Friending in Real Life

(Originally posted May 15, 2013)

I’ve started joking with my friends that I’m becoming my own social network because I’ve collected various fabulous friends along the way, and I’m starting to introduce them to each other.

One of my friends jokes that I have a “posse”. I do belong to a mommy group that has been active for over five years, but I doubt any of them would consider themselves part of “my” posse. We’ve just really been there for each other while we’ve learned through trial and many errors how to raise our kids. We’re still asking each other for advice and suggestions as the kids grow older and become slightly different challenges to our sanity.

We realized we shared a love of books, so we started a book club a few years ago, and recently a few of us started a writers’ group.

I really liked one of the moms I met at my son’s elementary school so I invited her to join our book club, and ended up redefining and renaming our group so we could start inviting people who weren’t part of our original mommy group.

Then I reconnected with a friend I had lost touch with and invited her to join the book club and the writers’ group. She doesn’t live in the same city as the rest of us, and she doesn’t have any kids yet, but she fits in great, and I’m hoping this is another step in making our groups even more diverse and fun.

This is such a complete reversal of what I was like growing up. I’d always lived far away from my classmates so I never had anyone to play with on the weekends or after school. I didn’t really have a social life until I was 16 and got my driver’s license, and even then I was still very socially awkward and inept.

I was so insecure I didn’t even really know how to be friends with anyone. I alternated between being shy and not saying anything with being a know-it-all and arrogant, trying to prove I wasn’t as worthless as I felt. I was so ashamed that my father had been in jail and was in the U.S. illegally when most of my friends’ fathers were lawyers, doctors, or diplomats.

Thanks to some self-help workshops (The Landmark Forum and North Star Life Coach Training), a few years of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and learning from some really awesome, supportive, and inspiring friends, I am still insecure but much more comfortable in my skin. I’ve made it a habit to thank people often and let them know how much I appreciate them. I’ve forced myself to admit when I’m wrong and apologize, even though I’m terrified people will reject and condemn me for making a mistake. Almost every person has graciously accepted the apology and continued the friendship.

I’ve made a commitment to be vulnerable and let people get to know me, warts and all. And to show that I honestly want to get to know them. I’m trying to let the people I interact with know how much I value them.

I think we can all be a little more inclusive. Maybe it’s no accident that we run into the same people at the supermarket, at the coffee shop, at the playground.

Are you already part of a group that meets regularly? Think about the other people you interact with, is there anyone else you can invite to join that group?

If you’re not in a group that meets regularly, ask the people in your life if they’re part of a group you can join or if you can start a group together. There are so many interests that people can meet and talk about: books, gardening, movies, restaurants, music, theater. Make time to revel in something you love and surround yourself with people who accept you and encourage you to be yourself.

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