Feeling left out?
How to respond when your friends don't seem to care about you.
Friendship can be a tricky part of being a teenager.
SoI felt really sorry for Matt (not his real name) who was having a lot of problems with his group of friends. He emailed me a while back to share his story:
I've had a hard few weeks. My friends are including me in their activities less and less. I find I'm always the last to hear about things, they now have plenty of inside jokes that I'm not a part of. It feels like one friend in particular is expanding, and pushing me out of the group. But the truth is that not only are my best friends in this group, but also that I'm the glue that holds them together.
I've been really upset just because none of them seem to notice or care that I'm getting and feeling so left out and abandoned.
Please, just pray that stuff gets better for me. I don't know how, but I am a Christian (have been all my life) and I trust God that it will get better, but that doesn't mean I don't need prayer and encouragement.
Have you ever felt like Matt? Ever been hurt by your friends & wondered how to cope with the emotions? Well, I wrote back to Matt, and here's some of the suggestions I gave him - I hope they might help you too.
1. Work out what you need
Something I have found very helpful in recent times when I’ve been upset or angry or acting out, is rather than focusing on the circumstances I am in (which generally I cannot change), I instead ask myself, "what do I need in this situation?"
There's a good chance God may be using this situation to teach you a lot about trusting him and about finding your self-worth and your identity in Christ, and not in other people.
I'll give you a specific example. The other day my daughter asked me something like, "don't you do anything interesting at night?", basically telling me I was a pretty boring person.
My feelings got hurt and I started to defend myself, but when I asked myself "what do I need?" I realised that I was looking for validation and appreciation. I realised that I have given up a lot of the interesting things I like to do in order to care for my children, and now that she’s beginning to think that I'm boring, it seems she doesn't appreciate all the sacrifices that I have made for her. I need to be valued and appreciated for what I have done.
2. Remember that God fulfils our deepest needs
To help work out how you are feeling, you could try a small experiment.
Fill in the blanks:
I feel upset in this situation with my friends because I need __________________ .
I feel undervalued in this situation because I need _______________ .
I feel abandoned in this situation because I need ____________ .
I feel __________________in this situation because I need ________ .
Be careful to define exactly what it is that you need. For example, rather than write "I need my friends to include me…" you could say, "… I need to feel part of something."
Simply doing this exercise may help you get some perspective on what is going on for you.
The next step in the process, once you have worked out what you need, is to think about how you can have those needs met. Obviously my 12-year-old is not going to be able to give me all the value and appreciation that I need. She’s simply not mature enough to do that. But I do know that God already does value and appreciate me. I just have to read Psalm 139 to find that out:
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
I’ve found that when I focus on the fact that at the core, God meets my deepest needs, my anger and upset feelings dissolve and I am able to deal with the situation in a much more productive way.
3. Realise you can't change people
Honestly, you could sit forever and analyse why your friend is doing what he is doing, and why the other friends are doing what they are doing, and talk about all the character flaws and disappointments and things you would like to change. I have done this in the past. We all do it.
Unfortunately, though, it is pretty much useless. You can't change anybody else, you can’t really change a situation and generally, once things change, they don't go back to being the way they were. The only thing that you have control over is your reactions and your actions.
Once you have done this, the next part of the question is, "how do I get my needs met?" This is really worth praying about. At your core, do you believe that God can and will meet those needs? You may also need make some changes in your life. Perhaps you need to start making other friends or go to other groups or do something different altogether.
Problems like this will not be easily solved, and there will be loss and grief for you. Underestimating it will not make the pain dissolve quicker. You may need to have tears and periods of mourning. You will need to find some support while you do this.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5: 6-7)