There’s an epidemic attacking this generation.
I’m sure of it. And not just because I feel like it’s personally attacking me as well, but because it’s attacking my clients. My gorgeous, high-functioning, creative, intelligent, and successful clients. I mean these are girls who PAY PRECIOUS MONIES to talk to someone about their goals, dreams, and setbacks. These girls have their shit together, ya know?
And most of them don’t have any friends.
Ok, that’s a lie. They have one or two.
I wrote a post not too long ago all about how to make female friends, and while I’m not reneging it, that doesn’t mean I don’t still personally struggle with this whole female friendship thing, too. Deep down, I only have a few close friends. But I have a looooot of acquaintances. Close ones, too. Acquaintances are fun! But they don’t always show up. And recently I had a rude awakening just about how true that really was.
I’m not going to go into details, but let’s just say I cried for about a week straight about how I was a loser.
My poor therapist!
So while I was having a meltdown of my own, I was looking around at the strong women in my life and in my screen (clients, get it?) and totally realized that they were in the same boat as me! They had a few true friends they could *really* rely on. A handful that actually understood them. And…maybe one or two that would actually show up.
That’s considered lucky, y’all.
So let’s talk about why this happens, why it’s also normal, and even some things you might want to tweak. Full disclosure: most of this stuff you might already know. You’ve experienced it firsthand. But maybe it will make you feel less alone.
Because you know what? You’re not a loser.
1. We move a lot
Sorry, correction: We move a shit ton.
And even if you despise moving and like your roots to be thick and sturdy – one of your friends moved. That’s for damn sure. There is zero possible way that every one of your few friends went to high school, college, and grad school, and had their first job in the same city.
I call BS.
Moving is just way too common and feasible at this day in age for that to have not happened. And while yes, we have lightning speed technology to bridge the gap between the long distances – we all know it’s still not the same. Only the strongest of friendships survive that. Natural selection like the little bitch it is will come swooping in and cut out all the weak links from your life. It’s basically a guarantee.
But the crappy part about this process is that sometimes we don’t realized the deterioration has taken over until YEARS later. We say to people in passing, “Oh yeah, I have a best friend who lives in New York!” like you’re still the closest of pals. Maybe it’s habit. But more than likely, you had a group of friends at one time, and you still hang onto that part of your identity. Probably for self preservation.
Most of us don’t get the message that the friendship wasn’t what you thought it was until a milestone or a pressure point is introduced. We expect a resurgence of the old times – but people have moved on. And we probably weren’t as present as usual for them during their moments, either.
The distance won.
It’s sad, yes, but it’s also liberating to be able to spread your wings and live your life wherever suits you best. It just comes with a hefty dose of consequences and emotional baggage.
The best advice is to hang onto those stubborn, steel-made friendships that RE.FUSE. to let go no matter how far you’ve moved away. They flip the bird to natural selection and tell it to piss off. And while they may really be far, far away – it doesn’t mean the friendship doesn’t exist. You just might not have proof of that on a lazy Sunday full of RHONY reruns.
2. You’ve grown out of pretending
I don’t know how old you were when you finally realized that being unapologetically yourself is the most inescapable force that ever freaking existed. Like, fighting against your weird quirks and choices was just excruciatingly exhausting and pure surrender was the only choice life was offering. So you nuzzled into yourself, and then realized that some of your friends might not really get it – or you – anymore.
YIIIIIKES that is terrifying. And it’s so, so common.
There was a time in your life when you mildly pretended to be someone else. I don’t care how confident or resilient you were as a 19 year old – fitting in is paramount in school (including college) and there was probably some sort of group culture you were trying to emulate. Just a smidge.
Maybe you laughed at crass jokes or lied about who you voted for. Perhaps it was in the way you dressed or the way you spoke. But something was probably a little inauthentic during your formative years. And now? O.Mi.Gawd. You can’t even imagine acting like you’ve seen The Big Lebowski. It’s just not you.
You know who you are now. And compromising this person who you fought so tirelessly to become is absolutely out of the question. So what happens to those home-grown friendships?
Welp. They flail.
It’s not that your tolerance for others diminishes. You’re still a patient, sweet person. But your tolerance for bending over backwards to connect has slipped right off your back. Especially when it’s a “personal” friendship and not a “business” one.
Sounds cut throat, but it’s not. You’re malleable 19 year old self probably taught you the ins and outs of networking and how to engage in boring conversations for the sake of your career or other necessary relationships. But to do it just for fun? During your free time? When you are actually supposed to be RELAXING?
It’s just not going to happen.
And people will notice. Nobody likes to be placated, and it’s really not fun talking to someone who doesn’t throw you a bone here and there. You can’t blame them for unconsciously (or super intentionally) distancing themselves from you. They have other people who they’ve connected with, too. People who laugh at their jokes.
This isn’t your fault – you’ve evolved. You are growing in authenticity. But with that comes shedding of skin – and people – along with it.
3. You’re picky AF
So I am running under the grand assumption that you know who you are by now. And I think that’s a fair assumption to make.
If you are looking around and feeling like a huge, big, giant loser because you have no friends – then your self-awareness is high enough to even notice something has shifted. Congrats! So yeah, you’ve done some soul-searching over the past few years. You listen to yourself.
Sooooo you also must know that you are a little pickier than you used to be. You’re needy.
Not like, needy for attention, per se. But needy for real connection. Needy for stimulating conversation and values in common. Needy for mutual respect and admiration. Needy for true friendship.
