person never contacts you because they don’t want to bother you or if it’s because they just don’t like you? There’s no way. Anyone can pretend to be happy to see you, after all. It would be easy to assume that if they don’t call you they don’t want you. It’s even easier when you have friends who do call.

      1. I know it is not easy when you just met the person, but when you do get to meet the person, you guys talk right? You guys can distinguish each other’s persona traits, you can figure out if the person is shy, you can tell whether or not the person enjoys conversing with you or makes a fake smile. And it is indeed a hard thing to do the first step, to contact someone you just met, but if you have a similar personality than the shy friend, he/she is likely to get along with the same people than you, so you could get him/her to meet your other friends 🙂

  3. You were so kind as to follow my blog so, naturally, I came to have a look at yours. I like what I see, and I understand, so you have a new follower. Low self-esteem is endemic in Western society and it’s one of the tragedies I try to address in my everyday life. Mine used to be quite exceptionally poor and remained so for a very long time.
    You don’t have to answer, and forgive me for asking, but is the young lady in the photograph with her hand to her chin you?
    I’m quite old, incidentally, but I am no curmudgeon, and I like very much what I’ve read here. “Good” Bless.

    1. I never thought of low self-esteem as being a Western phenomena. Mostly, I thought of it as being a teenage habit that I’ve had trouble kicking. I don’t even know if the manifestation of this habit in my adult life was even due to low self-esteem. It was due to… I’m not even sure. It just didn’t cross my mind to think someone would want to hang out with me. Maybe that’s the same thing, it’s just that I didn’t feel bad about myself. Who knows.

  4. I’ve been through almost exactly the same thing on just about the same timeline. It’s a strange combination of relief, elation, and sadness when someone asks you, “Why haven’t we always hug out?” Thinking you aren’t good enough is hard to admit. I eventually realized I was good enough and became more social, putting myself out there the last half of high school, but it hit me again in college – depression and low self-esteem are murderous parasites. Luckily I had a couple great friends who didn’t assume I was just rude, and went out of their way to help me from that slump. I’m a better person now because of them, but I can’t help looking back at all the other friendships that didn’t make it. So many what-ifs. Live and learn, I guess. Like you said, practice makes perfect. We’re trying now and that’s all that matters.
    To sort of answer your question: there seems to be a pandemic of low self-esteem in our society that could lead to a vicious cycle. What if everyone thought no one wanted to hang out with them? We’d all be holed up in our apartments, alone. I believe one of the most important traits in a good friend is having the courage to go out of your way to support and uplift your friends, showing them that they are worth it when they believe otherwise. It’s easy to think, “They can text me or call me first,” but it isn’t right. If you think something is up with your friend, do what mine did and help them out.

    1. Another important trait in a good friend is being able to argue and/or be angry without ruining the relationship. Like my friend. She eventually confronted me, told me she was upset that I did something without her because she had been waiting to do that with me. She made her feelings known to me, which allowed me to realize that I was at fault for not thinking to invite her. Friends hang out with each other; friends call each other. That’s just what they do. Even when no date is set and they haven’t texted to let you know they are free today, you should still contact them sometimes to see if they want to join you in an activity.

      Because you can’t sit in your apartment and never call anyone. You also can’t expect to be lazy and put no effort into the relationship. It’s like dating. If person A never ever calls or text and person B is always the one doing the planning and inviting, the relationship will fail. B will eventually feel unwanted. Friendships are the same. You have to show effort.

  5. Hi TK! Thank you for sharing this. What a brave and honest post. I appreciate your candor. I understand how low self esteem can factor into the feeling of being “unwanted.” I think what helps is a friendship is supposed to be a two way street. People get so wrapped up in being “busy” that they sometimes don’t make time for what’s really important. I think also reaching out really is one of the best ways if you want to hang out. And think of it, we as humans love to interact with people!

    But you do have a valid point that it feels like no one wants to hang out if they aren’t asking. Sometimes friends can get really wrapped up in their own worlds so when you reach out they generally are pleasantly surprised! 🙂 And also I think it’s nice when a friend is proactive and makes you feel like you have a space in your life. Those ones are keepers! Thanks for posting this, it’s such a relatable topic in these modern times we live in.

    1. It really is a two way street, which is why thinking the way I used to was so wrong. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. When people don’t ever take the initiative to call and invite their friends to hang out, it makes them feel unwanted. So, by sitting alone at home waiting for someone else to take the initiative, I am also sending out a signal that I don’t want to hang out. True or not, that’s the message anyone gets if a person never talks to them. If anything, that message is louder when you hang out a few times and still they never call.

      I’ve actually ‘tested’ a few friends who I had to keep calling and calling to track down. I felt like I was more of an annoyance than anything else. Finally, I got tired of doing all the work and stopped trying. I just wanted to see if they would miss me. Even a text that said “hey, miss you” would have been appreciated. Sometimes, that did happen, other times, not. I made time for those friends who made time for me.

      Even as I type this I feel like a hypocrite because there are definitely friendships for which I’ve gone silent. I’m sure we are both doing the same thing. We graduated college, moved to the far corners of the world, and now hardly speak. Hell, I’m lucky to be on the same continent as some of my friends. I might have to look some of them up.

