Best-Of Advice

On being worthy of friendship

You answered a question about fixing your own broken-ness and not allowing broken people to burden you anymore by deciding you’re worthwhile. I get that in theory but I’m a people-pleaser all the way and I don’t know how else to make friends. Does the friend-making get easier when you decide you’re worthwhile or do you realize the friendships you wanted are less necessary because you don’t need to be validated? I want very much to be unbroken but I recognize that doing shit for others and letting them cross my boundaries comes from a place where I’m terrified people won’t like me otherwise. I don’t think I’m a funny person and I’m very shy but I’m capable and trustworthy and that’s what I’ve been trying to prove to people. I have a habit of ruining friendships and I’m just so terrible at relating to people and I’m so lonely. What happens when you decide you’re worthwhile anyway?


You don’t decide that you’re worthwhile. It’s not a decision. You simply are. That’s the thing you’re not getting.

You are worthwhile. You are worthy of friendship. It’s okay that you’re shy. It’s okay that you’re not funny, and being capable and trustworthy are good qualities, but they’re not the reason why you’re worthy of friendship. Again, you simply are.

Also, you don’t have a habit of ruining friendships. Stop thinking that about yourself. Those weren’t friendships. Those were just people you knew. While you’re at it, stop thinking that you’re terrible at relating to people. You know how to relate to people. You related to me just fine. You’re just a little socially awkward, and that’s something you can easily take steps to improve.

Speaking of improvement, you’re already halfway to a breakthrough by acknowledging that your people-pleasing behavior is based on the fear that people won’t like you otherwise. You recognize the problem. All you have to do now is let it be okay if people don’t like you.

Fuck ’em. It really is that simple.

Knowing in your heart that it’s okay if people don’t like you is the foundation upon which all of your boundaries can be built. If someone violates your boundaries, fuck ’em. You don’t need a person who does that to like you. If someone only sticks around to take advantage of your people-pleasing, fuck ’em. That’s not a friend, and your life will be better without them.

You are worthy of friendship, and it’s okay if people don’t like you. This isn’t a theory for you to get. Those are already stone cold truths. All you have to do now is believe them.


19 thoughts on “On being worthy of friendship

  1. Nerdlinger says:

    It will always be that simple, but only in the philosophical sense. It’ll take time to sink in. You’ll experience hurt, perhaps slip into old patterns. You’ll plateau from time to time and take this as a bad sign instead of a good one. You’ll beat yourself up and then beat yourself up for beating yourself up. This is also normal, although that’s not always comfort, but it means you’re piercing through the extinction burst.

  2. Rylie says:

    Something I like to remind myself is that “It may be simple, but it’s not easy.” Lots of things in life are like that – logically simple, but may require a lot of effort. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that whatever you’re working on isn’t worthwhile. Good luck, LW – you related to me just fine, too. If I knew you, I’d want to be your friend. You sound awesome. *hugs if you want them* 🙂

  3. Quinn says:

    You are way more relate able than you realize. No lie, I felt like I was reading something out of my own brain about 8 years ago. I completely understand how you feel. And the other two are right – it is difficult and it does take time and effort but you’ll get there one day. Not sure how old you are or what your job or career aspirations are, but one thing that has really helped me become more socially capable is working in restaurants. You meet SO many different kinds of people, especially if you work on the customer side. It’s such a hyper social environment and if you can be patient and maintain a positive outlook, everyone is pretty great for the most part. I’ve realized so much about myself and other people in this industry and I’ve even made a few close friends along the way. It’s also instilled in me a work ethic of which I am very proud. If you’re in a position where you can work in restaurants for a while, I’d recommend it.

    Whatever the case though, you got this.

    • J Lynn says:

      I got a similar benefit from working as a news reporter for several years. You really face your fears of rejection and approaching new people in that job! It’s not the same as building deep emotional intimacy, obviously, but it’s a great venue to practice, practice, practice one’s social skills with a wide variety of people. And I did meet quite a few friends and like-minded people over time.

  4. FJ!! says:

    Being alone is not the worst thing in the world. There were periods in my teens I literally had no friends. I know I can survive it. It is hellish, but survivable. If you try it, you come out stronger, because you know you need not please to be loved.

