I recently was reflecting on my personality and the friendships in my life. I had a few unhappy experiences with various people over the last few months. I had a friend shut me down because I was ‘talking to much’. Another person completely ignored me when I made a comment about them. I’ve had work colleagues tell me that I talk too much. On top of that I’ve barely been able to develop deep friendships with people since I got here.
I find it more difficult to make friends here (in Oklahoma) than I did when I used to live in London. It’s one thing to be an African here. Its another thing to be African, eccentric and a fast-talker like I am. If the culture barrier isn’t a big enough problem on its own my weird personality further complicates things. After a while I can start sensing that people find me weird and treat me differently, sometimes in an awkward way.
All this starts making think that maybe there’s something wrong with my personality. Why do I get all this flack for being who I am? Why can’t I just be more introverted, quiet and reserved? I now have a choice to make: Do I change my friend group, or do I change myself? Obviously, I’d choose the former.
An important lesson I’m learning is the difference between belonging and fitting in (I learned this from Brené Brown). Fitting in means that you have to change who you are to fit into the group. Belonging entails that you are accepted into a group because of who you are. If you’re in a ‘friend’ group were you always have to hide who you really are (i.e. your weirdness) just to maintain your standing in the group, you’re not in the midst of deep friends but shallow acquaintances. If that’s what you want, no problem. But if you’re seeking more meaningful relationships you need to drop the shallow ones. Trying to modify who you are to fit in will chip into your identity and self-worth. You’’ll start losing your sense of self. Don’t do that. There are people who you haven’t met yet that will be positively impacted and attracted to your personality or ‘weirdness’. But they won’t be able to identify you if you’re hiding who you really are to impress people who don’t seriously care about you.
Sometimes in order to find authentic friendships while being yourself you have to walk through the path of loneliness. Last Christmas was the first time me and most of my family were separated from each other. I never understood what people meant by the ‘holiday blues’ until last winter. Loneliness and sadness gripped in a way I’ve never experienced before. However, more recently a number of the few good friends I have left moved away. This wasn’t too much of a problem for me in the past because I had different friend circles. If I lost a few friends in one circle I had other friend circles to fall back on. However, I only have like one or two friend circles here and once they start fragmenting I have nothing to fall back on. Rejection by friends stings more if you have only a handful of friends. Then recently I had a few close friends who didn’t invite me for some of their events that they were hosting. Mind you, this is not something that ever really bothers me. I don’t feel entitled to the invites of anyone. But strangely, enough I felt a little bit hurt and left out because I wasn’t sent an invite to those events. And I was greatly annoyed that I desire the company of people. Why can’t I be more introverted and less needy of people?
I started reminding myself that though people reject me, I have the acceptance of God. I may not have the deep friendships I want, but I have the friendship of the Spirit. I’m learning in whatever season I’m in that Christ is sufficient for me. I love people, but I don’t need them to survive. God supplies my needs so that I can love people freely and unconditionally without expecting something in return. People may not invite me to their parties, but I always have an invitation to the presence of God (Heb 4:16). If you’re in state of ‘aloneness’ in this season of your life remember that it won’t last forever and more importantly you have the friendship of God. Enjoy the process as you learn contentment. Also, you’ll live with yourself till you die. Why not learn to enjoy your own company?