Why I’m the Best and Worst Friend You’ll Ever Make

I did not make many close friends during my 5 years at university. Friendly acquaintances, sure, but very few who I actively spent time with. It turns out, making friends is hard. I kept thinking things would fall into place and I’d find my group, but it never really happened. Why? Because making real friends takes hard work in areas I am terrible in.

I am an introvert living with anxiety. Individually either of these can make making friends difficult. But combined, they make it a nightmare.

As an introvert I’m at a disadvantage from step one.

Introverts with anxiety make terrible friends.

We’re awful at small talk, you see. No, that’s a lie. We can make small talk. We just hate doing it. Small talk is exhausting and such a waste of time. It sounds terrible, but I really don’t care what your plans are for the weekend. For people like me, small talk is what you do to avoid awkward silences with strangers when you make the mistake of going out into the world alone without headphones. It is shallow and pointless, but it fills the silence.

But when I’m trying to make friends I want to find out what you’re passionate about. I want to talk about your favorite books and why you related so strongly to a particular character. I want to know what your dreams are and what you are most afraid of. Basically, I prefer to skip the tedious polite acquaintance phase and jump right to the deep existential conversation phase. It’s an introvert thing, and it can be off putting for some and that’s fine. But the real problem is that when you pair this with an anxiety ridden mind that constantly tells me I’m annoying everyone around me, I end up being too scared of being annoying to start up any of the conversations I actually want to have. Which means I get bored. And I also come off as really boring.

On the odd chance I survive phase one, you might think things would get easier from there. If only.

I rarely make the effort to reach out to people, which probably makes a lot of people think I don’t care enough about our friendship to be bothered. Most of the time I badly want to talk to someone more, but I avoid reaching out because I worry that I’m bothering them. Then (and here’s the real hypocritical kicker), when people don’t reach out to me I assume I was right and that they don’t actually care about me or like me. If they had any interest in me, they would have texted, right? Obviously.

sitting in the woods log self

On some level I of course realize this goes both ways. I cannot expect others to make an effort when I won’t, but the voice in my mind insists that no, they just don’t like me. They are just being polite when we’re together. I did them a favor by never trying to talk or hang out.

If I am too anxious to text someone, it maybe goes without saying that I’m also terrible about making plans. I probably come off as either a boring introvert who never leaves her house or someone who can’t be bothered to try and therefore isn’t worth the time. The truth is that I avoid making plans with people because I’m terrified that if I try, nobody will show up and I’ll look like an idiot. For someone without anxiety it might just be a bit disappointing, but for someone like me it is utterly humiliating. And it has happened before (file under: reasons I no longer do anything for my birthday). It might sound ridiculous, but trying to make plans with people has a high risk factor in my mind. Best not to bother, the voice insists.

People like me are terrible friends. When we’re first getting to know each other we will want you to reach out to us and make an effort to invite us places, while rarely doing the same for you. We will sometimes back out on plans because we’re having a bad anxiety day. We’re the worst for spontaneous nights out because we get overwhelmed when our plans suddenly change, and we’re probably already in bed with our sweats on anyway. We will need constant reassurance that you actually like having us around, and it will take you months to convince us to stop apologizing for literally everything.

But if you are patient with us…

Introverts with anxiety make terrible friends. But we also make great friends.

…we are also the best friends you could ever ask for. The more time we spend with you, the less high maintenance we’ll become. We will realize you don’t secretly hate us, and we will start reaching out to you. We’ll send you pictures and videos that we know will make you laugh and tag you in every adorable puppy picture we find on Instagram when you’re having a bad day.

Our introversion and our anxiety means we are always tuned into to our environments and the people around us, so we will always know when something is bothering you. We will let you vent for hours while we just sit and listen. We will trust you with our deepest secrets, and we will never share yours. We will never be angry with you when you wake us up in the middle of the night, because we know better than anyone how terrible it is to be hurting and alone.

We will never judge you for what you love. We’ll watch your favorite shows with you even if we think they’re silly, because we know how important they are. We will remember every single inside joke, partially because we are so embarrassingly excited to have inside jokes with someone. We will value you more than you could ever possibly know, because we know exactly how difficult we are to be friends with. And because we will never forget how much you made our day the first time you asked us if we wanted to hang out.

I am working very hard to become a better friend.