    • The Alone says:

      I’ve been alone for about twelve years now. Strangely enough, valentines day isn’t the worst holiday. It’s those moments when you haven’t steeled yourself that hurt. You’ll be walking down the street and see a couple get their kid out of a car. The child will say something funny, and the couple kisses and they walk away hand in hand while beaming…that’s the shit that kills. Or you’ll hear about some beautiful wedding proposal. Or god damn…that fucking Haka video.

      The rest of the time it’s just zero stress because you don’t have to mush your needs against someone else’s to see if they fit right at that moment. You’re a perfect sphere of motivation and planning. The number of drinks you need in your fridge is always exactly how you left it. You don’t have to wonder who is going to clean the toilet next. You don’t have to hold up your end of a conversation when you’re tired. It will always be that the number of reasons for being “with someone” is exactly equal to the number of reasons to be without.

  5. J Lynn says:

    If you can stand fast without “people pleasing” (trying to please others at the expense of your own preferences), you might gain new friends, too.

    A lot of people, including me, don’t want their friends to be people-pleasers. When I think i detect that behavior it makes me wonder if I should feel guilty, if i should try to guess what the pleaser _really_ wants, and if the pleaser is secretly resenting me when they don’t assert themselves. Makes me anxious about what’s not getting said.

    It’s much better when people can state their preferences openly. Then if they’re at odds, we can take turns, negotiate, gain mutual understanding, which builds relationships. At worst, we may be incompatible but at least we’ll know it.

    I had to learn all that as an adult, because I grew up in a dysfunctional family where I learned to hide and repress my needs and desires. I.e., don’t rock the boat and keep your mouth shut so dad doesn’t blow up and make mom cry etc. Your situation may vary in the details, but at some point you learned you better keep yourself, your needs, your desires under wraps, that the only way to get along was to go along. That shit can be unlearned for better adult relationships!

  6. MN says:

    I have let my relationships with people pleasers fade out because I felt the relationships inauthentic. It wasn’t friendship to me.

    Something to consider is when you stand for something and are wiling to risk peoples’ disapproval, you lose a lot of opportunities, but you gain only quality opportunities. By opportunities, I mean friends, communities, jobs, responsibilities, etc.

  7. Mel says:

    Being ok with people not liking you is so freeing! CT’s wise words helped and now I am much better at letting go. Thank you x
    It gets easier!

  8. Anna says:

    I have a piece of very tangible advice for a people pleasing person seeking to avoid burdening themselves with other peoples’ broken-ness. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter.
    You’ll see the direct beneficial effects for caring for someone. And you will learn the difference between empathy and sympathy.
    Empathy is a valuable skill and don’t ever feel bad or ashamed for having a natural tendency to exercise it, and don’t shy away from cultivating it.
    Sympathy however is an emotion, and one that is a profoundly linked to your own sense of self : one feels sympathy for others just like one would like others to feel sympathy to oneself.
    However you will quickly learn in the role of a caretaker for homeless people that treating someone like they would want to be treated (that is obeying a sympathetic reasoning rather than an empathetic one) is detrimental to that person.
    That way, you will learn that you should act with empathy rather than an emotional sympathy towards other people. And you will learn how to recognize empathy from emotionally mature people and respond to that rather than interested sympathy from slightly messed up people (I prefer “messed up” to “broken” after all, not sure why).
    PS : please nobody see this as a cold utilization of homeless and vulnerable people. I truly believe that helping others can be a virtuous cycle for the helper and the helpees and I am trying to present that in a logical way.
    PPS : learning the differences between sympathy and empathy is difficult and one makes mistakes, but learning from those mistakes can make you a better person and a better volunteer in the long term.

    • VeryON says:

      There’s a lot of beauty in this. But I’m not clear on this section.

      “However you will quickly learn in the role of a caretaker for homeless people that treating someone like they would want to be treated (that is obeying a sympathetic reasoning rather than an empathetic one)”

      I would think that treating someone like they want to be treated requires empathy. And treating them how you believe they should be treated requires sympathy. Fortunately, there’s dignity to some degree in both because that’s far better than ignoring them or blaming them.

      I think I feel what you mean by saying “messed up.” Broken suggests that they can’t be fixed or heal. “Messed up” is far more open ended, as though a bit of cleaning would help.

