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How can I get my confidence back in friendships?

(18 Posts)
Tulahoob Sat 09-Feb-13 22:56:54

I've struggled with friendships to a certain degree since I was at secondary school. I have quite low confidence and self esteem. I think I must be OK though as I have lots of friends and acquaintances, who I think genuinely do like me, but I struggle with taking a friendship onto the next level.

About 4 years ago I became friends quite quickly with someone who I seemed to gel with very well and we became very close; talking daily by phone or text, meeting up most days, nights out etc. And I really thought that maybe I hadn't met the right friend before. To cut a long story short, I introduced her to another friend of mine about a year ago and the two hit it off and became close and I found myself dumped. No contact, no meet ups, nothing. I was devastated.

I figured if she dumped me as readily as she did and with no explanation then she probably wasn't a proper friend in the first place, and I didn't want any animosity. I do still see her as we live near each other, and when I do I am polite but there is no friendship there any longer.

My problem now is lack of confidence in taking any other new friendships onto the level of friendship I had with the other friend, because ultimately I am scared of rejection and in my mind something is telling me that every friend I have will get fed up with me eventually. I don't feel I can give much to a friendship, I don't dare to give much as I don't want to just be rejected again. If someone invites me to their house for a coffee or a chat, or on a night out then I go willingly, and enjoy myself, but I rarely suggest meeting up to anyone as I worry about rejection. The few times I have suggested anything to anyone in the past year they have been either unable to come, unable to fit me into their schedule, or they've cancelled at the last minute. So I give up really. But I know me feeling like I do is going to mean that I never take a friendship forward again into a close friendship.

I feel very lonely, although of course I have DH and my DCs. I really would like to have a good social life but I don't want to look desperate by asking people to meet up all the time, and I worry all the time that history will repeat itself and everyone will get fed up with me after a while.

OhToBeCleo Sat 09-Feb-13 23:15:23

I think you're over analyzing things. Friendships should grow naturally and feel easy. What you've described above (especially the 'being dumped' bit) sounds like you're viewing friendships like relationships. The important thing with friendships is to find people who have similar interests to you and then just let things grow. Are your expectations of friendships/people realistic?

Adversecamber Sat 09-Feb-13 23:23:12

It sounds like the relationship changed radically after years of a lot of social stuff together. I have also recently lost a friend and again like you it was their decision and a quick cutting off as well. It does hurt and it sounds like that friendship had grown but then disappeared quickly. I don't have any amazing insights I'm afraid but just so you know your not the only person it has happened to and that feels sad about it.

LaraInTheSky Sun 10-Feb-13 12:13:40

You're not alone, OP. Though I've had quite a lot of friends over my lifetime, I find female friendship really hard to sustain. I've had quite a few friends turning off the friendship button just like that, without explanation, without warning. Just one day, they decide not to answer your e-mails, your texts. I keep asking myself what I did wrong, but I can't spend the rest of my life torturing myself with these sort of questions, so I just let it go, as they lead to more and more self doubt and lack of confidence.

The lesson I learned so far is that friendship, unlike marriage or blood relations, is quite fragile, and can grow and disappear quite easily. It's the way it is.

Sometimes I find that moving on to the next stage in life it's a deal breaker for a lot of female friends. If you were both single and you found a boyfriend, that's it. If you had children and they don't, that's it. If you moved abroad, bought a nice house etc, and they don't, for some reason, they don't seem to like you that much anymore. True friends will stay and support you throughout, fake ones will vanish.

I think I've only got a couple of good friends at the moment, but I'm happy with that. I'd love to have a busier social life, and probably I'm yet to meet my great true friend, but I just take it easy for now. I've learned that when it comes to friendship, less is definitely more.

springyhopes Sun 10-Feb-13 14:39:48

I'm very wary of friendships that ignite quickly - because the end is usually what happened to you OP. So painful sad

She/they behaved very badly but what she did had very little to do with you imo - she will tire of her current friend when someone dazzling comes along (or someone she finds dazzling). I have met quite a few women like this and I give them a wide berth, regardless how exciting/entertaining they are. I thoroughly enjoy their company but don't kid myself that there is any particular depth to the friendship.

I agree to let friendships develop over time.

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Sun 10-Feb-13 15:04:43

Perhaps you could spread yourself more thinly, or not put your eggs all in one basket. If you feel panicky at the thought of investing too much into one friendship, maybe you can develop two or three acquaintances. When you're at school it seems imperative to have a 'bestie'. Later it becomes more practical to have more friends because as life goes on, we scatter to the four winds, and evn these days contact can diminish. When people say, "Oh my DP is my world", it's a bit of an alarm bell, what happens if that relationship folds?

