The Eternal Anxiety of Being Liked

I’ve always liked having friends, and for a long time I thought that my happy buzz when it seemed people enjoyed spending time with me was just that. It’s nice to be surrounded by other people who you like and who like you. It didn’t really hit me that I had this anxiety of being liked by everyone until my latter years of secondary school, even though I know that I am not alone in this feeling.

If I find out that someone doesn’t like me, or if I’m around someone and get the feeling that they don’t really like me, I obsess over it. For hours and days and maybe even weeks I’m thinking about what I did wrong, what it was that made me unlikeable, whether I should have acted differently – and it goes on. Of course you are never going to go through life being liked by everyone, and that’s something that I’ve come to terms with over the past few years, especially in university, but I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to avoid coming to this realisation.

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I think back to my first year in secondary school when I talk about this anxiety of mine. I think of how I didn’t really have a specific group of friends, and instead I flitted from one to another – which, for a while, I enjoyed. I liked having the ability to strike up a conversation with anyone and everyone, and the fact that at lunchtime it didn’t matter who was in the form room because I could just sit with whoever was there. I liked being friends with everyone, because in my head it meant everyone was friends with me. Then, one of my most embarrassing memories comes to mind – and this in particular really shows off that crippling anxiety of not being liked.

In my class, when I was about 11, we were given a seating arrangement for our form time, which was just at the beginning and end of the day for maybe 10 minutes. I was sat next to a girl who was incredibly popular, and she was one of those types who was good at everything; she was sporty and on the hockey team, musically inclined and could play the piano, was cast in all the school plays and musicals because she was a great actor with a great voice, was incredibly intelligent and aced every test, and, what was sometimes the most frustrating quality, she was also infuriatingly nice. Seriously, she was so nice you couldn’t get angry that she was brilliant at everything, and that just made you even angrier. Anyway, we were placed next to each other for the first term and we got on well – or, rather, we were both nice and friendly and acted that way with each other. We never really hung out that much outside the classroom, just did the usual of inviting each other to our birthday parties and things like that. But then, lo and behold, the following term we were told we could sit next to whoever. And what does 11 year old me do? She sits there and says something along the lines of “I wonder if anyone will want to sit with me. I think I’ll probably end up sitting on my own” and, although I don’t remember exactly, I’m pretty sure I even went on to say how much I liked sitting next to this girl and may have even dramatically sighed. So, this girl being the nice girl she is, plonks her arse back down and sits next to me for the following term.

Mortifyingis the only word that comes to mind when I think back on this. I’m pretty certain this girl doesn’t even remember this incident, but dear lord do I remember it. I knew what I was doing, sitting there acting all dramatic and sullen and ridiculous, hoping that she would sit next to me again. Yet, I also think how upsetting it is to think that, even though 11-year-old me knew she was manipulating a situation, 11-year-old me thought that that was her only good chance of sitting next to someone because there was a voice in her head saying “No one actually likes you. No one actually wants to sit next to you.” Of course this wasn’t helped when the popular pretty girl kept sitting next to me, because it meant that this voice told me she was only sitting there to be nice, that she didn’t actually like me but sat there because I acted like a drama queen.

Then I think of the following years, up until the age of about 16, and how I acted with my friends. Even though they chose to hang out with me and be around me, there was still a part of me that felt that I needed to prove myself, be that extra bit likeable. I would change depending on who I was around – with one I would talk about music I knew she liked, another I would talk about completely different music and claimed I only liked that music too, or with some friends I would just try to be the goofy one, the funny one, the one that everyone likes. It wasn’t until I was in sixth form and developed a very bad relationship with another girl who was one day a bully and one day a friend depending on what suited her, that I realised that there was no point. Why should I change depending on who I was with? Why did I crave being liked?

I’m only fully able to say with certainty that I don’t do this anymore. In my first year of university I definitely adapted with the different groups I was with, trying to fit in and act cool and be likeable. Now? I really don’t have the energy to be anything other than myself, and have found, to my great relief, that it didn’t really make much of a difference. It seems people like to surround themselves with people who they like for being themselves, which is a terrible way of trying to say that others don’t give a shit. If you don’t like their music, so what? It’s something to discuss and talk about. It ties in with having the confidence to be yourself and not be self-conscious about every little thing.