      There’s another weirder issue in care giving. What people ask for and what they need aren’t always lined up. Lots of people use this as an excuse to ignore the homeless. “I’m not giving him money because he’ll just buy booze.” I’ve always figured that it’s not my responsibility to decide what they need and that I am not qualified to judge them enough to trust. So I give anyway. Hell, if they were buying heroin I’d probably give that to them as well because at least they have the dignity of a decision. Free will is the most sacred commodity and when I give them money in this shitty society, I’m giving them free will.

      • Strangely Rational says:

        Have you had a heroin addiction, or someone close who has? Because my husband is a decade sober and still has continual cravings. Addictions so severe that they snare you with one or very few uses – interfere tremendously with free will.

        Really the only truly free choice you might have is doing it in the first place, but even then it’s often self-medication that’s better than going “unmedicated”; e.g., if you’d commit suicide otherwise (many drug abusers are mentally ill). So true free will isn’t always involved in that decision either.

        Now, of course some people do “beat” addiction. But many don’t. Free will isn’t always responsible for that either, as some people legitimately aren’t stronger than the addiction.

        All this is to say that if you give an active heroin user money, it isn’t a free choice for them. The addiction is the thing calling the shots. And there’s no dignity in that whatsoever.

        Note that I don’t feel that way about all drugs. I’d give them a joint for sure – that can provide actual relief without the addiction potential of other drugs.

        But the best way to help homeless people is to direct your donations – and political support – to organizations that specialize in mental health, addictions recovery, domestic violence, and veterans’ health.

        • Anna says:

          Yeah I totally understand your point of view, and I think it’s much better to give money directly to organizations that efficiently help homeless and vulnerable people and addicts, and to give food handouts directly to those who ask for help if you are dependent on that “feel-good” sensation. And you have to take into account that there are people who are so far removed from society that they only depend on direct donation and will not go to shelters or to charities where you can get a free meal.
          But you have to commend this person on not giving in to the idea that it’s OK not to give to those in need when you can, just because they might be addicts who might chose to spend that money on boose and drugs.

      • Anna says:

        I think we may not have the same take on empathy and sympathy regarding this question. I deliberately did not define empathy because its something I’m still working to perfect as a healthcare student.
        The issue of what someone needs vs what they want is one of the central questions of medical ethics and deontology, and it cristalizes the issues of empathy, expertise and free will into one larger question.

        Regarding your specific question I’m going to try and answer with an example. I’ve made many mistakes, when someone came to me with immense pain, and I responded in a way that I hoped would make that pain go away (that is with sympathy) rather than in a way than would of allowed me to understand that pain and help that person with a global set of problems, and actually improve their life.
        So the most recent example and one I haven’t quite figured out yet is in gynecology where I just started two weeks ago. A woman came in because of vaginal bleeding, which is the most common reason for people to come to the gynecological urgencies. I took her case and was in consultation without someone to supervise.
        I asked her about her medical history, and discovered that she had lost a child in early infancy about 10 years ago. Due to a slight language barrier and her lack of medical vocabulary, I didn’t understand how her infant had died (in utero or not) and had to press for details (that I got in the end). This was very emotional for her, but also for me, and I started expressing my condolences in sympathy for her loss. This was when the intern stepped in and somehow managed to express her empathy and understanding without a word, just a look on her face, and move on to the rest of the consultation.
        As it turns out, she was pregnant, and she wasn’t in an ideal family situation yet to have a child (probably and ex-victim of abuse, traditional family, pregnancy a new partner that hadn’t been introduced to the family ; although seen her age it might of been her last chance for a pregnancy). But she chose not to terminate the pregnancy.
        I feel like there is no way that my reaction to her grief regarding her lost infant didn’t influence her choice not to terminate her current pregnancy. I removed part of her free will regarding her choice when I reflected her emotions right back at her in an effort of sympathy. And it was a small slight, saying “I’m so sorry” a couple of times. But the truth is that I acted in a way that I thought would make her feel better because I needed a way to feel better regarding that pain, I didn’t act with empathy in her best interest.
        Another example that only makes me look slightly better is that of a fracture patient. In his 70s, had Parkinson and was still in the honeymoon period of Parkinson’s but wasn’t regularly seeing a doctor anymore, his wife was so sick she couldn’t leave home and he wasn’t on speaking terms with his sons. I learnt these details while changing his dressings (I was working in the capacity of a nurse at that time). I had two reactions to his sad sad situation.
        My empathetic reaction was : I encouraged him to see a doctor for the Parkinson’s insisting that his disease wasn’t that bad yet and he could have good quality of life (which I am sure was true through observation of his movements). I actually evoked this at the staff meeting got a neurologist to see him directly at the hospital.
        My sympathetic reaction was to encourage him to reconnect with his son. I realize this was a mistake. If they didn’t speak to each other there might of been a reason, that I as a stranger could never know. He could very likely of been an abusive father, in which case my recommendation to reconnect might have brought great harm. But I didn’t imagine this possibility until I wasn’t in a room with a sad old man anymore.

