When You Feel Like Giving Up On Trying To Make Friends Or Get Over Your Shyness
You're trying to improve your social life and self-confidence, and just experienced a setback. Maybe you tried to organize a get together and no one replied to your invite, or you went to a party and felt nervous and ignored the whole time, or you joined a class in the hopes of meeting some new people, but no one there had anything in common with you. This one event on its own could feel difficult enough, or it could be that it's the latest in a long string of disappointments.
You're feeling really discouraged, frustrated, and demoralized. You're having thoughts of giving up on ever making friends or getting past your shyness. Maybe you haven't really considered what giving up would entail. You just know that everything seems too hard, and quitting is a tempting option. However, if you did have to think about it you'd probably decide "giving up" would mean stopping any efforts to make friends or work on your anxiety, and focus on getting what satisfaction you can from other parts of life, like your hobbies, career, or family.
Some people are usually in reasonably good spirits about overcoming their social challenges, and only feel like giving up every so often, after an unusually tough setback. Other people's minds are much quicker to go to that place. It's not a judgment against them, but every little hurdle, like an acquaintance not replying to their text right away, makes them want to throw in the towel.
These feelings are common in people who are trying to turn their social lives around. Here are my thoughts on how to deal with them when they appear. When you're in the thick of a hopeless, pessimistic headspace these words may only help so much, but hopefully they'll provide some relief.
Long term you probably aren't going to give up
I'm not saying this to dismiss your feelings or urges in the moment, but to share a larger perspective.
The fact that you're so upset that your social life isn't going your way shows it's very important to you. That means long term you'll probably keep at it, and eventually do better, even if you have moments where you're feeling really defeated.
I've talked to plenty of people who felt discouraged after a fresh social setback or rejection, and they spoke about wanting to give up on it all. Sometimes they felt this way every few weeks. I watched as they continued to keep at it, even if unenthusiastically, and with time they chipped away at their issues and got what they wanted.
That's not to say people never drop broad goals like making friends or feeling more confident, but honestly, it's quite difficult to give up on socializing entirely. Often the ones who do it were fairly content with the idea of being a recluse from the get go.
Some people do give up, or half-give up, on trying to improve their social situation for a time, but they usually get back to it sooner or later. Often they end up taking a few weeks or months off as a break. More rarely someone will give up for a decade or two to focus on their family and career, though in the back of their minds they know they're making a temporary trade off and would like to resume their self-development when their kids are older or their job settles down.
Periods of wanting to give up often pass on their own
While it feels intense and real in the moment, being hopeless and discouraged is a temporary emotional state. If you give it time it will dissipate, like all emotions do. This isn't to downplay what you're going through, but to point out that all uncomfortable feelings do pass. Sooner or later you'll return to a more levelheaded headspace, even if you're still not thrilled about where your social life stands.
Do what you can to make yourself more comfortable while you're waiting. That may mean giving yourself some space to fully feel the emotions so they can run their course. It could mean clearing your head with a walk or a workout session, talking to someone, or providing yourself with some healthy distraction.
The urge to give up can be a habitual reflex
Again, this isn't to ignore the pain anyone is going through. As I said, some people's minds are quicker than others' to jump to wanting to give up. Sometimes becoming aware of this knee-jerk pattern takes some of its power away - "I texted my new friend asking if they're busy this weekend and they said they're out of town... Yep, and on cue I feel like giving up again. It's just how my mind responds at this point. I know I don't actually need to consider quitting over every small obstacle."
The urge to give up has good intentions
It may not feel good to feel hopeless and want to give up, but if you check in with the part of you that's creating those urges you'll find it has an ultimately positive intent. It's likely afraid that if you keep trying to make friends it won't pan out, and that will completely, irrecoverably crush you. It thinks giving up now and being a hermit is the lesser of two evils. You'll be unhappy, but at least you'll still be around. The fear that you'll completely fall apart if you keep trying and fail may not be rational, but that part of your mind doesn't know that.
Thinking about giving up can also create a sense of control and provide some temporary relief. It's demoralizing not being able to make friends or heal your social anxiety, but you can remind yourself you have the option of bowing out of the whole ordeal if it ever gets too rough. It can be comforting to daydream about ditching all the scary things you currently do to try to make friends, and instead chilling out at home playing fun video games.
The urge to give up is rooted in unhealed childhood pain
You want to give up because you have a gut level conviction that you can't fix your problems, that things won't get better, that you're wasting your time. Why do you think like this? Why aren't you more optimistic about being able to overcome a realistically achievable challenge such as making friends?
It's probably because you have painful past experiences of being rejected, unloved, left out , and so on. Back then your kid brain thought things would never change. The powerful, unpleasant emotions attached to these memories feel very alive and real. When you're rejected or overlooked as an adult they get reactivated, and you're sucked back into a young hopeless mindset. Your circumstances may be very different as a grown up, but a part of your mind thinks you're eternally an awkward, rejected grade schooler who will never feel happy.
Once more, knowing what's happening under the hood can give you some leverage. You can tell yourself your situation isn't literally hopeless, just that whenever you feel discouraged your mind slips back into that old thinking.
It's past the scope of this article to go into it, but if you can do some direct work to heal your past wounds you'll find that you can then approach your present day setbacks from a more adult mindset.
When the worst of your discouraged feelings pass, see if you can look at your situation more objectively
This step probably won't land if you're still in the depths of feeling helpless and demoralized. However, when you're feeling a little more levelheaded try looking at the situation again through a more objective lens. Does the fact that you couldn't make plans one weekend truly mean you'll be alone forever? Can you really say your classmates hate you just because you went out for coffee with them one time, and everyone talked about a show you hadn't seen, and you felt left out? Does being shy at one party mean you'll never be able to feel more comfortable in that setting? The more rational answers you come to may make you feel better - "Agh, I am really upset that the party went so badly, but I know one poor get together isn't a death sentence. What could I learn for next time?..."
One more thing I'll say in this vein is that people's tendency towards wanting to give up isn't necessarily a reflection of how objectively hopeless or difficult their situation is or not. Someone with mild, surmountable barriers to making friends or becoming more confident may still get upset and want to give up from time to time. Just because they sometimes feel like it's never going to work out doesn't mean that's actually what's likely to happen.