Feeling Impatient About Wanting To Improve Your Social Life
If you're struggling with your social life, like you don't have enough friends, too few deep connections, or you feel shy and insecure, you may be quite impatient to turn things around. That's completely understandable. If your life isn't where you want it to be, and it's been that way for a while, of course you want it fixed yesterday.
However, while a touch of impatience can make you more motivated and efficient, too much can sabotage your efforts. It can cause you to act in ways that bring about the results you want to avoid, even though you may feel like you're speeding things along. Sometimes the way that feels slower is faster in the long run.
Ways impatience can stymie you
Each of these points is based on a sensible concept. They're just taken too far.
How it can affect your mindset toward working on your social problems
You don't stick with useful approaches long enough
You get frustrated and give up when something doesn't pay off instantly. For example, you try to meet new people through Meetup.com, but ditch it after going to two events where the other attendees weren't your style.
It's reasonable to drop an approach if you've given it an honest try, but you can tell it's not the right fit for your situation. Everyone and their circumstances are different, and no method works for all of them. It's only a problem when your gut feeling of "This isn't working" gets set off way too early.
You only want to try things that promise a quick fix, and reject longer-term solutions
If you're trying to get over your social anxiety you may chase the magic insight, tactic, or health supplement that claims to heal you in days. You may be a sucker for any marketing that claims a product has some hidden angle that will deliver fast results. You can't be bothered to do things like gradually face your fears, work through your childhood baggage, practice your people skills, or implement mood enhancing lifestyle changes.
It's alright if you lean toward suggestions that seem like they'll pay off sooner rather than years from now. It's also okay to test out supposed quick fixes, if it's not too costly to do so. However, the fact is if there was a fast, effortless solution to your issues you'd probably know about it already. Sometimes it just takes longer than you'd like to build a solid social circle or get over long standing conditions like anxiety and low self-esteem.
You rush through approaches that require more time to work properly
For example, you try to face your fears with an exposure hierarchy, but jump to the harder steps before you've truly gotten used to the earlier ones. It's possible forcing yourself to confront your most intimidating scenarios right away will help you get over them more quickly. What's more likely is you'll either get overwhelmed by them, and maybe even set yourself back, or you'll manage to gut them out once or twice before declaring premature victory, but you haven't truly gotten used to anything. Before long you'll realize the fear is still there, and you'll have to buckle down and face everything at a more manageable pace, which is what you should have been doing all along.
There's no rule that says you always have to follow a recovery program to the letter. If you have a hunch you can tackle it at a more ambitious clip, that can work out. For any kind of program, there are always those who can do it faster than the average. However, often a program is structured like it is for a reason. The people who created it know from experience that it can be ineffective or backfire if it's rushed.
You try to implement a bunch of approaches at once, but don't devote enough attention to any of them
You're not just looking for a magic bullet. You'll take on any suggestion that seems like it could work. The more the better, right? If you've heard that each of five different tools or lifestyle changes can help, then surely doing all of them at once will skyrocket your progress. The problem is when you take on too many self-help projects you may not be able to properly apply any of them. You do each at a shallow level, or only devote a bit of time to it. If you take on way too much you may even burn yourself out and need to take a break.
No one's saying you can only focus on one fix at a time. It makes sense to have a few balls in the air, but you don't want to go overboard. Sometimes you just have to accept you don't have time to do everything you want all at once.
How impatience can affect how you act around people
You generally give off an irritated, hurried vibe
Some people can be impatient about fixing their social life to the point where it leaks into how they come across. They always seem a little annoyed and pressured. They might look visibly bored or grouchy during elements of an interaction they don't feel are advancing their agenda. For example, if they want some deeper connections, they may act checked out during any small talk in a group conversation. If something doesn't go their way, like a new friend is too busy to hang out one evening, they may try to act like it's no big deal, but let it slip they're actually resentful about this fresh roadblock. If they're trying to organize a group outing through text, they might send a snippy follow up message if no one replies as quickly as they want them to.
It's okay to have some mild, inner sense of urgency about making friends. That's certainly better than feeling blase or on the fence about it, and procrastinating or taking half measures for years. It's also fine to generally let it be known you're looking to build a social life. But you'll obviously shoot yourself in the foot if you're impatient to the point of seeming testy all the time.
You push too fast to become friends, or closer friends, with people and put them off
You feel lonely. You don't want to meet a classmate or co-worker then gradually, organically see if a closer friendship develops. You want a bunch of best buddies now, now, now. You may do things such as:
- Try to hang out with someone way more often than they want to at this early stage
- Try to get them to open up about intimate topics earlier than they're ready to
- Go to them for emotional support much more than a new friend typically would
- Make premature declarations about what amazing friends the two of you are
- Get pissy or needy and press them if they don't seem on board with any of the above ("What's the matter? Why don't you want to see me again this week?")
There's nothing wrong with moving a little more quickly than usual with possible new friends. It's not necessary to play it overly safe and casual. Sometimes when you meet someone you click with, you can move the relationship along faster if you make it clear you want to be friends, rather than hanging back and waiting for them to show all the interest first. That's a calculated risk that can pay off. You just shouldn't be overly demanding, presumptuous, or intense about it.
You're too quick to cut people off if they do one thing you don't like, in the name of quickly and effectively screening for the right friends, when you really should give them more of a chance
Some people are looking for quality, not quantity, in their social life. They want one or a handful of friends who are very well matched to them. They may have raised their standards and are looking for mates who won't be toxic or undependable. Of course, it's good to know what you want, have reasonable requirements, and be able to move on from anyone who isn't what you're looking for.
Impatience can make you take that healthy mindset too far. You can become so focused on culling the bad matches, so you can move on to better ones, that you reject people over little mistakes and incompatibilities. For example, you may hang out with someone once, and have a decent discussion, but drop them because it wasn't the most emotionally intimate platonic encounter you've ever had. They may be capable of deep, vulnerable conversation, but just not the first time you ever meet for coffee. Or you may have been burned in the past by flaky people, and view never to put up with them again. When a newer friend doesn't reply to your invite within a day you angrily delete their number.
Ways to feel less impatient about not having the social life you want
As I said at the start of the article, if you're dissatisfied with your social life it totally makes sense to want your struggles to be over with. Though hopefully I've made my case that feeling too rushed can ultimately make it all take longer. I know it's not a mentality you can wipe away instantly, but here are some things you can do to try to contain your impatience:
- Remind yourself that no one's telling you to stop caring and become a complete slacker about overcoming your loneliness. It's fine to have a sense of purpose. It's just going to bite you if taken to the extreme.
- Try to keep in mind that Slower Is Often Faster. You may feel like you're hurrying everything forward by pushing to be best friends with everyone minutes after meeting them, but you'll ultimately get to your goal sooner if you take your time, even if that's more drawn out than you'd prefer.
- Even if you don't lose all your inner impatience, try at least do what's optimal for your outer behavior. An inner voice may be yelling at you to send someone five follow up texts to your invite, but hold it together on the surface.
- Give yourself space to feel and work through your feelings of frustration and discouragement about not having the social circle you want. It is emotionally painful to be lonely. Feel those feelings and let them pass, rather than acting on them in self-sabotaging ways.
Even if you accept in theory it can hobble you, the impatient part of your mind may still think, "I don't care. I want results now. If I try to slow down I'll be hurting myself. I need to keep pushing and pushing." Sometimes it will win and make you do something you later regret. You don't need to resist your impatience 100% of the time, just enough that you can make better progress.