  6. Maybe I should wear a sign on my shirt that says, “Hi, I’m Benjamin. I make a good friend. At times I disappear into the forest and cannot be contacted…..” Thanks for writing this TK. I’m going to write my own experiences about this because it keeps coming up, and I’d like to feel better about it too.

    1. I’m happy you connected with it. I definitely feel you. I feel like I go through periods where I disappear. Luckily, I’ve made some friends out here who pull me out of it when that happens.

      What’s hard is when you move away or friends move away from you. Now that you’re not geographically close, you can’t call and ask if they want to hang out tonight. For some reason, that fact alone reduces the chances either of us will contact each other often.

      1. Totally. How much of your free time can you dedicate to others? Who matters? I find it difficult to differentiate. People want to be best friends, or have some sort of preference protocol for my attention, and it doesn’t work that way for me. I love people. It’s frustrating not to be able to satisfy another persons desires, but learning to say no has always been a struggle for me. That same feeling you talk about with travel is one of the blessings in it. People can blame your location instead of your need for alone time. Maybe this is why writers retreat into far away places? I miss myself sometimes more than I miss others and will probably always struggle to find the balance, but I consider my closer friends as the people who accept that about me without giving guilt trips. This usually corresponds to self esteem also. If my friend has a healthier self esteem, they probably have a similar battle waging in themselves. Everybody needs down time, some of us just need more. Maybe that’s why we find internet friendships easier? The lack of a good signal can be our travel to a different place? If all your friends were to read this, what would they take away? I think they’d take away that you care about being an honorable friend enough to wonder if your doing it right. Maybe the flaw of your socialization is just a chip on a gem that everybody wants to point at, because your shining in their memories? “People harbor a secret hatred for the prettiest girl in the room” Ani Defranco 🙂

        1. I’m actually considering writing something on the internet now. I mean, maybe we don’t realize we are ignoring our friends when we can post everything online. Maybe we don’t feel a need to call them and ask about their life because we can just read their Facebook page and get our update.

          As for the question of who matters, that makes this all the more important. Who matters to me are those people who contribute to the friendship and who actively try to hang with me every week. Friends who never call slowly fade just because they are not asking for my time as much as others are.

  7. I’ve been told I’m antisocial and I’ve definitely been a bad friend. Not by my friends though lol just other people I know. My 2 bfs from elementary school have always been really understanding of the fact that I’d rather hang out with my boyfriend than them. In all fairness, they feel the same so it’s worked out great for us. I’ve always tried to be straightforward with ppl I want to make friends with about my life. For awhile, I decided I was good with just 2 friends. I had made lots of friends in high school but we fell apart/I stopped talking to ppl I didn’t like. I’m a pretty cut throat person. My 3rd real friend I made in College was just too nice. I told her on the 1st day that after we graduated I’d probably never speak to her again because I don’t hang on to friends. She was so amazingly understanding and cool about the whole thing that I changed my mind 🙂 The only thing that really gets in my way is money. If I had more money, I’d probably ditch the boyfriend a little more.

    1. I had one friend through my Catholic school. I had two and eventually three others outside of that school, but none of them liked each other so I could only hang out with one at a time. When I started high school, I joined the clique of one of them, and kind of lost touch with the rest. My high school was all about your clique. By my senior year, my group of friends had had a falling out so that most of them didn’t want to be in the same room with each other. In college, I roomed with one of my high school friends and stayed in touch with only a couple others. I made some new great friends in college, especially when I studied abroad. That friend from high school who I roomed with, we had a falling out soon after graduation. She apologized and I forgave her, but our relationship wasn’t the same. I wasn’t really interested, especially if she wasn’t. When I moved away, I decided to leave it up to her. She’s the one who said she ‘couldn’t live without’ me. She never called. I took the initiative a few times and even went out to visit her once, but I haven’t heard from her in almost a year now.

      So, here I am, with friends scattered across the world. I would say I still consider 90% of them to be friends. I’ve tried to contact about 50% of them a few times since I’ve moved away, but I rarely get a response. Perhaps the sort of thought process I described here is more prevalent than I thought.

      1. I know how you feel. My friends never ended up getting along very well either. I’m glad I could help you view this topic from another standpoint that you maybe didn’t consider before. Though, I honestly think if you try to contact old friends at all that makes you a good friend. My Boyfriend once said he didn’t understand why girls don’t have a sense of “Wolf Pack” i.e. friends who stick together through thick and thin no matter what. I told him I think it’s because girls have different life goals than boys and those goals get in the way of friendship more often than not.

        1. I don’t know if that’s why girls don’t have a ‘wolf pack.’ I’m not even sure what that means…. most of the men I know don’t have that. I blame the falling out on being immature children who were really more friends of convenience than anything else. There’s not a lot of choices in a small town. These days I have a group of friends near by. I guess that counts as my wolf pack, but it’s made out of men and women. I don’t think I’d like having a group of just female friends.

