My fingers, usually clickity-click fast on my iPhone, hovered above the screen. I knew I was making this harder than it needed to be. Yes, I had chosen to text, because the thought of having this conversation in real time was just too scary. This way, if she said no, I wouldn’t have to quickly come up with an easy breezy comeback that belied my disappointment. If she said yes, well, I hadn’t exactly thought through the next step because I could hardly make myself begin the first. I typed…and then deleted what I typed because it sounded ridiculous. Sigh. How hard can this possibly be?
The above is a play-by-play of something I did just this last week. Was I asking my boss for a gigantic raise or delivering bad news to some unsuspecting soul? Nope. I was inviting some new acquaintances over to our house for a cookout.
Many of you will not understand why I got worked up over such a simple transaction. You don’t understand because friendships are easy for you. From that day in elementary school when you locked eyes with a girl wearing the same “My Little Ponies” t-shirt to the adult days of hosting neighborhood parties and going out for “girls’ nights”, you’ve never really thought about friendships as difficult or complicated. I am not you. I envy you. I do many things well, but making friends and maintaining friendships has never felt particularly effortless or natural. I am an accomplished woman – in fact, I’ve been called “Super Woman” twice this week – but friendship is a chink in my armor.
Growing up, I usually had one friend at a time as groups were intimidating. I often felt ill-equipped to navigate the dynamics of friend groups and far preferred to focus my attention in a single direction. I attended lots of group activities (dances, ballgames, etc.), but put far too much energy into making sure I had a plan for exactly what was going to happen once I arrived, who I was going to sit with, and what we were going to talk about. I was insecure about the friendships I had and often felt like I was constantly auditioning for my role, and only made new friends if they made the first move. And, I was quite passive if and when friendships shifted off course. A few very special people floated out of my life because I didn’t know what to do in response to a rift, so I did nothing at all. While this sounds incredibly depressing, I have somehow managed to enjoy some great friendships throughout my life, and for this I’m incredibly grateful. Thank goodness for people who make the first move!
Age has provided some perspective, but I’ll admit I still struggle with insecurity. About 5 years ago, I learned I am an introvert. I’ve spent my whole life performing, speaking in public, and leading in various capacities, none of which aligned with my perceptions of an introvert. Previously, I defined an introvert as someone who is anti-social or doesn’t like to talk. Well, I get along with people really well and I talk all the time (sometimes I talk so much I have to kick MYSELF under the table). In reality, I’m a fairly typical introvert. I do most everything with some degree of anxiety and fear and require ample down time to recover from my social activities. Further, when stressed, I withdraw as opposed to engage. This insight definitely helped the world make sense, particularly where my friendship history is concerned. Knowing how my personality impacts my actions definitely helps me strike the right balance and compensate for some of my natural tendencies that are counterproductive to maintaining relationships. Continue reading Is There Hope For The Friendship Flunky?