I am trying to make a point to reach out to people, to try making plans, to let them know I would actually really like to have them in my life. But it’s a process. And even knowing how much I have to improve on, it is really discouraging to feel like no one cares enough to shoot me a text, and that gives my anxiety just that much more fuel when it is trying to convince me not to say hi to someone.

I know I am not the only one who feels like this. So, if you were kind enough to take the time to read this whole post, I encourage you to reach out to someone today. You never know; you might make their whole day with just one quick text. And if you know you have introverted friends with anxiety (or any friends with anxiety, really), be patient with them. Take the time to reassure them that they are valued. Remember that it is highly unlikely they are ignoring you or blowing you off. In reality, they are probably terrified of annoying you, and are hoping you’ll decide to text them.

And when you do, it really will mean more than you could ever possibly know.

XOXO

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  • Emma

    I am so glad you shared this because it’s how I feel most of the time as well. I don’t really suffer from anxiety, well – haven’t in a long time, but I’m an introvert through and through, and do find that most of the obstacles you mentioned are similar to my own. It’s ridiculously difficult to maintain friendships with people that you only want to spend time with on your terms. It sounds selfish, but I like doing my own thing and NEED time to myself. It means that most of my friendships don’t tend to last longer than 6 months – but I have found some amazing people who have stuck around, and you will too. The worst thing is feeling left out. Even though you know you wouldn’t want to do whatever it is anyway, you’d still like to be asked. I make a point of telling potential friends straight out exactly who I am, and it helps.

  • I’ve made so many friends over the course of being a military wife, but that also meant moving away from them. I quickly lose touch because I feel like their lives have moved on without me or they’re too busy for me. So a lot of really awesome people just fade from my life because I don’t even bother to keep in touch. I feel you.

  • B.

    This is such a great personal post. I think it helps that you’re aware of what your problem areas are, and the tricks your mind plays on you. Honestly I’m glad texting is huge now because I hate talking on the phone and if that was the only way to get in touch with people, I’d probably have 0 friends. LOL

  • This made me cry because this is SO ME. I am SO MUCH LIKE YOU in this respect. *HUGE LOVING HUGS*

  • Desiree

    Love this, thanks for sharing such a personal post. I think making friends as an adult in general is hard, and awkward at times. Adding in things like anxiety only makes things harder. I often find myself feeling like you, wanting to reach out at times but feeling like a pest, or that I don’t “belong”.

  • Sheila Garcia

    This is a wonderful post Katie. I completely relate to it because I do the same as well and whenever I find someone that is just as introverted as I am, that hates last minute plans and that worries about bothering people, I’m like, “Yes. You’re the type of human I want in my life. Please stay.”

    i’ve had a few times where I’ve texted someone, “Ok, I’m going to just let you go now because I’ve bothered you enough for today.” And when I get a text back that says, “You’re not bothering me!” I feel so relieved. But then I still worry about it later so I try to space out who I bother at any given time. But then, there are people that think that because I’m not texting them I don’t care anymore and it’s like noooo I didn’t want to bother you…! This post speaks so much to me and thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Jennifer S.

    I love this! And can relate to so much of what you said!

  • Danielle Knapp

    This is wonderful and I so appreciate you sharing it. I definitely understand the fear of annoying or bothering someone and waiting for them to contact you first. Anxiety sucks and it does make it hard to make and keep friends, but I’m getting better at stepping out of my comfort zone with people I don’t know.

  • This is so good! It’s good that you explain it and you share it with the world. I totally get the feeling of annoying / bothering people and wanting them to contact you first. In my case, I was someone who contacted people easily. Alas, many bad experiences have burne me out completely and now it’s hard. Not because I get anxious, but because I don’t have the strength. So, I need to see some signs on other people as to meet them again, otherwise I prefer to stay alone doing my stuff. Anxiety is a nightmare. –; I know it well, since I have it too and it’s not fun at all.

  • This post is SO good!! I swear it felt like you were talking about me sometimes!! Anxiety and social anxiety are the worst and other people just don’t understand it. Not being able to start a conversation with someone is so limiting but the anxiety can feel overwhelming. I’ve been working on my shyness and anxiety over the last few years, and for me learning Mindfulness has really helped! Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    Charlene

  • This was like reading about myself. It’s so hard to make friends when you don’t converse easily or are any way introverted.

