An Honest and Open Evaluation of a Human Struggle
By Lindsey Shackelford LISW, LCDC III
When I was asked to write this blog, I was pretty uncertain as to what kinds of things people would be interested in reading about. Recently there has been an influx of “how to” articles popping up on Facebook and in other areas of the internet or social media. As someone who doesn’t have much time to read, I do find those types of articles to be helpful. It was suggested that I focus on something that I have been struggling with recently and what I found to work for me. So, here goes!
As I am quickly approaching my 30th birthday I have found myself reflecting on the fact that several of my friends seem to be settling down with their husbands/wives and children or are deeply invested in their careers. Oftentimes that leaves me thinking to myself, “Hey! What about me?” Now I’m not saying that in the sense that I want to settle down and start a family of my own. Let’s not get carried away here. I say that wondering about who I’m going to spend time with after work or on the weekends now. I’ve found myself scrolling through numbers on my phone looking for something to do on the weekends and turning up with oftentimes nothing. It left me thinking that there was something wrong with me or that maybe I wasn’t as good of a friend as I thought I was. I imagine that this would be scary for lots of people. It definitely was for me. So, how did I solve this problem for me? Let me tell you.
As a therapist, I think it’s important to not only practice what you preach, but sometimes you need to talk to another therapist whether that is a coworker or an unbiased professional who only knows what you have told them. I chose both. I found it helpful to speak to my therapist about my feelings because she has known me over the past couple of years and can identify patterns in my life that maybe I haven’t been able to see myself. She was reassuring in the sense that she has seen others my age who are struggling with the same things. Talk about a relief!
My coworker, who is also a therapist, offers unique advice in that she knows me pretty well personally but also adds a therapy flavor to her suggestions. Both people suggested that I do some self-reflection. Asking questions that challenge some of those negative thinking patterns that a lot of people get stuck in such as,
“Am I really a bad friend?”
“Do I take time to nurture my friendships?” (Ex: Listening, setting aside time for them)
“Am I the kind of person I would want to be friends with?”
Depending on how you answered those questions, it may be time to do some work on yourself before you can ask for friendship from anyone else. It’s ok to seek help from a qualified professional.
One challenging thing for me was that I didn’t have many hobbies. Going out every Friday and Saturday night doesn’t really count as a hobby and can be very expensive. I had to re-evaluate my interests and start to focus on how I would like to spend my time either after work and/or on the weekends. During winter, this can be very challenging given that it’s too cold to be outside and there seems to be a lot less opportunities to do things. With spring in full force and summer approaching, there are a variety of outdoor activities and more things to do in the area. Searching for things to do in Cincinnati on the internet can be helpful but how do you know if other people do those activities? You don’t.
What I have found to be helpful when it comes to tying my hobbies in with meeting new people is downloading the app “Meet up” and setting up a small profile. On this app, you can search through groups that have been created focusing on particular interests. Once you add a group based on your interest, you can then attend events that have been pre-arranged. Attend the event, introduce yourself and have fun!
Nurture your current friendships. For me, I was a little off put by the fact that several of my friends have gotten engaged recently. They are busy planning their weddings and I assumed that they just didn’t have time for me. That translated into me not reaching out as much as I used to which turned into little to no interaction with them. My assumption put distance in the relationship and I learned this from spending time self-reflecting. I have recently started to send text messages trying to find time to catch up. Phone calls also are great ways to get back in touch with people.
Take time to ask them how they are doing and be interested in what they have to say. You may not understand their current struggles of searching for the perfect table decorations for their wedding or the soccer coach being hard on their child but, listening is the first step to rebuilding that lost connection within the friendship. Put yourself in their shoes, do they understand dating in 2016? Most likely not. You will find common ground within the differences in your situations.
Lastly, it’s important to have self-confidence. If you have truly outgrown your friends or they have outgrown you, find the strength within yourself to get back out there and meet people. My struggle was accepting the fact that there are people out there going through the same thing as me. I felt alone and also a little scared that I wouldn’t be able to find others. You might feel similarly. You may have found out through self-reflection that you have lots to offer a potential new friend. I know I did. Also, it will be helpful to remind yourself that your other friends became your friend for a reason and just because they are getting married or are invested in their careers doesn’t mean they don’t have time for you. Persistence and patience are important in this area.
The most important thing to remember is that you must be emotionally healthy yourself in order to find new friendships or nurture old ones. Just like when searching for a significant other, their presence cannot and will not “fix” you. Be the best version of yourself and you will draw likeminded individuals to you. Best wishes and good luck!