        This is what I mean by sympathy inducing harmful actions vs empathy being a reason for helpful actions.

        PS : for the homeless people asking for money, a good alternative to funding the drug industry is to walk around with high calory non perishable food to give away. Whether that homeless person you’re giving to would rather spend money on drugs or not, the most likely case is that they haven’t eaten for a day or two and food will help them survive.

        • VeryON says:

          Yeah, I have a lot of bumble bee tuna snack lunches in my bag or car almost all the time. I’m going to start buying by the case. I keep meaning to fill a couple old back packs but I keep finding uses for those backpacks. As soon as I have some extra money I’m going to get some tents and put together some real rescue kits that include toiletries, socks, etc.

          “This is what I mean by sympathy inducing harmful actions vs empathy being a reason for helpful actions.”

          I totally get that. Sympathy seems more often motivated by self image. Empathy isn’t motivated, it just happens; in my opinion. Sympathy is “aww, you are in pain.” Empathy is “I know that your world feels tiny because your pain is all that you are.” They can lead to similar or different reactions. In my example both may lead to pain relief. But empathy opens the doors to deeper and more creative relief.

          However, regarding addiction; I’m very enamored with this line of thinking:

          Granted, I may feel that way because I’ve avoided addiction by sheer will power while living alone. I know that maybe that’s not possible for everyone. And I also know that if my circumstances were even slightly different, I might not avoid addiction. Context is the god of grace.

          • Anna says:

            Regarding aid for homeless people, if you wish to invest more money on survival kits, I’d recommend giving that money (or time as a volunteer) to organizations that can cut out the middle man, buy in bulk, and thus use that money more efficiently.
            However I would still encourage you to create bonds and spend time with the homeless people near where you live, or work, or hang out, and offer direct help when they need it.

            Regarding empathy and sympathy I think we have essentially the same view, and knowing how to act according to a balance of the two that is context-appropriate is essential right ?

            Regarding addiction, I hadn’t seen that talk in a while. I agree with the main arguments, but the key to understanding addiction (and basically everything human), is normal distribution. Yes most of us that live happy connected lives will not fall prey to addiction. But there are external and internal physical factors that make addiction unavoidable in some situations.
            The hospital heroin example in the beginning of the speech isn’t entirely true. For instance here in France, we don’t use buprenorphine as a pain killer (only used as heroin substitute), and grade 3 painkillers are used in a more consistent and controlled way across hospitals and other healthcare facilities than in the US (it’s a consequence of the centralized nature of the reimbursement of our healthcare). The result is less addiction to hospital painkillers.
            As for internal factors, they are normally distributed and there are so many of us that some people will find themselves in the fringe. I am one of them, I had a loving family and all the resources I could wish for but unfortunately I inherited a random mix of genes and epigenetic markers that makes me a lifetime addict/potential addict (as well of having generally shitty mental health). And really, I’m one of the lucky ones, being high-functioning and able to fulfill most of my work duties (which are tremendous compared to most people), and not having developed a taste for the hardcore drugs. And it’s OK if there is not much to be done about it, and if I rely on supportive care to resolve the consequences of my compulsions rather than seeking a cure, or a curative situation. We all somehow learn to get by with the hand we’ve been dealt and congenital tendency for addiction is no different in that sense than the other shitty situations people have to deal with.

            Btw, if you’re still living alone and still feeling craving for drugs or other relief, please just reach out to someone. Reach out randomly, I would be there for you, and I’m sure there are many people just like me wherever you live, just waiting for someone to ask for help.

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