Posted by fxckfeelings on March 6, 2017Share This Post
It’s hard to knock the idea that being helpful to your friends is good for everyone, but when you’re always there to help and they only come to you in a crisis, that’s a good recipe for being used and becoming resentful. Even if being helpful will make you feel good about yourself in the short run and win you gratitude, it’s only worth it if you’re also mindful of your own needs and the character of the so-called friend requiring your assistance. Otherwise, your giving instincts can expose you to harm, exhaustion, and a whole bunch of other not-good stuff.
I’m a women in my 20s with a good tech job, but I feel like I’m always ignored by everybody, almost like I don’t exist. I do have many friends, but even they aren’t real with me— I feel that they don’t really care about me and are only good to me when they need something or need a shoulder to cry on. Then, when they feel better or have happy news to share, they find someone else to take it to, which doesn’t make any sense to me. I feel like everybody throws their problems onto me so they can go off and be happy, but I’m left here all alone to deal with the sadness on my own. My goal is to feel acknowledged and loved, not ignored and used.
As you know all to well, it’s really easy to have lots of fake friends, because there will always be people who want to be with if you have something desirable to give, from money, to sex to a shoulder to lean on. Unfortunately, as easy as it is to make those kinds of friends, it’s really hard to live without real friends who really know and like you, not just the stuff you have to offer. As you’ve discovered, opening your heart to needy non-friends will make you increasingly angry and lonely as you suffer from the one-way nature of your relationships, thus making you even more disposed to over-giving.
Providing easy access to care and sympathy isn’t just unlikely to give you control of your loneliness, it also reduces your friendship opportunities by filling your life with non-friends and your heart with sadness. So feeling acknowledged and loved is not a good goal—though it’s a reasonable wish—because it’s not something you control and trying to control it causes harm.
Instead, your goal is to maintain your distance and tolerate loneliness until you learn how to be more careful to screen for friends who would never use anyone for a human Kleenex unless willing to offer real friendship in return.
When meeting new people, take time to see whether they’re interested in giving you the same attention and caring that you’re ready to give them. See how they respond when you give a little bit and whether their other relationships are solidly balanced between give and take. You can’t control loneliness or make good friends whenever you want to, but you can protect yourself from harm while actively looking for people who will be worth the effort.
At the same time, dump people quickly if they don’t seem to have what you need or meet your give-and-take criteria. You’ll get worn out and angry if you try to make someone into a friend who doesn’t have it to give. If you build up your independence by learning to enjoy your own company while being reasonably selective with the people you choose to become close to, you will never be a victim of loneliness or a martyr to selfishness.
And if you must endure loneliness for a while, the pain isn’t evidence that you’ve failed at friendship or are unlikely to succeed in the long run, but proof that you’re doing the right thing, protecting yourself from being used and ensuring that you’ll be ready when opportunities to make good, real friends finally arrive.
“I may find myself friendless, but I know I have lots to offer and I simply have to find people who genuinely like me and have the capacity to be good friends. I won’t compromise until I do.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname