"Dear Carol, how do I make friendships that last?"
I'm 16 years old and home-schooled. I'm very introverted with social anxiety. I try to make friends, but we end up more aquaintances who text than friends. When I do meet people, they always have their own crew with inside jokes. Even when I did have friends, I was always the backup friend. How do I make friendships that last? There's not much to do in my city, but I do musical theater and volunteer.
Social anxiety among teenagers skyrocketed during the pandemic. More students than ever were learning from home—and it was hard for teens to just hang out. So you aren't the only girl (home-schooled or otherwise) who sometimes feels lonely or like the backup friend. The good news is you don't need a lot of friends, but having one or two could be a game-changer. Where can you find that person? Is there a new neighbor who isn't yet part of a group? Someone in a church choir? A guy your age? It's great that you do musical theater, so make yourself smile and say hi. Offer compliments ("Your voice is amazing!"). Ask thoughtful questions: "How was your weekend?" "When was the first time you got onstage?" "How did you learn to build sets?" Show interest in their answers. If someone is warm, be bold, and after rehearsal, say, "I'm going to get a slice, want to join me?" When you push yourself to be open and caring, someone is likely to start caring back. Socializing gets easier with practice, so good for you for putting yourself out there. Can you look into finding a job or going to camp this summer? That could also open doors.
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