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I’ve always been a ‘worrier’, and this anxiety of being liked is one of the many things that have plagued my mind daily for years. I’ve talked previously on this blog about my anxiety over my weight, my skin, my looks, my talents – and it all boils down to having the self-confidence and self-worth to know that none of it matters. It comes to remembering to think of yourself, and not of other people, when you’re looking at your skin/face/clothes/body. If you’re happy with yourself, then why worry about anyone else? You shouldn’t have to change for someone else, from styling your hair a certain way to saying you like a certain kind of music. I obsessed over my acne because I thought it made me look ugly, and part of that was because I obsessed over what other people saw when they looked at me. She just looked at me, and I bet she saw my spot on my chin. I bet that when she smiled at me she was laughing at how awful I look. Etc, etc. I could go on.

So the reason I’m trying to get to amongst all these ramblings is that not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok. What’s important is your own happiness, and that happiness will never come from making sure everyone else likes you. I learned the hard way that you just can’t keep up all the various personas you put on to please everyone else. Be yourself, be healthy, be happy, and try not to worry about everyone else, because they’re probably worrying about the same things.

Guide to University: Coming Home

Home has always been my ultimate happy place. Spending time with family always lifts my mood, whether it’s slamming my head against the table because my Dad has made another terrible (but admittedly funny) joke or playing hide and seek with the dog. It’s where my Mum cooks the best food and I seem to have far fewer worries and concerns, probably because I don’t have to worry about mundane ‘adult’ things like what I’m going to eat or whether I need to go to the shops or if I can stretch out my toothpaste for another day.

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For now when I think of home, I think of the ocean and the pebbled beaches that the dog rolls on. I think of seagulls waking me up during the night and the Chinese supermarket that makes the best pad thai. Before me moved, home was the place of more cows than people and a large wood where I would always walk the dog, filled with memories of picnics with friends and climbing fallen trees after primary school. I find it strange that I don’t miss that place as much as I thought it would, and then I remember that it isn’t the physical place, but the people. It’s not the specific walls or floorboards that I miss, but the place where someone is always making cups of tea and where there is always a stash of biscuits. It’s not the rooms where I spent my childhood or the stains of memories on the carpet, but the hugs and warmth and laughter.

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And these reasons are why I find leaving home so difficult, even though I’ve done it countless times now. Having to leave my family at the train station, watching as the scenery changes from fields and houses to built up London blocks and cranes constantly building new things. I get back to my flat and flop onto the sofa, suddenly having to think again about buying some food and sorting out my things for the coming days. London is my home as well though, and it’s hard to always remember that when I’m coming back to it. But there is a familiarity with London, from the odd little shortcuts through the city to the riverside with an endless stream of tourists and selfie sticks. I start to see my friends and discover new haunts, or be reminded of old ones. University is in London, and as much stress as it causes me at times, it’s also where I get to learn about everything from Milton to weird mythology involving gods having liaisons with swans.

So, although I’m leaving one home, I’m coming back to another. And as much as I love them both, sometimes you need the act of leaving to remember why you love coming back.

Friendship Heartache

I’ve seen a couple of posts about this, but not many, so I thought I’d get to writing my own.

The amount of books, songs, films, shows etc we have that focus on heartbreak is astounding. If you turn on the radio, you probably can’t avoid hearing a song which is about breaking up with someone, or the mixed jumble of feelings you have for ex-partners. The amount of books I’ve read which have the premise, or even the climax, of the main character going through the stages of grief after breaking up with someone is just as high.