          Maybe that’s really the problem… maybe groups fall apart because having the influence of only one gender is too much or something? I don’t know…

          1. Groups of just female friends are definitely a handful but I think it’s something you should try again some day. As long as you accept each others opinions on things you’ll find yourselves having some very deep thought-provoking conversations and crazy fun 🙂

            1. I don’t see why I specifically need female friends for that, though. I have just as deep conversations with my male friends. It’s probably just a preference thing.

              1. True. I can see preferences playing a decent roll here. I, unlike you, don’t really have deep conversations with my guy friends because they’re not deep they’re just silly. That’s why the situations seem different to me.

    1. Beth? I try, but I’m not in my hometown very often unless I’m there to attend some family event. I’ve invited her our here a few times, but I rarely hear a peep from her. She is one I will probably continue to contact here and there because I know she is just like I used to be. I have other old friends who mirror her behavior who I probably won’t see again for a long time. I don’t mind doing the calling and the inviting, but I can’t be the only trying at the friendship. Eventually, if they never seem to try, I’ll stop trying too. Like any relationship, friendship is a two way street.

  8. I hear this loud and clear.
    I’m a total social butterfly when I leave the house. It’s actually leaving the house that I seem to have issues with. Because going out just seems to hard to do.
    Coupled with the fact that I don’t really have a car so I’m reliant on public transport and all my good intentions fly with the wind because once I’m home it’s really hard for me to want to go out again.
    I think it’s because I’ve always enjoyed my own company that I don’t really mind hanging out with myself.
    Sometimes though, it would be nice to be invited out. But I never seem to be and when I make the effort my friends sometimes don’t.
    And so it goes.

    1. I know how you feel. Most days, I am perfectly content being on my own. Of course, I greatly enjoy hanging with friends as well. There’s a balance there somewhere. I still hold that it’s rude if one person makes all the effort and the other person just lays around waiting. I’ve ended friendships simply because they never tried to contact me and other friends did. I think part of the reason why I wrote this is because I now see myself in those friends who I assumed were rude and didn’t want me. That’s not how I want to come off to other people.

    1. Very true. I don’t know if I’d call myself an introvert. I just have a habit of latching on to one or two people. I’m not used to having many friends. It came naturally to think of my boyfriend whenever I considered what I was doing, but I needed to think of my friends in the same way.

  9. I don’t think that makes you a bad friend. I have had ‘friends’ who have deliberately excluded me. And that’s not me being paranoid, I know that she actually did that. It did make me feel the same for a while. I know the friends I have now though (at least my close ones) would always make the effort.

    1. Being deliberately excluded is bad, but you can’t tell that not even considering whether or no to exclude a person is also rude. They are my friends. How could I not even think of them when I consider going to a movie or show? That is certainly my fault and I take full responsibility. They deserve more than that and they deserve as much because they are dear friends.

  10. Howdy! I also had these thoughts when I met the person who turned into my best friend. For the first few weeks I was thinking ‘god, this person doesn’t like me’. I have since realised that if you’re thinking something then it is highly likely that lots of other people have thought it or experienced it too, and it is very useful to think this when you’re feeling awkward

      1. Ah, went through it myself. My experience with hundreds of students I’ve met over the years is that pretty much all of them have this. Basically, for most, it gets better gradually as you get older. I was so thankful to get the 20s behind me. You’re more likely to have a decent job, even a career, that is going relatively well, you’re settled, finances bit more stable, starting to think about buying a house or settling down. 30s are wonderful….as long as you don’t do the last two!

  11. lets turn the switch on this as to lowered self esteem as to socialization. like you said, and like I know bullying at whatever age they come in can in fact cause that. but if we look at like this – we pull away – process everything we actually can come to this conclusion. we as highly sensitive people and or introverts see that they aren’t meeting what we have inside going on. so lets look at it like it’s their lack of self esteem as people that keeps us from getting back into socialization. I realize that some of what you are talking about pertains to friends and all. I just wanted to present a generalized concept as to how I JUST NOW perceived this situation. after all we are the ones who initially thought we had something wrong with us !!

    1. So, is your thought that it might be their low-self esteem that prevents socialization? I suppose that’s possible if they never call. However, if they do call you frequently and you never call them, it can send the wrong signal.

      1. I was looking at it from this aspect. If you take the bully aspect and look at how their lack of self esteem perpetuated out outer existence. so what i’m saying is our inner self was good but when it comes to our outer self we have to always work on that. that includes on how we interact with our friends. this is not to say our friends have low self esteem. but if you look at the big picture as to socialization, the bully types generate a lot of problems all the way around. this is a big topic and understand it by how I have handled my friends as well. after all inner self operates different than our outer self – meaning external factors as to the human experience. you have a way of making me wanting to respond. perhaps this perspective comes out a little clearer and is beneficial.

        1. I think I get what you’re saying. Your pointing out a disconnect between who we are on the inside and how we act on the outside. An interesting way to look at this.

          1. that’s correct TK. It’s been really hard for me as of late as that is one the reason why I wrote that introverted piece. it made me process as to why I was doing that. all of us introverted sensitive types need to build off of one another.

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