"Are they talking about me? Why haven’t they responded yet? Maybe I'm missing something? Why do I feel like everyone hates me?"
We’ve all been there.
Anxiety has this awful quality of making mountains out of molehills. It turns our fleeting thoughts into lingering fears. I'm willing to bet most of you reading this know exactly what I'm talking about.
Here are some examples (not not taken from personal experiences) of friendship anxiety:
Friend gets engaged. You see instagram stories of FaceTime screenshots with other friends.
"I wonder who FaceTimed who? Shouldn't I have gotten a FaceTime?"
Friends in a group text. You attempt to make a joke. No one responds.
"Shit, that was dumb why'd you say that? I wonder if they have a group chat on the side."
Friends out to dinner. Some rush to get seats next to each other.
"I feel like no one wants me here. Was this a pity invite?"
Friend shares information with you about another friend.
"Why didn't she tell me this? Is she mad at me? Maybe they have a better friendship than we do."
Here are some things to consider when your mind has convinced you that everyone (drama) hates you:
It's perfectly normal to experience doubts and uncertainties about your friendships.
You might experience anxiety leading up to seeing a friend or maybe even after a large group dinner. Maybe you replay conversations in your head and focus on certain words or tones used. If this sounds familiar, you're in good company.
The past couple of years have given us plenty of opportunities for introspection. We've become more self-aware and sometimes self-conscious in social situations. Overanalyzing our interactions may lead to questions like, 'Do my friends like me as much as they used to? Did they make plans without me? I wonder what they were whispering about.'
The ambiguous nature of friendships can still stir social anxiety.
Unlike family or romantic relationships, friendships don't come with the same set of formal commitments. There are no 'break-ups' required for friends, and this can occasionally lead to uncertainty about where we stand.
The first step in managing this anxiety is recognizing that it's normal.
Acknowledge and accept that it is there. It's entirely normal to experience moments of uncertainty and unease about your friendships. Recognizing these feelings as a natural part of life can help reduce the fear that you're facing this struggle on your own.
Try to recognize when your fears are based in facts or fiction.
You notice a friend hasn't replied to your messages for a few days. In your anxious mind, you might jump to the conclusion that they no longer want to be friends. However, if you pause and reflect, you may remember that your friend mentioned a busy work period ahead. By recognizing this fact, you can reframe your anxious thought, understanding that their lack of response isn't a reflection of your friendship but a result of their busy schedule. This practice helps you differentiate between reality and anxious fiction, reducing friendship-related stress. And if you do discover that someone genuinely isn't your biggest fan, well, keep in mind that you're probably better off spending your time with people who truly value everything you bring to the table.
Taking the initiative to reconnect with friends is always a good idea.
Make plans for a lunch date, or opt for an impromptu FaceTime. Regardless, direct communication is the most effective way to rekindle a connection. Let your friends know that, despite the gaps in your communication, you still value and care about them.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to nurturing friendships.
It's never too late to prioritize relationships that may have taken a back seat for a while. If you find yourself struggling, it doesn't mean anything is wrong with you or your friendships. Friendships naturally ebb and flow, regardless of external circumstances. And always keep in mind, the option to check in with each other is always there.
If you're experiencing this type of anxiety, these mindful reminders can help you disrupt these thought spirals so you can actually enjoy time with your friends.
Brave the uncomfortable: I shouldn't avoid seeing my friends because, although the anxiety is uncomfortable, it will pass. The more I can brave it, the easier it will become.
Embrace uncertainty: Uncertainty is an inevitable part of life, even friendships. I can embrace this fact and not worry so much about finding the answer right now.
I let go of what I can't control: I cannot control what other people are thinking or feeling.
It's okay to feel how I feel: These feelings are normal and they will pass.
My thoughts are passing clouds: I won't waste my time wondering where the thoughts came from. I'll just notice them and let them go on their merry way.