I hate being 'dumped', who doesn't, but tbh I have myself let one or two friendships go, they dissolved over time and yes it suited me not to chase or keep them alive.

I used to be quite shocked at people who cheerfully admitted having different friends for different reasons, ie one shopping pal, one coffee and gossip, one 'intellectual' friend, (see plays, foreign films, visit galleries). It seemed calculating and I didn't see how easy it was for them to compartmentalise like that. Truthfully? it makes more sense as I get older and time is precious. Falling out with one friend isn't the end of the world because you have others to rely on. Over time, you learn who is steadfast and can be trusted.

Tulahoob Sun 10-Feb-13 15:47:05

Thank you for the replies, everyone.

I'm glad to hear it's not just me that this has happened to; it has really made me doubt myself and I know I am very analytical about it all but I just can't help it. My DH keeps saying to me to remember that it wasn't my fault and it was my friend that behaved badly. She is one of those people that everyone likes and warms to, I tend to pull back from people if I'm feeling low, and so she is still being a social butterfly and it's me that suffered.

Having said that, I do have good friends that I've known years and I know are there for me. Unfortunately several of these live a distance away and the ones that live locally have totally different lives to me, but I do see them occasionally, and I guess the fact that I have long-term friends means that I am capable of sustaining a friendship, which gives me a bit more confidence.

I agree about compartmentalising friends too, and I know it sounds very childish but I won't be introducing any friends to each other again as this has made me so wary.

Tulahoob Mon 11-Feb-13 16:28:27

Hope nobody minds me bumping my own thread up but I'm struggling a bit this week.

I am just so scared that any friends I have at the moment will just 'go off' me like the other friend did. One local friend I really like, but I feel like I can't relax and enjoy the friendship as surely one day she will just stop being my friend too. It's making me doubt myself all the time and I just feel so silly sad

springyhopes Mon 11-Feb-13 16:43:41

ah see, you have to be your friend first before you can enjoy friendships (all friendships, serious and light).

eg you have to get to/be at the place where if someone doesn't value you then you have no interest in having a relationship with them. ie you value your opinion more than theirs. You know you're a good egg, you'd love to be your friend, you value your qualities .... if someone else doesn't see that then they're blind. or something. Whatever, they are of no interest to you.

I remembered after posting on this thread that a very similar thing happened to me. I had been very close to a woman I met at a domestic abuse support group. We really hit it off. Then another woman came along and my friend dumped me with no ceremony at all - it was as if I didn't exist. I was just so shocked! In fact, they skipped out of the room holding hands, both wearing pigtails (I know, you couldn't make it up could you). It was a bizarre experience and I was deeply cut by it. It took me many years to recover - and that was because I had been done over by a very damaged woman. It wasn't in the normal run of things, I had been specifically done over. I would suggest the same has happened to you.

Out there are women who are like you: have a sense of decency and fairness and don't just pick people up like a book from a bookshelf and put them back when they're done. Look for women like you, who are rounded human beings; not perfect but with basic humanity in place. Don't judge this woman by normal relationships.

Tulahoob Mon 11-Feb-13 16:46:34

Thank you springyhopes for your lovely post.

You are right, I need to reach the stage where if someone doesn't value me then I have no interest in them. I'm not sure how to raise my self worth though? Maybe it's something I need to read up on. Like you say, I think I am overall a good egg. I try to treat others as I'd like to be treated myself.

I think I find it so hurtful as I invested so much time and effort in the friendship. Sorry to hear you had a similar experience too sad How did you raise your confidence after it happened, if you don't mind me asking?

springyhopes Mon 11-Feb-13 16:54:29

I've had a lot of therapy grin

Obviously, if I was at a support group for victims of domestic abuse, my self-esteem wasn't at its highest at that point. I suppose I have worked through the issues that meant I was attracted to a bad 'un (to the point of marrying him = gruesome) and had to find out how on earth that happened. Low self-worth doesn't come from nowhere, there is a significant and crucial history. When you join the dots you realise you've been fed a trough of shit somewhere along the line, which you took on and believed was true.

therapy is quite a lot like detective work. You put the pieces together to see how things ended up the way they have. I'd suggest some therapy for you Tula. Please don't underestimate how deeply painful and potentially damaging these rejections can be. Get a bit of help to support you coming to terms with it. You don't want your world smaller, you want it larger - that's the thing to aim for. A therapist will facilitate that.

