Expanding Your Social Circle as an Introvert
My friend group during my freshman year of high school consisted primarily of people who I knew from my middle school. Prior to that first day of school, none of us had really been friends but we all clung to each other because everyone else was a stranger. All of them proved themselves to be caring, loyal and supportive friends. However, unlike me, each of them took the opportunity to branch out and develop friendships with other students overtime. I only started to get more comfortable branching out during the last half of my senior year. By then it was too late to cultivate any lasting friendships because everyone was graduating.
Looking back now I realize I had multiple opportunities to expand my social circle that I let pass me by. Some of the reason I shied away from these opportunities was due to my introverted nature, and some of it was also rooted in anxiety. I remember rationalizing why trying to make new friends wouldn’t work. If my mom made suggestions about how I could make more friends, I would shoot them down. Heading in to college, I was forced to confront my fears about meeting new people directly because I was entering an environment where I didn’t know anybody. I had no option but to try to meet new people and the situations that had always made me anxious became unavoidable. Overtime, I have gradually come to the realization that the risks I dreaded were ones that might have been the most necessary. I haven’t completely abandoned my old habits and behaviors but I’m trying to change them for the better.
Knowing what I know now, what advice would I give to my younger self? First, I would tell him that that confidence comes with practice. Feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. It’s ok to feel anxious when you meet new people, but don’t conclude that you will always feel that way. Emotional reactions are not static. If you don’t feel confident now, then the best way to become confident is with practice. Start with something that only makes you a little anxious then as you become more comfortable, work your way upward. Second, I would tell him to invest time in trying new things. This can be intimidating and sometimes requires making long term commitments, but attending some type of school club or event is a great way to not only explore yourself but to bond with other people over a common interest. Worst case scenario, you try it and you hate it. At least you’ve learned something about your personal interests, and can now search for better activities to devote your time to. You can’t sit back and expect friendships to come to you. Sometimes you have put effort in. I heard variations of this advice multiple times in some shape or form during my four years of high school, and I never listened to it. I’m sharing it with you now in hopes that you don’t make the same mistake that I did.
Written by one of Empowerteen’s Guest Writers (College Student)
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