When you find it difficult to make friends, it can feel like you’re alone and no one likes you. While it’s true that not every person will click with you, it could just be that you’ve not yet found the best ways to connect with those around you. It’s hard to make friends, even in a world where various types of communication surround us. Whether in a new school, in a new town, or just trying to find your place in a new class, it’s not always easy to just start conversations. Particularly if you’re an introvert or just don’t know what to say.
We’ve got a few tips to help you feel more included, make friends, and learn more about what it means to appreciate yourself for who you are.
Learning more about yourself
It’s easy just to say, “Think positive! You’re great!” But, in reality, something else may affect how you feel about yourself and your ability to make and keep friends. If you’re struggling with your mental health, perhaps with social anxiety and depression, it can take a toll on every aspect of your life, including your ability to feel comfortable around new people.
How can you know if you have social anxiety? You may have always been told that you were a shy kid and assumed the way you feel in social situations is related to that. Social anxiety goes beyond shyness. It’s a sense of fear that can impact your self-confidence, your daily activities, your school life, and your relationships. Here are just a few signs of social anxiety that you may recognize in yourself.
- Worrying about talking on the phone, going to the store, speaking with anyone new, or starting up conversations.
- Avoiding social activities, eating with or around other people, parties, and group conversations.
- Stressing that you’ll do something embarrassing, like sweating, mumbling, blushing, or tripping.
- Feeling that others are watching and judging everything you say and do.
- Getting physically unwell in uncomfortable situations, whether sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, throwing up, or other bathroom issues.
- Having a panic attack, which is when you feel overwhelming anxiety, fear, and stress.
If you can recognize that you have social anxiety, it may also become apparent that you struggle with other mental health concerns. Learning this about yourself can help you speak openly with your parents and counselors to get the right supportive mental health help you need.
How can you feel included?
How can you connect with people when you feel like no one likes you or wants to be your friend? Sometimes you just click with people you’re paired up with in class for projects, or the conversation flows easily with the person you’re sitting next to in the science lab. Sometimes it takes a little bit more work, particularly if you’re not confident in your abilities to strike up a conversation.
There are a few things that you can try. Not only to start new conversations and possibly connect with like-minded people but to feel included in school and beyond.
- Listen to what your peers discuss, whether sports, a celebrity, a movie, a new game, or even anime. If you have an interest in these same things, you have an opening to comment when they’re speaking. You may find that they discuss these areas of interest on group message boards for your class or grade. Chiming in online may prove to be less anxiety-inducing for you, and it lets you introduce your classmates to you a bit more. Pop culture and shared interests are always great icebreakers in any situation.
- Joining clubs and activity groups at school. Do you love to sing and perform? If your school has a glee club or perhaps puts on plays and other productions, this is a great opportunity for you to spend time doing what you love with like-minded people. Most schools have chess clubs, science clubs, swim clubs, and other focused interests that can help you to fit in and feel included.
- Church groups and other peer groups often encourage like-minded teens to spend time doing fun activities. Perhaps a local group gets teens together for a hike at a nearby forest? Or maybe some focus on volunteer work that you’ll find enjoyable and fulfilling.
- Signing up for a sport or cheerleading is a great way to fit in and make friends. This isn’t the right choice for every teen, of course. But this is a good option for those who excel at basketball or football.
It isn’t always going to feel like the most natural thing in the world for you to fit in and feel included. It may take a bit of work on your part. While this may seem difficult today, therapy and the right type of support may make it more possible.
Planning pressure-free activities with friends
One great way to maintain those fresh friendships is to plan pressure-free activities. These types of activities won’t need you to feel like you have to talk or appear to be interesting constantly. This can potentially set off your anxiety.
A few ideas for pressure-free activities could include going to see a movie together, going to a concert, going swimming or surfing, or going to a book or poetry reading. The shared interests you and your friends have should give you great conversation starting points. But until then, pressure-free activities can help you to feel more comfortable and included.
Avoiding negative peer pressure
We often hear about peer pressure and associate it with being something negative. In truth, peer pressure can also be a positive thing when it comes to responding to encouragement from friends who would like to see you do better with school or with the sports and other activities you enjoy. This kind of positivity is something you can also use to encourage others around you. Most people respond well to those who act as a type of cheerleader for their well-being and success.
Negative peer pressure can lead to destructive behaviors and can result in fracturing friendships, relationships, and families.
Appreciating who you are
It would be much easier if we could just snap out of it or learn to love ourselves, as people often tell us to. When you feel alone, struggle with social anxiety, and are in a new environment, it can be much harder to find your way to fitting in and feeling included. How, then, can you learn to appreciate yourself? How can you learn what self-love is?
- Therapy can be one of the best ways to learn more about yourself and how you can overcome some of your struggles.
- Family support will be so important as you learn to adjust your approach to making friends and finding a way into a new comfort zone.
- Building up your self-esteem will feel much more possible after therapy and with the support of your loved ones.
- Reminding yourself of what you are good at. We all have skills and talents. What are yours? If you can focus on the areas you excel in, you’ll find your way to appreciating not only who you are but how you can positively influence those around you.
It’s not easy to make friends or feel that we are appreciated and wanted sometimes. It is important to recognize that sometimes depression and anxiety can both make us feel like we aren’t liked or wanted around. This is why it’s so important to be honest with your parents, your therapist, and yourself.
Are you struggling with making friends? Could it be that you have low self-esteem or struggles with mental health? At HelpYourTeenNow, we can pair parents and struggling teens with the resources needed to help confidence grow.