- This week, we discuss what to do if you’re feeling anxious about making friends and developing your interests, and how to respond if your parents are being too harsh on your sibling
- If you have difficult questions to ask about teen life, email us, and ‘Friend of a Friend’ will do their best to give advice (we’ll make sure you remain anonymous)
This column is here to answer all your difficult or embarrassing questions about being a teenager. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to overcome difficult situations at home or school, in your social lives, or even in the animal kingdom, our “Friend of a Friend” is an expert to help provide answers for you!
If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please send an email to [email protected] with “Asking for a Friend” in the subject line. Don’t worry, you will remain anonymous!
How do I make friends when I might have social anxiety?
It hit me today that I don’t have any friends. I don’t know what to do, and I feel overwhelmed. I might have social anxiety because I’m scared to make new friends. And I do have a boyfriend, but he has a life outside of me – I think I am too dependent on him.
I was looking at what to study in university and realised I don’t have any preferences of my own. How do I develop my personality?
Thanks, Feeling Lost
Hi Feeling Lost
It’s not easy to admit that you need to make friends and develop yourself, but it is a step in the right direction. Depending on one person for everything is a common mistake in early relationships – when you really like spending time with someone, it’s easy to neglect yourself. And if you’ve dated your boyfriend for a while, it can feel daunting to leave your comfort zone.
But making friends will involve many of the skills you’ve likely already picked up by being in a romantic relationship. Talking with someone and opening up about yourself is important in dating and friendships. As you spend more time together, shared experiences will build trust.
Having said that, your concerns about developing your own personality, friendships and interests seem to also be connected with self-esteem and, as you mentioned, social anxiety.
When we focus too much on our weaknesses and on potential failure, it lowers our self-esteem and mental well-being. This can then cause us to avoid social situations and new challenges. Consequently, this becomes a vicious cycle that limits our growth.
Building up your self-esteem and working through your social anxiety is important for developing your interests. Start by naming your strengths and recognising your value. Strengths can be anything from talents in sports, arts or academics, to character traits such as being sincere or kind.
Read more about interests you want to explore further, and get involved in activities that use these strengths. If that makes you anxious, ask your boyfriend to come with you for the first few times, and then challenge yourself to go alone once you’ve made friends.
This is a chance to learn about your abilities and gain insight on what to pursue in your future studies. So embrace yourself and keep exploring. What you do can shape your personality and life journey, even if you don’t see results right away.
However, if these tips on socialising and exploring still seem impossible, seek professional help. Therapy can help you recognise if there may be deeper reasons behind your social anxiety, and can give you strategies so that you can pursue the life you want.
Hope that helps, Friend of a Friend
How can I convince my parents to give my brother a break?
For a few months, my brother was sleeping through online classes and not turning in his work. He lied to our parents, and after they found out how poorly he did in school, they stopped trusting him.
He worked hard to bring his grades up, but my parents still constantly hover over him and lecture him about everything. They aren’t letting him do much other than work over the holidays.
I’m worried this is wearing him down, and I feel like he deserves a break because he has shown improvement. How can I support him, and convince our parents to lay off a bit?
Thanks, Concerned Sibling
Hi Concerned Sibling
It can be frustrating to watch this situation unfold between your parents and brother, especially when you want to ease the tension.
Your brother is lucky to have a sibling that cares this much about him. Try talking to him first about what he is feeling, and ask him how he wants to be supported. He might want to talk to your parents himself and just have you there for support, or he might want you to approach them on his behalf.
If he is OK with you discussing this with your parents, find a time to talk to them when the conversation won’t feel rushed. Start by explaining what you’ve observed and felt. Highlight your brother’s efforts and progress, such as his attendance record or academic results. Share that taking breaks will relieve stress, which can rejuvenate and motivate him to do well in his studies.
If possible, encourage your parents to talk with your brother’s teacher. The online learning and social isolation due to Covid-19 has been difficult for many students, so your parents might feel less angry if they understand that this is something that many students have struggled through. They can work with the teacher to find better ways to motivate and support your brother in school.
Ultimately, remember that there is only so much you can do to convince your parents, and their actions are their own responsibility. If it proves difficult to manage the tension even after talking with your parents, seek help from teachers or counsellors, who might be in a better position to convince them.
Best of luck, Friend of a Friend
These questions were answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under their “Shall We Talk” initiative, jointly organised with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.