By: Devin Riggs, Regular Contributor
“Where do I stand?”
I’ve been struggling with this question lately. I find myself wondering about it constantly in many different areas of my life, but none so much as in my friendships.
It’s a simple question, if not for the long string of anxiety, insecurities, uncertainty, and fear of rejection that skips along behind. I am so scared of the answer that I cannot bring myself to ask the question.
Back in college, during my sophomore year I noticed a shift in the group dynamics of the friends I was living with. The first semester was a bit awkward. It’s a hard adjustment living with new people, especially good friends. I definitely didn’t feel like I fit in anymore. I told myself it was nothing. It was all in my head.
After winter break we discussed moving into an apartment junior year. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to so I started exploring my options. Soon after I found out from another friend that the whole group didn’t want to live with me again.
Apparently nobody wanted me. They didn’t like me. And no one was willing to say it to my face.
It made me mad. And sad. And confused.
How could I trust anyone? Why did no one tell me? What did I do? Was there something wrong with me? What was I supposed to do now?
I confronted my roommate. I told her how unwanted I felt, that I didn’t want to be where I wasn’t wanted. We discussed the issues she had. We discussed the issues I had. I thought the situation had been fixed.
Things were better, for a while, until I walked in on her complaining about me to another friend a couple months later. Clearly things hadn’t changed, but there was only a month left of school. It seemed pointless to make a fuss so I brushed it off. I didn’t say anything.
I had made up my mind. She was to blame. She lied to me. She talked behind my back. She never told me how my behavior made her feel. She hurt me. And everyone else let her do it.
Now, four years later, I realized that I wasn’t as innocent as I thought. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t communicate how I was feeling. I didn’t ask that crucial question. Not when it mattered. Not in the moments when I could have saved that friendship, or saved myself from an incredibly hurtful situation. I was not free of blame.
When I meet people at work my insecurities still get the best of me sometimes and I imagine the worst. Of course they’ll say, “I don’t think we should be friends,” or “You just don’t fit in with the group,” or “Honestly nobody really likes you.” I tell myself I’m not good enough to be this person’s friend. Why would they want me? Why should they even care about me?
This thought process has caused me to miss out on a lot of amazing friendships. I’ve held back from people to protect myself from getting hurt again. I don’t want to give too much, just to get nothing back.
Would I still be friends with my former roommate if we both had communicated better? I don’t know. I just know that I won’t let it happen again.
Because it’s made me realize that life would be so much easier if we all just told each other how we really feel.
It’s important, even if it means hearing some not so great things. Being in the dark is so much worse. Not knowing is so much worse. So if you have a friend who is sending mixed signals or you think something is up, ask. Be kind. Be honest. Find out where you stand. Communicate. You’ll both be better for it—regardless of the outcome.
Devin's story is a powerful one. We've all likely been in situations where we could have used our voices in some way to make an impact, but we stayed silent. How did that make you feel? What did you learn from not speaking up or conversely when was there a time when you shared your feelings honestly and respectively and what kind of change did that make? Share your story here!
Devin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.
image via radicalpublicspeaking.com