Hear me out Opinions

Hear Me Out: Adult Friendships As Told By A Former Socially Anxious Child

Breaking down the science of meeting people in a post-pandemic world

People are everywhere, and introducing your name, age, favourite colour, and field of study eventually becomes muscle memory, right? But there is something daunting about sharing more than just that.

By now, you must have come to the realization that while meeting people is easy, making them friends is hard.

As someone who had to beg their sisters to order food for them as a child, I sometimes feel that my past fears manifest themselves into life over and over again. Anxieties that once revolved around having no one to play with during recess and being told to “pick a partner” in class creep their way into adult interactions.

I find that the socially anxious child inside me never went away — they now live on, wearing adult-sized clothing. It’s a phenomenon that transpires in crowded lecture halls and house parties alike; and as I grow older, I question the idea of friendships even more.

Vulnerability can be scary, but opening your arms and the doors of your home to others is what builds friendships. The one thing I have in common with my current friends is the moments of vulnerability that we’ve shared: when I show them my weaknesses and they show me theirs. 

When coming face to face with new friends, being vulnerable is the only hard step to overcome. Confiding in people and showing them your weaknesses can be scary, but it’s necessary for human connection.

The past two years of our lives have transformed the way we view friendship and our yearning

for connection. After the pandemic, friendships appear to be a scarce resource that we forgot how to maintain. Being chronically online and out of touch with reality has arguably transformed the relationship many of us have with making friends. Many of us can no longer sit still in a classroom and daily ventures consume more energy than they used to.

How do we overcome our fear of socializing in a post-pandemic environment? How do we maintain a friendship amidst packed schedules and obligations?

More importantly, how many times do we have to bump into each other at the grocery store to go from “acquaintances” to “friends”?

The naivety of our youth makes friendships easy. We don’t think about why or who we want to be friends with. We see the same people at school everyday, have the same idea of fun, and have so little to lose.

The more awareness we gain of our surroundings, the more filters we put in place for the people we let into our lives. This can be very enriching yet lonely and anxiety-inducing.

There are a few things that helped the socially anxious little child inside me, and I find myself

resorting to them time and time again.

First, aim to like people and not for them to like you. You should have a genuine interest in the people you’re friends with while constantly looking for the good in them. This takes the pressure off yourself to need validation and you’ll want to get to know people (bonus points because people love talking about themselves).

I often ask for confirmation of my delusions. There should be one person in every room you can depend on to shake you and tell you, “No, you don’t look stupid in that shirt.” All it takes to break a self-conscious thought in a social setting is to say it out loud, so you can realize that it’s only scary inside your head.

I remind myself that I’m not the only one who feels like this. It may be hard to believe but everyone is in the same boat. We yearn for friendships and companions, and we all get moments of self-doubt and self-consciousness. It helps when you think of other people as… well, people.

Adult friendships are the most beautiful addition to your life once you overcome the scary steps. I found sisterhood with people not related to me, and have people in my life who my children will be hearing stories about. 

We all deserve soulful and healthy friendships. We gain so much from the people around us and for that, we have to train ourselves to put our walls down.

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