You know what makes you tick and you know your pet peeves. You know what you respect in others and what you can barely tolerate. And you’ve realized that this world is full of millions of people – so guess what? You’re allowed to be picky.
You’ve got a lot going on in your life. A lot. You’ve got family stuff and career stuff and apartment stuff and travel stuff and other stuff. And while you wish you had more friend stuff, you also don’t want to burn any of that precious time on people who don’t meet your standards. But then you throw your head back and whine that you don’t have any friends.
Well, which is it?
Do you not have any friends, or are you just really freaking picky? I’ll let you answer that one.
4. Social media provides the illusion that we’re keeping in touch.
A happy birthday post coupled with a dozen likes on various pictures does not a friendship make.
But, I can see where this gets confusing. Thanks to Snapchat, you can feel like you’ve been out with someone all night. Thanks to Instagram, you can see the best days of their lives. And thanks to Facebook, you can hear about the shittiest days of their lives. (And all of their lovely political rants.)
So by all accounts, it does feel like you’ve kept in touch. Just one problem – they don’t know that.
You aren’t doing the actual connecting by liking this or that. You aren’t having the one on one conversations necessary to sustain any sort of mutual relationship. It’s in front of you, yes. You’re in the loop, yes. But you aren’t connecting. You aren’t present. So how do they know to call you up to tell you good news or show up for your big events?
People aren’t mind readers. We cannot let social media maintain our friendships for us. It doesn’t work that way. True friendships still take manual labor. So you have to put in what you want out. Per usual.
5. You’re scared of vulnerability.
This is the kicker right here. All of these other reasons aren’t necessarily bad things – it’s healthy to grow up and find out who you are, and friendships are going to shift because of it.
But fear of vulnerability is a problem. It is stealing your ability to create true connection with people you’d actually like to be close with.
So…what is vulnerability, really?
You know. It’s that elusive, treacherous feeling that is necessary for any fulfilling relationship. It’s being completely raw and uncensored in front of somebody that you respect and admire. It’s opening up your insides without knowing what someone else’s response will be to it. It’s the scariest and healthiest feeling in the world.
But let’s take it a step further. Let’s talk about it in my own life.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have such a great week last week. I felt let down by a lot of people, and simultaneously, a lot of people came through for Andrew. Like, big time. And it was really embarrassing.
I like to hide those things from people. Probably because it’s a learned behavior, but also because of my profession. I am used to being the listener, not the talker. I also like to lead by example, so having problems seems like a bad idea when you are giving other people advice. And to top it all off, I’m ashamed of myself when I don’t follow my own advice.
I’m scared people will immediately call me out and say BUT KAAAAAALI DIDN’T YOU READ YOUR BOOK????, followed by a WHAT WOULD YOU TELL A CLIENT IN THIS SITUATION? (I would tell her to stop listening to such smug people) or my absolute favorite, ISN’T A LIFE COACH SUPPOSED TO KNOW BETTER THAN THAT??!?!?
Soooooo yeah I guess you can say I am scared shitless of vulnerability.
On the other hand, I’m not so scared of being authentic. I don’t mind telling people I am having a shitty week – but you won’t see a tear. You won’t actually see visible emotion from me. Because while I can tell you the truth – acting like it actually bothers me would ruin my whole schtick.
Authenticity and vulnerability are not the same.
Which is why I need Charlotte in my life.
Yes, Charlotte the Blush coach. Otherwise known as one of my chosen people.
Charlotte has a lot of friends from high school and college she’s close with. She is really good at keeping in touch with people and relationships are her jam. She puts effort in, and she gets a lot out. So she is the LAST person I want to talk to about feeling like a loser. In my mind, she’s never felt like that before. So how would she see me if I admitted my shortcomings? Would she still look at me the same?
*Be vulnerable, Kali. Just do it.*
Not only did Charlotte give me the wisdom bits I needed, (“you can be sad and happy at the same time”), but she also made me feel like I wasn’t crazy. It was like she was feeling it, too. In fact, I think she actually was.
Not living up to the expectation of what you want other people to think you are is really difficult. We all want to be perceived in a certain way, and that’s to be expected. We don’t want our bosses to think we’re lazy, we don’t want our grandmothers to think we’re disrespectful, and we don’t want our friends thinking we’re lame. But at some point, we have to let go of this need to control this persona of ours and just be.
Charlotte isn’t going to abandon me when I tell her what’s going on with me. She’s not going to think, “Hmm, this embarrassing thing makes her a loser” and leave.
The person who is judging me isn’t Charlotte – it’s me.
When you communicate your true feelings to someone else, then you’re going to have to acknowledge them yourself.
So yeah, you have to suck up the sour pill that you’re not as cool or smart or funny as you would like to be. So what? No one is. And by keeping that disappointment a secret, you are only keeping yourself locked away from people who will truly help you.
Please don’t let the fear of vulnerability keep you away from close and dear friendships.
I refuse to live in a glass case, and so should you. We are people with emotions flowing through our veins and it’s silly to pretend like they don’t exist. We are going to feel like losers sometimes, that’s life. But we cannot be victims of our own pride. That’s bullshit.
My recommendation? Do what I do. Talk to Coach Charlotte. She’s your perfect antidote for any friendship fears, and together you two can figure out why vulnerability is an issue for you and how it’s impacting your life. She can also help you make peace with your friendship situation or try to change anything you deem possible. And, you can get all of this for $79/mo. What on earth are you waiting for?!
Photo by Prasanna Kumar on Unsplash