I’m a 27-year-old woman and when my friend called me tonight to cancel our plans, I found myself home alone and wondering if she had gotten a better offer (or even worse, maybe she realized she didn’t like me or would just prefer not to have me around tonight). These crazy, irrational, damaging, negative thoughts are all a product of what I went through during my pre-teen, teens, and even early 20s.
In pre-school I was never accepted, even at this extremely young age, I remember being isolated. In elementary school I was almost always alone. I had one friend but she was quickly taken from me when the other kids took the liberty of informing her that she was hanging out with “a loser.”
Even at this young age I began to figure out that when you spend a great deal of your life being told by other people that something is wrong with you, you start to believe it. You start to believe it and will do anything in your power to cure it. You search for a cure for this make believe illness that doesn’t even really exist.
In middle school, I never got invited to parties and was picked on pretty extensively for my weight (I wasn’t overweight but I was always slightly bigger than everyone else). I can only really remember being invited to one birthday party.
It was in 5th grade and it was an outing to go see the movie titanic. I was over the moon with excitement but when everyone got to the movie theater it seemed nobody wanted to sit next to me. I quietly sat next to the mother of the birthday girl and everyone else sat on the other side of us.
During high school I starved away 30 pounds and made cheerleading. Like magic I had friends, boyfriends, and in all my glory , I was miserable. I could only imagine what I may have accomplished if I had been less worried about the size of my jeans, the muscle mass of my boyfriend, the color of my hair, and the number of calories in bare bones lunch.
In college I never found a group to belong to. I went to great lengths to try and fit in. Freshmen year I even tried hanging out with the lesbian softball players for a few months but was soon shunned for wearing a purse and too much make-up.
It seemed that even with my drastic measures, I was never able to establish lifelong friendships. At times, I actually find it difficult to look at pictures of my peers who have a large group of close friends. I wasted a great deal of time, energy, and health battling with my sexual orientation, addiction, eating disorders, and social anxiety in the struggle to make friends and become more comfortable in my own skin.
Even in the past few years at 24, even at 25-years-old, I’ve struggled to make friends. It was easier to convince myself that I didn’t need friends and that they were actually just a liability rather than I life enhancing asset. I was very good at isolating myself. I’d really even go as far to say that I was a professional isolator. (I mean thank god for Facebook or I’d have no social life at all. That doesn’t sound pathetic at all.)
It wasn’t until recently that I met a few people at work that I really liked (and they seemed to really like me as well). But when another co-worker saw them being friendly with me he said to one of them, “Why are you hanging out with Sarah. Is she paying you?” He said “No she’s not paying me. I like Sarah,” and he said, “but no one likes Sarah.” Here I was, a grown woman with a master’s degree, working with “professionals” and it was like elementary school, middle school and high school all over again.
Even now, I would never be able to honestly say I regret being picked on. It’s lead me down a path of self-discovery allowing me to gain a tremendous appreciation for something others take for granted.
Because of the hardships, I’ve concluded that friendships are valuable, life-enhancing assets that are worth putting in the effort to maintain. I now feel strongly that finding the right people and building solid relationships with them can help you reach higher levels of your human potential. A level of potential that one could almost certainly never achieve sitting home alone isolating inside their apartment.
A few hours later my friend called me back and told me that she finished what she needed to get done and was on her way to pick me up (I smiled).