When you start at a new school, college, workplace or even move to a new city one of the most common worries of people is “Will I make any friends? Or what if I don’t?” The worry of making friends and ‘fitting in’ can leave people feeling vulnerable and anxious. Some people find this easier than others, some find it easier to be confident, outgoing and approach/talk to other people but this isn’t for everyone. This experience for others can be extremely daunting making them often feel left out or neglected as they watch others form connections.
I struggled to make friends at school as I would overthink a lot and always felt the need to fit in, so the realm of being myself wasn’t always on display to others. When I was 13, I was desperate to be in a ‘friendship group’ and have loads of friends, so I floated between groups of people trying to find my sense of security when instead I ended up internally feeling like I didn’t really belong anywhere. This and several other events of feeling and being left out took a big toll on me during my senior school years. I constantly felt the need to impress others and make sure they liked me. I started putting other people before myself and became a push-over. It made me isolate myself and overthink even more. I just fuelled my belief that I wasn’t good enough. Overall, I think it is safe to say that it just wasn’t a nice feeling.
Due to personal experiences, I always advocated for inclusion. As I used to feel left out a lot when I was younger, socialising now isn’t as easy as it could be. I’m so unbelievably grateful to have such an amazing group of friends both at home and at university who all go out of their way to show me they care and that I am always welcome. I find it easier to be myself, outgoing and I have accepted who I am as a person. Before starting university, I was so scared that I was going to be by myself and have no one but I have the most supportive, friendly and funny friends that anybody could ask for. I don’t know what I would do without them. I am getting out of my insecurities and trusting myself more so I’m happy that I am hopefully on the road to success.
Now it wasn’t just me. I am one of probably a large percentage of people of all ages who have felt this way. Everyone experiences rejection at some point in their lifetime but the severity is of course variable and everyone deals with the given situation in a different way. Social exclusion is actually a growing and concerning problem in Europe. In 2012, 11% of the population of Europe reported feeling lonely more than half, most and all of the time and 48% of these people felt left out of society. These statistics don’t have to be this way. It is a problem that we can work together as a global community to reduce and try to eliminate.
Please don’t leave people out and make them feel like they’re not wanted in your social situation. Accept people for who they are and find a common ground! Invite people to sit on the school lunch table with you, invite them to hang out with you, on your night out or to do something fun together because that’s also a perfect way for you to make a new friend. Making someone feel like they’re good enough, welcome and comfortable when they’re just being themselves is such a important and rewarding act you can do for them. Giving someone that sense of security and reassurance can really help their confidence. People will like you for who you are and it’s crucial to start believing that. You don’t need to work to impress others, as cliché as it sounds, you are honestly fine yourself and things will get better. I am so glad I have realised this and I hope that if you haven’t already, then one day you will too. Just keep going and you will find your feet!