One thing that isn’t talked about nearly enough is that special kind of heartbreak you feel when you lose a friend. This can happen in so many ways – whether it’s just from not speaking to someone in a long time, or having a huge argument, or coming to realise that you no longer want to be friends. Many people would argue that losing a boyfriend/girlfriend is far similar, because more often than not they’re your best friends as well, but in my opinion the friendship heartache is something very different. Sure, heartbreak from a relationship can be crippling, but hopefully your friends are there to pick up the pieces and help you through. When it’s your friend that you lose, who’s there to help you through? How do you explain that that friend just got you in so many ways, and that without them you’re not entirely sure who you are? Who are you supposed to text or call when you overhear a nasty comment about you or when you find out that tesco is no longer selling those reduced chocolates that you’ve been gorging on for the past two months? What are you supposed to do when either you, or they, or both of you, realise that you’re not as close or even want to be as close as you used to be?

Let’s go to my own sob story. In primary school, I had a few people who I would call good friends – not that I’ve spoken to any of them in years – but more or less I was ‘friendly’ with everyone. The first year or two of secondary school was similar; I never really found a group that I thought ‘THESE ARE MY KIND OF PEOPLE’, so I sort of drifted from group to group. Towards the end of my second year (Year 8, when I was about 12/13 years old) I found a group of girls (not a surprise, seeing as I went to an all girls school) that I thought were my best of friends. One girl in particular I called my best friend. She seemed to know everything, and we just had so much fun together. We’d have sleepovers where we’d talk about the boys that weren’t in our lives and the celebrities we wish were in our lives. We’d talk about our families, and hopes, and dreams, and fears – you name it, we probably talked about it. Every now and then, we’d fall out for a few days after a petty comment or argument, but soon enough we were best friends again.

This girl, my best friend, had the power to absolutely destroy me. The amount of times I cried because of something she said to me or said about me to someone else (who then told me – thanks again to girl school gossip) was ridiculous. Over the next few years, I found other girls who I soon called best friends as well, but this first girl was still a fixture in my life. Honestly, she wasn’t a great person. She hurt a lot of people, but I was still friends with her. There was one instance I can remember clearly when I called her up because she was ill, telling her to not worry about anything and to get better soon. When she next came to school, she yelled at me for being such a bitch, calling her up to rub it in her face that she was ill and everyone else wasn’t. There was another time when she took me to ‘the bike sheds’ during one lunchtime and she again shouted at me. She had two other girls with her – and together they made up the original three girls I thought were my closest friends – but they didn’t say anything. It was clear though that they were there to support her. I was told that I was a horrible human being and that I was just jealous of her and hated her because she could wear skirts and make-up and I couldn’t. (I should probably mention here that I never wore make-up – mainly because I had no idea how to use it – and I always wore trousers – I really didn’t like my legs).

She knew exactly what to say to upset me, and she did know exactly what she was doing. The next day, she was back to pretending nothing had happened.

And so the years went on, and in my last two years of school I came to the realisation that I didn’t have to be her friend. I tolerated her, even to the point where I would sit next to her in one of my classes and chat, make jokes – all of that rubbish. I would chat to my true best friends, who would never ever say such awful things to me, and I would feel reassured that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like this girl. The amount of instances where she made me want to curl up in my bed and never leave it’s safety are too many to count. After our final exams – when we were eighteen years old – I felt like I was a young teen again when one of my friends told me that she told them that she deleted me on facebook and was ‘really smug about it’. That hurt. Despite not even liking this girl, the years that we were friends would flash through my mind. Where was the girl who told me that she thought I was pretty despite my acne? Where was the girl who could make me laugh until my stomach ached?

What did I do? Well, I blocked her, because I didn’t want to see anything about her any longer.

I still feel a huge mix of weird feelings when I think about her now. Weirdly enough, she goes to university in London and I heard something about her from a friend of a friend. Turns out she’s upset a lot of people already at university, and the relief I feel that I don’t have that in my life any more is incredible. It doesn’t do anything to stop that little twinge I feel, that pang of heartache when I think about the times we were friends.

