How to work out social problems at school.

3Valentina3 asks: At school I feel like such an outsider. Or like an extra (like in the movies). I also don’t have the courage to tell my friend G that I don’t want to be friends anymore. I don’t know what to do and I’m feeling so upset. I would tell my mom but she wouldn’t understand and she would say something like, “just focus on school – you’re not there to make friends”. But if she understood then it would mean the world to me! How can I tell her what’s going on?

Hi 3Valentina3 –


Really, you’re asking me three questions. They’re all tied up together, but you’re trying to juggle three problems at once. And I relate to your difficulty with this – the best I’ve ever done with juggling is to have a tennis ball in my mouth and throw it up in the air and catch it. Once.


So let’s try to make it easier by splitting it into three parts.


First, you’re feeling like an extra at school. This is COMPLETELY normal. I know it doesn’t look like it, but every kid and teen goes through feeling this. If someone’s popular, they feel like they’re not being seen for who they are, and can’t express themselves. If they’re not popular, they feel unseen at all, and unheard, no matter what they say.  And everyone, at times, feels misunderstood.


I’m not saying this to say it’s not a big deal; it’s gigantic. It’s a horrible feeling, I know. It’s like the way I feel when I’m locked in a cage at the veterinarian’s office – there’s nothing I can do, I feel abandoned by everyone I trusted, and I’m scared to death!


But the good news is just what I said – that everyone else at your school is feeling, or has felt, or will feel, the same way too. So this means you are the opposite of alone; you’re surrounded by potential friends. Just imagine what would happen if you saw someone who keeps to themselves a lot, and walked up to them, say at lunch, and said “I feel like such an outsider here.” Or if you saw someone whose friends just ganged up on her and walked up to her and said “This place reeks. No one even tries to understand anyone.” You’d have a new friend immediately.


Or what if you saw someone carrying a book, or wearing a t-shirt, or listening to a song, about feeling alienated. You’d know – there’s someone you have something in common with. Someone you can relate to.


Now am I saying you’re going to make a new best friend right away, by doing this? Of course not. In fact, that’s not even my goal. What I want is for you to make TEN… mild friendships. Have ten good conversations. Create ten new relationships at school where you can feel connected.


Because once you have those, you won’t feel like a total outsider there anymore. Instead, you’ll be on the inside. Maybe still feeling crummy at times, but you won’t be in that cage anymore.


Okay, so about G. Well, if you do those things I mentioned above, there’s a really good chance you’ll begin to spend more time with more other people. And that might help a lot of the problems you’re having with her anyway. But if not, then you can make this easier on both of you by just saying you’re going to be spending more time with these other people. And best of all, you might make some friends who become friends with her. In other words, you both start spending more time with other people. So you simply don’t need to cut off the friendship with her anymore.


But if your social circles increase, and the time comes when you do feel the need to cut her out of your life completely, just imagine how much easier it’ll be if she can walk away from you and up to one of her other five friends and go on with her day just fine.


Okay, so the toughest one: your mom. Parents can be such funny creatures. She dealt with just these problems when she was young.   I promise. And she does care about social connections (after all, no one becomes a parent by studying hard and getting good grades; they usually tend to have gotten some sort of connection with someone, at least for a night!).


When I see a parent say something like “you’re not there to make friends,” my mind goes one of two places. Either she was so miserable as a kid, so alienated just like you, that she’s had to block out her memory of the pain. Or she never quite learned how to navigate these issues herself, but she doesn’t want to admit that to you. I often see parents, when their kid asks them about a fact, like what a word means or what happened on a date in history, very scornfully yell at the kid to “look it up!”, implying that the kid is lazy or a bad student for asking; it can take those kids many years to realize that the fact was that their parent didn’t know the answer, and was too embarrassed to admit it.


So my solution with your mom isn’t to find out how to get advice from her; she simply might not have any to give. But rather to try what I suggested above, and then, if it works, tell her about it. You might find that her respect for you goes up about ten times. And maybe that’ll be what it takes for her to say to you, “Oh that’s so good to hear. I had this awful time when I was a little girl…” and suddenly you two are closer than ever.


There’s a cruel view in our world, that parents are supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to know everything, and never make any mistakes. This is simply insane. What will make your relationship with your mom better will be when she starts to admit her lacks, and work with you to help your life be better than hers was. The joke is, that’s what every parent wants most. So once they move past their bad feelings about themselves, they can move on to the greatest pride they’ll ever feel!


Now I’ll admit, I could be wrong about what’s going on with your mom. But I’d say to try this one out, and see what happens.


In fact, try everything I say here, and see what happens, and let me know. And if I’m totally wrong and none of it works, I’ll fully admit it. After all, just as I’m saying with your own alienation, and Grace, and your mom – none of us is perfect!


(Even if Handsome, my human, tells me every day that I am. But he’s just blinded by love for me. Just as I am for him!)


Best of luck!


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