I have a few groups of friends and count myself lucky, but I often feel like no-one likes me. I have quite low self-esteem, and tend to beat myself up a lot – and this often comes in the form of telling myself I have no friends and that no one likes my company. I force myself to fill my weekend with plans – and if I find myself with nothing to do on a Saturday night I feel ashamed. The thing is, I like spending time alone and I can easily keep myself entertained, but it’s this fear and pressure to be with friends all the time, having the time of my life, which crushes me to the point that when I am with them, I almost feel grateful that they are putting up with me. People close to me tell me it’s silly – but it feels so real! Name supplied
I want to dispute, gently, your own description of having low self-esteem. You do know your own strengths, but you find it difficult to embrace them. More than three centuries ago, French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone’.
Your power is relatively unusual. One experiment found that about 70 per cent of men, and 25 per cent of women chose to give themselves an electric shock, rather than sitting alone with their thoughts for 12 minutes. There will undoubtedly be times when you feel out of step with others because of this. We live in a world that rewards showing off, rather than quiet confidence.
Perhaps if you are honest about your feelings – ‘I really just want a quiet night in’ – then you’ll give other friends the courage to say the same. Have a look at Susan Cain’s website for what she calls ‘Quiet Revolutionaries’. In the meantime, I want to quote my own wise aunt, when I once came home from a student party feeling low. She said gently, ‘Perhaps you were not boring, but bored’.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email email@example.com, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line
Visit Susan Cain’s website at quietrev.com