I’m utterly friendless. I thought about writing this email a year ago, but instead tried to get out and meet people. So I take regular classes at the gym, I do yoga and I’ve just started sewing classes. All hobbies that include social interaction. I chat to the people there, they chat back, it’s not like we’re all too in-the-zone to converse, despite the individual goals. On the surface I would say there’s no real reason why I’m so lonely – I’m a nice person (I think!), I’m interested in others and ask questions and have interests and opinions of my own to share. Whenever my boyfriend and I go out with one of his (several) groups of friends, I always feel like a loser. That may be more a reflection of them, putting me down to make themselves feel better, but even when I click with someone, I eventually end up feeling that way anyway. You’ll say I’m projecting my emotional insecurities but I’m pretty well practiced at keeping that shit under lock and key and my emotional IQ is unnecessarily – and uselessly – high. I’ve a relatively healthy level of confidence, enough to gain and retain employment, go out and start new hobbies, enough for aspiration. I feel like I’m doing everything I can but no one wants to be my friend, and what’s more pathetic than that?
There’s plenty that’s more pathetic I can assure you! What does loser in this context mean anyway? It’s a ghastly word we bandy about with abandon but as there’s no tangible definition of ‘winner’ (unless it’s the spin of the lottery wheel), it means very little. The struggle to lead a fulfilling life is a universal one. I don’t believe for a minute that the world is turning it’s back on you but I appreciate that’s how you feel. It could also be a self-fulfilling destiny. The more afraid and lonely we are, the greater our expectation of rejection is and so we project an image of defensiveness to the wider world. Some of the most aggressive people I’ve encountered are the ones most desperate for compatible companions. Sadly waving a fist at the world is not an endearing approach. Your challenge in making friends is likely to be a symptom of your insecurity rather than proof that people don’t warm to you. Did you look back at your email before you pressed send? There’s quite a lot of material in there to work with. I’ve recently made rereading a rule; with this column obviously, but also any personal email I send that contains more than one-word and in some cases, even with those! Understanding ourselves better is usually the most productive route to better communication with others. Reading between your lines can certainly be more beneficial than getting a total stranger to do so but I’ll do my best. Your email kicks off dramatically and builds to an emotional crescendo that seems to spell out what’s going wrong loud and clear. Surely you can see it too? All of us to some extent play roles in our lives and the part you’ve embraced is overdue for an overhaul. You’re not some sanguine overlooked mouse; I think you are pretty animated about people’s inability to spot your virtues. There’s a real liberation to knowing that you can actually cast off an unhelpful persona and reinvent yourself afresh. It’s important for all of us to remember it’s an option at any point in our long lives. I think you’re making it hard to like you and that’s a very easy thing to rectify. If you were to stop second guessing people’s motives and refrain from brandishing your finely tuned “emotional IQ” as a weapon I suspect you’d see positive results overnight. Chasing down pals is as unattractive a trait as turning your back on them. I’m not suggesting that a degree of emotional intelligence isn’t useful but there’s every chance that you’re losing a lot in your attempts at translation. Over sensitivity is as unattractive as insensitivity. No one wants to be treading on eggshells every time they sit down for a chat and I fear you may be presenting such a challenge. How can others reflect back positive images to us if they’re at the receiving end of is a montage of negativity. Let’s take your boyfriends “group” of friends who you mention, rather bitterly, as being among many at his disposal. Could it be that what’s offending you is simply the companionable banter occurring between groups of people who feel no threat from each other? Not having to be careful about what you say is a defining characteristic of a good friendship, not the mark of a bad one. It’s a common mistake to step into an environment and project what you’re feeling onto the proceedings. Are this group really such a bunch of unpleasant characters, (which wouldn’t say much for your man) or are they entirely unaware that they are inflicting damage? Quite possibly they’re baffled and frustrated by how literally you take their conversational games? You diagnose your high ‘emotional’ IQ but unlike intellect, which can be measured, your reading is based solely on what you are feeling which isn’t a reliable indicator.
It may sound platitudinous but do stop second guessing what other people are thinking and start trying simply to enjoy what sounds like a pretty full and successful life. While you’re at it your might want to look for hobbies that inspire you to shrug off your constricting sensitivities rather than offer rigorous self-improvement. Maybe Flamenco dancing would be more conducive to letting go then being bent over a sewing machine, and as for mingling at the gym, it’s hardly the venue to sit around and chat?! Having the confidence to pick up hobbies and liking yourself enough not to constantly question peoples feelings toward you are very separate issues. How about turning down that emotional dial of yours a notch or two, friends are made when the pressure is off not when there’s a search operation in full swing!