Insecurities About Meeting New Friends In Dorky, Embarrassing Places
Some people want to make new friends but worry their reputation will take a hit if they try to meet people at supposedly lame, cringey places. What these seemingly embarrassing spots are varies from area to area, and person to person, but some common ones are:
- Meetup.com events - The fear is that meet ups from the site are seen as a last resort for strange, maladjusted people who can't meet friends in other ways.
- Drop-in events - The worry is they'll be judged for coming on their own, and showing they don't have much of a social life.
- Events related to board games, tabletop RPG's, or other stereotypically dorky hobbies - Even if no one judges them at the get together itself, they fear they'll be looked down on if word gets out that's how they're spending their time.
- Partner dancing classes - The fear is that everyone will assume they aren't interested in learning to dance for its own sake, and are only attending because they're lonely and hoping to meet someone.
- Improv comedy classes - One worry is they'll be judged for doing something some people see as corny. Another is that signing up for improv classes is sometimes suggested for people who want to improve their social skills, so they worry they'll be seen as awkward.
Making new friends isn't some impossible goal, but it can have its challenges. You don't need to also needlessly hinder yourself with insecurities about how you meet people. Here are some thoughts on how to address these worries:
None of the things above are inherently shameful
Some types of events do have negative stereotypes attached to them, but there's nothing intrinsically disgraceful about any of the ones I listed above:
- Meetup.com is just a way to find events to attend, and maybe organize some yourself. All kinds of people use it. If someone thinks everyone who goes to meet ups is a social leper, they're simply ignorant.
- There's nothing wrong with going on your own to a drop-in event. It's as valid as any other way to try to meet people. It doesn't automatically mark you as a loser with no life. Plenty of people with friends sometimes go to events by themselves.
- Board games or improv comedy are not better or worse than any other pastime. Some hobbies are more popular or accepted by the masses, but it doesn't mean those interests are superior.
- There's nothing wrong with signing up for a class, like salsa dancing, with meeting people as one of your main goals. People do it all the time. You don't need to be ultra-interested in the subject of every class you join.
- Just because some activities, like improv, can help develop your social skills, and some people do them at least partially for that reason, doesn't mean they're forever tainted.
No matter what your interests or how you try to meet people, someone may judge you for it. You could do the most mainstream thing ever, like joining a rec football league, and some people will think you're a boring jock. There's no winning with everyone. Just because they have a certain opinion, it doesn't mean they're right.
That's not to say there are no shameful or less-appropriate ways to try to make friends. If you try to make new buddies at a hate rally people will rightly condemn you for it. If you're a middle-aged man and join a dance class that's clearly meant for female college students, when there are plenty of other options in town for someone your age, people will be skeptical about why you're really there. However, that's not the same as the everyday things this article is focused on.
For the most part no one cares how you try to meet people
So meeting new friends in most ways isn't inherently shameful, but what if someone doesn't know better and snickers at you anyway? On the whole people aren't that concerned with how someone tries to make friends. Yes, there are some mean, critical types out there, but your regular person doesn't care if you go on some hikes through Meetup.com. They're not going to mock and reject you if you mention that's how you spent a Saturday morning.
Believing everyone is judgmental about this stuff is often a projection of your own insecurities: You generally feel ashamed and self-conscious about not having a great social life. You have a more specific lack of confidence around trying to make friends in supposedly desperate, pathetic ways. You think your hobbies and interests are lame and unattractive. So you assume the rest of the world feels the same and is going to look down on you. But your Average Joe isn't thinking about it all like that.
To talk about projection a bit more, at times these fears can come about because you can't accept that you enjoy a particular activity. Like deep down you may love the idea of playing Dungeons & Dragons all afternoon, but have been irradiated by toxic societal messages saying the game is for dweebs. Rather than admit you've got hang ups about accepting your true interests, you assume everyone else hates them. Some people might, sure, but most are completely fine with it.
These insecurities can also come from having baggage from being picked on and judged in middle school and high school, and assuming everyone still thinks that way. Teenagers can be cruel if they think someone has dorky hobbies. They can have an immature view of the world and think anyone who, say, goes to an event alone is a loser. Most schools are small enough that everyone has a sense of how their classmates spend their time, and where they rank on the social ladder. As an adult going to an event you may feel self-conscious, like your mean classmates are all keeping track of your movements, and are going to gossip with each other and give you a hard time about it the next day. But once you're grown up the world at large isn't keeping tabs on you, or mocking you with the mindset of a bunch of Grade 10 jerks.
I know this sounds like a cliche Mom thing to say, but if someone does judge you for trying to make friends in a certain way, are they even worth your time? Like if you tell a co-worker you started taking improv classes to meet new people, and they scoff at you, why do you care what they think? Why do you want the approval of someone so closed-minded? Maybe they have enough going for them that you do want them to like you, and you're willing to hide parts of your social life from them, but usually you'll find their opinion doesn't matter. That's a mentality that can feel hard to take on when you're younger, but it gets easier with age.
If you're still worried about being judged, here's another angle: Overall people form opinions of each other mostly based on how they come across in the moment, and less through "on paper" information about them. If someone seems solid, well-adjusted, and likable in person, few people are going to care if they do salsa dancing through Meetup.com. On the other hand, if someone seems awkward, insecure, and irritating, they could have the most mainstream, high-status hobbies, but most people aren't going to like them. It's not really about how you spend your time.
If what's written above hasn't reassured you, you should try to push through these kinds of insecurities
Hopefully what I've written so far has made you feel better, and you aren't as worried about your reputation being ruined over how you try to meet people. Insecurities can be resistant to facts and logic though, so if you find you're still afraid of being judged, I think you should try to tolerate and push through your (harmless) fears and keep trying to make friends in whatever ways work for you. You don't want to take a bunch of fun or useful options off the table.
Sometimes insecurities about meeting people in certain ways can be tied into not enjoying that activity
For example, someone has felt unenthusiastic about the handful of board game meet ups they popped into to try to make friends. They worry people will think they're lame for spending their time that way. On one level they have an insecurity about being judged, but there may be more going on underneath. They may simply not enjoy board games, but they've heard over and over that it's a good way to meet people, so they're forcing themselves to go play them.
The fear of being judged is the first objection about board gaming that comes to mind, but it would be a mistake for them to dismiss it, assume it's the whole story, and then grimly keep going to the meet ups. It's good to ask, "Insecurities about being judged aside, do I actually want to try to meet people this way?"