Does this feel familiar?
YOU: Hey, do u want 2 hang Sat?
FRIEND: … No. Busy (and then nothing)
Trying to understand one another via text and without the comfort of reading another person’s physical response has left us second guessing even the smallest things. Take the example above, what did the “no” mean?
Were they saying it was a stupid idea? And now you feel like a big nerd, great.
Were they really just busy? “Probably planning something with someone else and leaving me out”, says your worried mind.
None of the above. We really don’t know the answer and you know what, it doesn’t matter.
An unfortunate side effect of growing up is your sudden self-awareness. According to Kaela Wilson, PhD and mental health professional, there’s this thing called “The Imaginary Audience”; the idea that we each believe that other people are constantly observing us with a high level of interest and are acutely aware of our every move. Not so much.
If we all feel this way, who has the time to be judging others?
Take some comfort in that you are not alone in this feeling. Both the changes in your body and in your mind make you feel less powerful and we’re here to say it doesn’t have to be that way.
We have some suggestions to navigate this particularly frustrating part of puberty:
- It’s not about you
Here’s the hard truth: even though you put yourself out there and it felt like a difficult thing to do, that person has their own stuff (back to that Imaginary Audience idea). They weren’t thinking about how their response might make you feel. And why not?
While you worried about what that “no” implied, they worried about something else. And both of YOU were wasting your emotional power.
- Consider their text style
You’ve known your friend forever. Or perhaps you’ve just met. Now that you’ve seen the light with the “it’s not about you” thing, give them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people are being mean but that’s not as common as you think.
When we let our own anxiety take control it often clouds our responses to situations. Take a deep breath and remember why you became friends with them in the first place.
3. Check in with another question
This is the hard part, asking “why?” makes you feel vulnerable. And what if they don’t respond, leading you into an even deeper anxiety spiral? You don’t need that. If you don’t get an answer, that’s ok. The biggest part here is that you’ve chosen to be there for them and that will help to keep your friendship on the right track.
- Pick up the 1000-lb phone
Right now, you’re all *where did you get a 1000-lb phone?*
It’s just a metaphor, something my Dad used to say whenever I was worried about what someone was thinking about me. It is hard to really communicate in our crazy, mixed up world. We have so many easy ways to avoid direct communication and it’s making us all a little misguided.
We suggest giving the phone a try, I’ll bet you a bottle of GLU Pink nail polish you’re holding your phone right now. It would be so easy to make that call. It’s the quickest way to know what they were really thinking.
- Let it go
*Back to mindfulness, really?*
Well, it works. There’s an old proverb that suggests thoughts are like water passing underneath a bridge. You’re safe on the bridge while the water rages underneath so just let those thoughts pass. That uncomfortable feeling will go away if you don’t hold on to it. We promise that you WILL feel better.
According to Wilson, “Our brains are often using tools designed to help us manage an incredible amount of incoming information in the blink of an eye. While these tools/shortcuts can be very helpful and even lifesaving, they are often fallible and lead to mistakes (in judgement).”
We’ve said it before and we’ll keep saying it, growing up can be like a big poke in the eye, so why go it alone? We’re here for you and we’re betting so are your friends. If you are feeling isolated and need someone professional to talk to, we really like the Jed Foundation, please reach out – they are there to listen:
- Text "START" to 741-741
- or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
And we’ll be here in the meantime.
What do Y-O-U think? Ever felt this way? Never felt this way? Tell us all about it below…