  • Heather Marie

    I literally got tears in my eyes while reading this post. It’s me! You’ve written about me! And many others I presume. I’m not naive enough to think I’m the only one in the world with these issues. I suffer so much making friends. I get so anxious and nervous that I clam up and people think I’m stuck up. My husband, the social butterfly, is able to walk into a room and make friends with people immediately! He talks to them like they are old friends. I go to a work function with him and I am, essentially, a fern. I am trying to step out of my comfort zone and be more “friendly”, but it is a constant struggle.

  • I so strongly identify with this. What the heck happened after high school!? I used to have tons of friends – even people I regularly hung out with. But if I’m really honest with myself, I think it’s because I was in a place where I couldn’t help but make friends with people. They found me… and they had the time and energy to make sure I was included. Adulthood is nothing like that. 🙁

    Do you find that you can only juggle a few people at a time? I have my boyfriend, my bestie (who doesn’t even live in my state any more) and that’s it… those are my regulars. I try to keep up with other friends – some of I’ve had for years but really only manage to see a few times a year when we decide yet again that it’s “been too long” and “we should hang out sometime”. And it’s all because I can’t keep up. I feel like to do so, I have to be constantly socializing and I find that retaining the new information about them that I don’t really care about is just exhausting.

    That sounds terrible and selfish… and I don’t mean for it to. I just find it difficult to keep up with.

  • Reading this, and the comments, it seems that a lot of us have much in common. Really, I’m sitting here nodding to everything. I lost touch with everyone after I left high school and moved towns. I occasionally hear from one friend, who introduced me to my partner in a roundabout sense. And my anxiety has only gotten worse as I get older. Add a dash of OCD and well… there’s a reason I prefer to spend most days in the house, passively stalking people’s blogs.

  • As an introvert with anxiety, this post just spoke to me so much! It was like reading my own thoughts 🙂 You explained so well what it feels like for an introverted person with anxiety to make and maintain friendships. Thankyou for sharing this post 🙂

    http://www.raiin-monkey.blogspot.com

  • Kay

    Oh my gosh, this post. It is me! I find it very difficult to make friends as an adult for these exact reasons (I am also an introvert with anixety, so seriously, all the feels on this one.) I think the other thing, at least for me is, I quite enjoy spending time alone. Or just with my hubs and kiddo. But, when those days strike where I actually would like to just hang out with another adult, my list is pretttty small, especially since my best friend moved across the country. It’s times like that where I wish I had any clue how to go about making friends.

    • Katie Conigliaro

      I completely know what you mean. You got forced into being friends with people in high school because you had no choice but to see them every day. It suddenly gets so much harder once your out in the “real” world haha.

      I’m experimenting on learning to make friends as an adult. If I ever figure anything out I’ll let you know, haha.

  • This was truly like reading my own thoughts. Especially the part about changing of plans. Travis knows that if he changes anything on me I’m in for a bit of a spiral.

    Katie – this was an amazing post that so many others can identify with. I know I had tears reading it because it’s really like you picked my jumbled thoughts out of my head and put it to paper. (Or Word. Whateves.)

    I really loved this. Ps. you need some share buttons.

    • Katie Conigliaro

      I’m really glad you enjoyed it thank you so much! I was a bit nervous to post it and the response has been so lovely and overwhelming!

      I do have share buttons! At least they show up on my screen? On the left side of every page and the bottom of every post- do they not come up for you?? Because that is about to make me very very sad.

  • This is really great! I can’t say I’m an introvert. The older I get the more I find I’m an extrovert, of course new situations still make me uncomfortable but I’m always willing to chat anyone’s ear off that will listen to me even if I fee awkward the whole time. Although, I generally am not the first to speak. So maybe I have some introverted tendencies. I can be shy, which is why I wait for others to engage and then I’m all in. I like to invite all my new people to things but I always feel really neglected or that people don’t like me when they flake out on me. I try to consider perhaps they are just busy or really they are introverted but on the flip side it is hard to be constantly flaked out on. Which means I’ll look elsewhere for friends.

    Although, the military has taught me to overlook a lot of things with people’s flaws. I’ve found as I get older I just don’t have time for people in my life that don’t care for or respect me as a friend.

    I think this post is highly beneficial to point out that some of the people I’ve left behind because they are introvert yet they flaked out on me one time too many could have been potential great friends. But I have to say a friendship has a push and pull much like a relationship. Each party has to be willing to give a little you know?

  • I could relate to this so well. I’m the same way and I find it easier to talk to people online. The voice in my head telling me I’m annoying is just as active, though.