Paris Andrew, TIP’s Director of Partnerships and Engagement, is here to help gifted students. She used to run the residential programming at TIP’s educational programs, and she is completing a PhD in related areas, so she knows what she’s talking about.
I read the blog entry about friends and what to do if they aren’t good for you, and I just recently had gone through that. A friend of mine really held me back by being negative, and eventually caused me to feel insecure about myself as an individual.
I’m feeling better, but now I have to deal with the aftermath. Because of how I was feeling, I pushed my other friends away and now I’m trying to become as close as I once was with them. The problem is the fear I had is stuck on me, and I’m afraid that they may hate me after what I had to do, and that makes it harder to even talk to them. I’ve opened up to them about how I feel and they continue to reassure me, but for some reason, I still feel scared. What do I do? —Elise, ninth grade
For one thing, as time passes and your current friends remain your friends, I am certain you will feel better and better. They are proving that they are sticking by you and that will have a positive effect. In addition, over time, you will probably get an opportunity to return their friendship by lending them support—and that will make you feel more equal in these friendships, which will help.
However, as someone looking at the situation from the outside, I may be noticing some things you cannot because you are so close to the situation. I am going to mention these observations below, in case it gives you some different ways of looking at the situation.
Instead of being proud of yourself for rightfully doing what was best for you (when you eased a negative friend out of your life), you seem to be expecting to be punished for taking care of yourself. These persistent fears seem disproportionate to the actions you took. This disconnect often indicates that some deeper issues may be at play. For example, do you think it’s possible that the negative friend you recently set boundaries with represents another person, or type of person, who is still in your life and who continues to make comments that undermine your self-confidence? This could be a family member or an even closer friend. Did your relationship with the friend you recently dropped serve as a stand-in for this other person even closer to you? If so, you may want to think about if the negative friendship represented more than you realize and if you have lingering issues with someone else in your life that you need to examine? If this possibility triggers deeper, underlying emotions about other relationships, or even a past traumatic event, it may be a signal that you need to recognize and understand what those deeper factors are. If you need to, please do reach out to a school counselor or another trusted adult for help processing these complex emotions.
The second thing I wonder is if your feelings are being caused by lingering self-esteem issues that may have been triggered by the comments of the negative friend you have left behind. Are you feeling as if you are only worth who your friends are, thus putting so much weight on your remaining friendships that you over-analyze each tiny event in the normal ups and downs of friendships? Keep in mind that it is possible to know this is happening intellectually, but still feel emotionally battered by these larger feelings.
If you think self-esteem is an issue, one trick you can try in order to deal with this is to be your own good friend. If you continue to have fears of being abandoned by your remaining friends, or your self-confidence crashes, tell yourself exactly what you would say to a friend if she was going through the same thing. Do the things you would recommend that she do in your shoes: go out with your friends and have fun; sit quietly and visualize being surrounded by your loving, supportive friends and feel how much you are appreciated and loved; or make time to do things that make you happy and take you out of your head (for example: dance, run, paint, volunteer at a local dog rescue organization).
In short, take good care of yourself. And, again, reach out for help from a school counselor, an older sibling, or another adult whom you trust if you need to be heard by someone. I promise you are not alone in these feelings. Many people have them.
Finally, do you keep a journal? Studies have shown that writing down your worries, fears, and stresses can activate cognitive behaviors that help you put these problems in perspective and recognize patterns and solutions. I urge you to buy a really nice blank book to use as a journal and then buy some of your very favorite pens. Give yourself permission each day to express your thoughts privately in this journal.
Some of the things you could do in it: list something you are grateful for each day; give yourself credit for all you are doing right (you are doing well in school, you are making good choices about your life, you are loved by your friends); and list all the unique and beautiful things you have to offer the world that no one else can. Recognize your gifts (everyone has them), then see if you can’t come to appreciate yourself the way that other people in your life do.
Good luck! I know you can do this!
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