What’s the cure? Well, I’m still working on it. Surrounding yourself with other friends helps, as does eating copious amounts of chocolate. Also writing a blog post seems to help – writing it all down and throwing it out into the world is pretty cathartic (I hope you’ve ‘enjoyed’ reading about all my very important feelings). For me, finding confidence was a big factor. Being strong enough to just think that it was better to have known her and learned something than not at all. I’m better for it, because now I’m not afraid to tell someone ‘no’. I’m not afraid to have opinions, because I know how to fight my corner. I know that I can be independent, and that those stupid teenage fights we had were just that – stupid teenage fights. I have no desire to see her again, but I’d like to think that if I do ever have to speak to her again, I can be the bigger person.

I’ve moved on. I hope she has too.

A Guide to University: Clubbing

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a party party clubbing kind of girl. In fact my perfect night would involve snuggling up with a book or watching a film with copious amounts of chocolate. Unfortunately that isn’t the most sociable and, whilst friends are welcome to join me in a chocolate-induced coma, it seems kids these days prefer clubbing. Jeez, even the word sounds weird – like Fred Flintstone has just turned up to start clubbing you around the head or something.
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Now don’t get me wrong – socialising is awesome. I could chat for hours on end without a problem, which although might be a problem for some it usually works out ok. In a club, however, talking isn’t really possible due to the noise deemed ‘music’.

Last week I decided to go out with my flat and, all in all, a pretty good night. The noise wasn’t all bad and my ears were only ringing until the following afternoon. However, clubbing is never as splendiferous as some films, books and people make it out to be. It’s basically a gathering of mostly drunk people moving their limbs sporadically with a few jumps here and there to music they won’t remember in the morning.

We made it to the club with no casualties (a success) and seeing as the last time I went clubbing with them we ended the night not clubbing but getting a McDonald’s, going on the bus home and then looking after one of the girls who threw up in a McDonald’s bag on one bus (seriously, those things aren’t even designed to hold grease) and then again on another bus in the mc flurry cup.

We queued for about 20mins before reaching the front of the line, but even that wasn’t without incident. Some bloke was seriously sick in the queue and so had to leave said queue to continue his drunken sickness elsewhere. One of the cheerful employees of the club who seriously must adore his job because how can you not enjoy being tasked with bringing out a bucket of soapy water to wash away the sick? He seemed to do his job with particular malice as he didn’t seem to be concerned with other queue-goers getting splashed.

After ID was checked and our wrists were stamped, we made it into the smoky, noisy room where some people were ordering drinks, some were attempting to dance, some dared to join yet another queue for a cloakroom and others were grinding against each other all over the place. I realised one pretty big mistake of the night which was choosing to wear flat slip on shoes – the floor covered with a sticky substance that I don’t want to think about kept trying to take them off me. This is probably why I spent my time ‘dancing’ in a Chandler-from-friends-like-fashion and not moving my feet.

The night continued on in this vain, but also had the wonderful occurrences of sleazy guys trying to grab at girls of the group – I made it my mission to try and save them all – as well as a man taking pictures of us at awkward angles.

So we danced, some drank, some stumbled about – you get the idea. The rest of the night included queueing once more for the cloakroom, escaping the venue in pretty much one piece and getting a night bus home – on which we sang various Taylor swift songs and took snapchats. It also involved the usual – someone needing to leave the bus to be ill – but we all made it back safe and sound in the end, even if it did seem doubtful at some points.

You might say that this isn’t a ‘guide’ post whatsoever, and more of a not-really-amusing rendition of a typical night out that you’ve spent your precious time reading. I’ll tell you, friends, that this is not necessarily a guide but a warning. A warning that if you are going to university, then never wear slip on shoes to a club and don’t get so hammered that you have to be sick before you even get to the club. Also make sure you have a designated sober-ish friend who will ensure that you’re not carried away by crazies or left on a bus. Other than that, have fun, enjoy the crazy and live the uni life to whatever extent you wish – or wish not.

A Guide to University: the London edition

The time has come again when I have tons of reading to do, which means *drumroll* I’m going to write another blog post.