Tulahoob Mon 11-Feb-13 16:58:08

Thank you so much Springy smile

I've been having counselling on and off for about a year now. Unfortunately my therapist has stopped practising now so I need to find a new one. I think my low self worth came both from my upbringing and from an abusive relationship in the past.

My therapist said I am sensitive to rejection, where most individuals would brush it off I can't do that and get obsessed by it, which is very true. I think if I can just make that step into thinking I'm a great person it would be half the battle won. I always assume people must think I'm stupid/annoying.

Scootee Mon 11-Feb-13 18:05:44

IMO, be very careful of taking a friendship too fast. Even if you think you like the person, it is far better not to dive straight into it.

springyhopes Mon 11-Feb-13 19:01:29

There's another thread on here at the mo and the OP is in a similar position to you ie sensitive/obsessed about a friendship rejection.

I'm a bit confused that your therapist suggested that 'most' people 'brush it off' - is she kidding?? Most people struggle very much with rejection, particularly if on the end of the acutely painful and rejecting scenario you describe. Give yourself a break - being dumped without a backward glance is extraordinarily painful (particularly as they swanned off together - horrid women!), so don't be beating yourself up that you are 'overreacting' or some such thing. Most would tip on the cusp of being 'obsessed' if they were rejected in this way and a great many would fall in.

YOur upbringing was a precursor to your abusive relationship (welcome to the club - it's crowded) so, less of the off-and-on therapy, and on with the on-for-the-forseeable therapy. You need someone who is consistent and in your corner, not someone patchy or flakey. Perhaps look for someone who is experienced in supporting victims of domestic abuse.

As I said ^^, low self-worth doesn't come from nowhere. YOu have to dig deep to find out what has gone on to bring it about. You also can't force yourself to think you're great btw - especially if your subconscious booms at you that you're crap. You can use techniques to boost your self-esteem, certainly, but ime there has to be a lot of work to undo the damage planted in our primary years. It is extraordinarily rich, often painful, work but well worth it. Often it is a particularly acutely painful episode that necessitates plumbing the depths because we've had enough of life hurting us so much.

springyhopes Mon 11-Feb-13 19:15:02

I always assume people must think I'm stupid/annoying

That is a core belief that comes from somewhere . It didn't just arrive. Somewhere along the line you believed you were those things; either because you were told you were or you drew the wrong conclusions (but we usually draw the wrong conclusions when the flavour of our home life is fraught in some way). That belief will have a specific root.

Then, when life comes along and seems to confirm that very painful core belief, it is unbearably painful. 'See? I really am crap!'

You are not. Those women were vile xx

Tulahoob Mon 11-Feb-13 22:15:16

Thank you Scootee and Springy smile

Springy, I will find myself a new therapist I think and make a start at working through some of the remaining issues. That is exactly how I feel, that life happens and then it just confirms to me that I am crap. And after the treatment I got from the friend I did think for a while I must just be an unlikeable person. The rational side of me thinks that it was the friend that behaved badly, then the irrational side tells me I must have deserved it in some way, shape or form and I find myself wracking my brain at times wondering what I did wrong and if I could have changed anything, when really I know inside that my behaviour and actions had no impact on how this friend behaved

springyhopes Tue 12-Feb-13 11:18:52

Good luck with your therapy Tula. YOu need to feel comfortable with your therapist so choose one that you click with. Therapy is one of the best investments you will make in your life. If, somehow, we have been set on a damaging track, we owe it to ourselves to change it. There is something powerful about someone in rl validating us and confirming our worth. imo 6 weeks won't do it - you need to be in this for the long haul.

I mentioned some techniques that go a long way to challenging low self-worth, and one of them is positive affirmations. Apart from anything, they challenge the endless script running through our heads that savagely puts us down ("I am crap", "I deserve to be treated badly", "there is something wrong with me"). Another one is to look into your eyes in the mirror and say positive affirmations to yourself. It is surprisingly hard to do - there can be a huge resistance to it, and embarrassment - but it is a powerful technique. Look up 'positive affirmations' to find out effective ways to do them. It is not surprising that people reject us if we reject ourselves. Some inner child work is also helpful to challenge self-rejection.

Along with the more long-winded therapy that methodically overturns the bedrock that has defined us in damaging ways, these techniques serve to challenge those erroneous core beliefs that have held us back. Basically, you attack the thing from all sides so that these damaging core beliefs fall off, having been revealed without question to be lies.

Just to confirm: you are not crap to be feeling very undermined by this horrible rejection. Rejection is painful across the board. No-one 'brushes it off' ffs, we are all challenged by it on some level.

springyhopes Wed 13-Feb-13 10:00:39

Hope I wasn't patronising there Tula. Apologies if so!

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