SHESAID resident psychologist Kim Chartres answers your most awkward questions.
I’m 28 years old and for some reason I have almost no friends. I consider myself a nice person, but I can be a bit of an introvert and tend to spend most of my time at home watching Netflix or surfing the net.
Most of the time I’m okay with my own company, but sometimes it can get really lonely. I feel lame for asking, but, how can I get people to like me?
Dear Lonely Girl,
Firstly, I want to thank you for asking me this question. I can assure you that you aren’t lame, in fact, quite the opposite. There is currently a silent epidemic of people suffering the exact same issue as you. It’s heartbreaking, but luckily there’s a solution.
I’d start by looking at the fact your lack of friends has very little to do with whether or not you’re a nice person or if you have an inability to make or sustain friendships. Instead I believe it’s a reflection of modern society, combined with your lifestyle and introverted personality.
So I’m not going to suggest how to make people like you. I’m sure it’s not what your problem is, and ideally people should like you for who you are. Instead, I’d recommend you find some opportunities to meet likeminded people and get out there. This is ultimately how solid friendships are formed anyway. Plus, I’ll talk you through some exposure exercises to better prepare you for social interactions.
So let’s begin with finding you a place where you can meet people. Recreational activities like sporting clubs or special interest groups are specifically designed to improve the quality of life for participants and I think that’s exactly what you need. So choose a couple of activities or interests and begin an internet search to discover what’s available in your area.
The next step will be much harder, and that’s physically attending your chosen recreation. If that sounds like pure torture because you’re so shy, I’d suggest exposure therapy. The objective of this type of therapy is to expose yourself to small challenges which gradually build up until you are able to achieve your goal.
For example, step one might involve walking into an unfamiliar place. The second step may be asking a stranger a simple question at a place familiar to you. Subsequent steps may be repeating this in a new environment. Repeat each step as many times as you need to until the anxiety lessens. When you feel you’ve mastered each one, move on to something a bit harder. Gradually the primary goal of making new friends at a social gathering won’t seem so daunting.
You can do this yourself, but if it seems unthinkable, you should enlist support from a loved one or a psychologist. I’ve done this exercise with countless others in more extreme cases than yours and some have gone from being socially reclusive to social butterflies in mere months. So get ready for your transformation, because with a little effort I’ve no doubt you’ll blossom into a butterfly too, you just need to allow everyone to see your beautiful wings first.
Got a relationship dilemma or serious life issue you’re not sure how to deal with? Send your questions to Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.