There are many claims on how you can have the ‘best university experience’; from advising to join as many societies as you can to going out partying as much as you can and, my personal favourite, making sure to attend every single lecture and seminar or you’ll fail without doubt. What I think is without a doubt true is that there are many different definitions of the word ‘succeed’ (Jeez, I sound like one of my essays) and, when it comes to uni, everyone is going to have a different opinion on what a successful university life is. Seeing as I’ve been at university now for a record-breaking four months, I’ve obviously got quite the authority on this subject. (If you can’t detect the sarcasm now, I’d be concerned)

So, from a completely naive fresher to the rest of the world, here is my advice on how to survive at university. Because really, although people care about succeeding, I think survival is the far better word for this guide in particular, so here we go – the London edition.

Now it might be because I’m a bit of a ‘goody-two shoes’ at times, but I think the first point that we should make here is to remind you all that if you are attending university, you’re paying flipping 9 grand for all this, and often for humanities degrees that can be for under 10 hours a week. On that note, Tip No. 1: ACTUALLY DO SOME WORK AT SOME POINT. There. I said it. Now we can move on.

Apparently what is deemed ‘Freshers Week’ by just about everyone, according to some, can make or break your uni life. Clearly a week notorious for parties and getting hammered will obviously dictate the rest of your university experience, like some grand Hunger Games style fight through the daily hangovers, (Once again, people, we have sarcasm. Keep up.) Now, Freshers week for me was pretty anticlimactic. Yes, there was drink and clubs and all that, but it wasn’t as ground breaking as everyone makes it out to be. What was good about that week was the fact that everyone made an effort to get to know you, whereas now – only just halfway through the first year – people can’t be bothered to make the effort to socialise outside the friends they’ve already made. Therefore, Tip No. 2: don’t get worked up over Freshers week. Just try to meet new people, have some fun, and enjoy the time where you won’t have any work to procrastinate over. (Just, be careful again about who you make friends with – don’t get your heart broken)

Next on the list is societies and ‘extra-curricular’ activities. In all honesty, I’ve only really been going to societies since the final few weeks of last term and that really hasn’t been an issue at all for me. At this point I’ve made friends from my accommodation and my course, settled into the standard London living and am now comfortable to go to whatever societies seem interesting. It can be pretty daunting in the first week to try to find your way to a room (seriously, my university literally has no reasoning behind where all the rooms are placed and the numbering doesn’t even work logically in most buildings) and be confident enough to just launch yourself into a group of people who probable know each other already. I’ve found that by joining societies now out of interest more than feeling a need to force myself to go, I enjoy them so much more. So, Tip No. 3: Join societies at your own time, whenever you want, and don’t worry about it. (They’re not for everyone, but you’re bound to find at least one you like).

At the moment, this is sounding more like a guide to HOW NOT TO PANIC at uni. Eh, oh well.

So we’ve covered academic life, Freshers week and societies. Next is even more socialising, so introverts brace yourselves. I’d like to start off with something short and sweet. Tip No 4: BE YOURSELF. Cliched beyond belief, this is a tip that pretty much makes me cringe each time, but it’s true so bloody hell, be yourself already! Everyone is going to want to socialise in different ways and, luckily for me, I’ve found that there are other people who don’t particularly like clubbing. (Seriously, a claustrophic’s nightmare with sweaty people crushing you from all sides jumping up and down to shitty music where you often get hit in the face – and we have to pay for it? How about no?)

There are plenty of people who enjoy baking (huzzah), going to the cinema, going out for a few drinks or just staying in to watch a movie/TV, eat ice cream and pizza. There is so much more to London than just clubbing, but if clubbing is your thing then there’s plenty of that too! Apps like YPlan have been so amazing to have, such as discounted tickets to go ice skating, go to cinemas and even theater tickets. There are also amazing websites that let you sign up to be TV show audiences, and so far I’ve had free tickets to see Live at The Apollo, It’ll be Alright on the Night, and, last week, I finally went to my favourite show of all time: The Graham Norton Show. So without further ado, Tip No. 5: Go out and see the world rather than choosing to get drunk at every free moment. I know for the everyday student that might not sound so great but, believe me, it’s worth it.

I think that’s a pretty good start to my Uni Survival Guide, so I hope you enjoyed it and maybe I’ll have an update for you at the end of the year. See you next time, Eleanor.