From a teen inthe U.S.: I’m 14 now. When I was in 7th grade I had two best friends. During that school year I didn’t have many classes with them, they had more classes with each other. I began to feel very left out and I got very depressed for some reason. I would always cry and feel worthless because I always felt left out and thought they were getting closer to each other and they were going to leave me behind. Right now I’m a freshman in high school. Now that I look back on that I see that I was overthinking and that it was all in my head.
Nowadays I find it so hard to keep friendships. If I’m really close to a friend or if I’m just always with them I get very attached to them and I don’t know why. I always feel jealous and insecure if that person I’m attached to hangs out with other people because I’m afraid they will take them away from me. I’ve noticed that I’m always jumping from person to person and getting attached, but it only ever happens with one person (I don’t get attached to more than one person.) I get so much anxiety at the idea of them finding someone else and leaving me behind. Please help me. I know feeling like this isn’t healthy and it kills me inside. This really affects my relationship with other people, please help me.
First — and this is very important — I want you to know that you are not at all alone in this. Many teens are insecure. Even kids who look secure are often as anxious as you are inside.
You have been trying to “cure” your insecurity by limiting the number of people who can reject you to one person at a time. As you have discovered, it doesn’t work to do that. Why? Because the teen years are a time when people sort who they are most comfortable with, who they want as friends, which friendships are healthy and which are not. This leads to a lot of rejections along the way. Kids like you who are sensitive often take this sorting personally, when it is often just about not being the right “fit” for someone else.
The “cure” is to decide to take some risks and to broaden your circle of friends so you can do some sorting of your own. You will only figure out who are the right friends for you by experimenting with different relationships and by comparing how you feel (and even how you are) with a variety of people. It’s just true that sometimes people we think are a perfect match when we first meet them don’t turn out that way. This isn’t heartless. Sorting (which does involve some level of rejection) can be done kindly.
Kids who successfully navigate the peer group are people who find ways to get to know lots of others before settling on a few besties. You can do that by joining teams or clubs or activities that interest you. People who share an interest (whether it is softball, a theatre production, making music or work on a service project) already have something in common. Slow down with trying to get close. Resist the temptation to cling to one person. Instead, do things with the group. Invite a few people to do something like go to a movie or go shopping or something you know will interest them.
As you gain confidence and become a more active participant in the life of your school, you will naturally find your own group. Yes, you will be “rejected” now and then by someone you think might be a friend. But you will also be accepted by others. That’s a normal part of the process.
I often wish there were a way to magically get young people through the struggles of the teen years. But I also know it is those very struggles that are necessary to help you develop maturity and sophistication about relationships. It’s difficult. But I suspect you have what it takes to manage it and become the sensitive, strong woman you are meant to be.
I wish you well.