Friendship Challenges

photo of woman beside another woman at seashore

I’m beginning to realize that I have some deep-seated insecurities surrounding friendships.

Right now, I don’t really have any friends. Part of it is because of circumstance and part is by design.

The truth is, I’m never really sure where I stand with people. It seems like most people don’t really like me and don’t really value my friendship.

I’ve never once in my life felt truly loveable. And as a side effect, I suppose I never truly felt likeable either.

For the past few years, friendships have been revolving doors. I’ll make a friend or two, keep them for a year or two, and then something happens to cause the connection to dissolve. It could be a harsh word or an inconsiderate act. But mostly, it’s when I start to experience a pattern of behavior that sets off alarms in my head. Then I bail.

I used to really cherish friendship—until I realized most people only really care about themselves and will leave you if they find something or someone better. Or when they can no longer control you or influence you in some way. Then they leave when they realized the jig is up.

I used to attract friends who had stronger personalities than my reserved, reticent, laid back vibe. I learned how to be the sidekick very early on. I learned to not shine or try to gain the limelight, no doubt a result of being raised by a narcissistic mother who demanded all attention and obedience. I learned early on from a very domineering mother to not challenge stronger personalities. If you do, they can inflict emotional and social pain. Best to keep your head down and go with the flow.

The Bossy Friend

My first childhood friend was bossy white girl named Jodi. She was my babysitter’s daughter. She was a year older but smaller in size. People always thought I was older than her, because I was tall for my age. Jodi was lively and energetic with a vivid imagination, but she was also bossy and demanding. She was only a year older, but she would lord it over me. You know how kids are.

She would hurt my feelings a lot. I would always get that painful lump in my throat anytime she expressed some disapproval towards me. She could be vicious with her words. I would tell her, “You’re not the boss of me!” But I’m not sure I really believed it. Then Jodi would cry her white girl tears and paint herself the victim. Now, that I think of it, I really resented her and her hysterical crying fits.

We were friends out of convenience because she lived up the street, and her mom was my babysitter. When she moved a few towns away, our friendship endured based solely on that early bond, but then it faded. I never really learned how to stand up to her. Then my family moved to North Carolina. We reconnected on Facebook a few years ago, but of course, the magic was long gone. I asked her for her address so I could send her a Christmas card. She never replied. I deleted my Facebook account (for other reasons), and we haven’t talked since. And I’m fine with it.

The Mentor Friend

Most of my mentor friends appeared during my undergraduate and graduate school years. The problem with this type of friendship is the power balance. If your friendship mimics a teacher/pupil, counselor/patient, parent/child vibe, mature/immature, then creates an unhealthy dynamic. When your always running to this friend for help or advise, then you are always in need. You are the needy one always on the bottom of that friendship totem pole.

The mentor friend is somewhat related to the bossy friend, in that both seek to exert some level of control over you. For the bossy friend, their need for control stems from wanting to be right. For the mentor friend, their controlling nature is birthed from a level of care and concern. They see you as broken and want to fix you. You become their project.

I dealt with this a lot in undergrad because the majority of my social circle consisted of people I went to church and Bible study with. Most of us were members of the same campus ministry. Religious groups are great for creating these weird codependent relationships because followers are taught to be their sisters’ or brothers’ keeper.

I had quite a few of these mentor/mentee relationships. And I was always the mentee, the lesser, the inferior. I was emotionally needy and insecure. I attracted stronger personalities who were codependent and needed to be needed. I felt intrinsically flawed and broken. I could not get to the bottom of my insecurities. Was I loveable enough? Was I pretty enough? Was I holy enough? Was I consecrated enough?

The Dramatic Friend

I feel like I’ve had more of these kinds of friends than I care to admit—and they usually tend to be Scorpios! And I have to be honest with myself and recognize that my own character flaws attracted me to these types of women.

It’s quite simple with the dramatic friend: everything is about her. Her life, her issues, her family, her marriage, her baby-daddy drama, her work, her ideas, her aspirations. You are merely the planet orbiting her sun. She is the center of her universe, your universe, and every other universe in existence. Hell, she’s the center of the multiverse! She is the star and you are the supporting character to her lead role. She never shares the spotlight. With her, you are in your rightful place, in the shadows.

Dramatic friends draw you in with charm and flattery. They’re bright, energetic, and great storytellers. They tend to latch onto empathetic souls who are good listeners, knowing that the so-called empath will initially entertain their often gripping and emotionally stirring tales of woe, misfortune, and grievance.

The Collector Friend

These people are usually friendly, outgoing, and have amazing social networks. Collector friends pursue new experiences, and they seek novelty. And so they tend to “collect” friends from various ethnicities, races, religions, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. They are open and tolerant, priding themselves on the diversity of their social circles.

Because they cast their net wide, the depth of their friendship tends to be pretty shallow. Collector friends do just that. They collect relationships like trinkets on the coffee table or tchotchkes on the mantle. These many connections are trophies to them, a testament to their magnanimity and goodwill.

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