Opening up to people is hard for me. I don't really talk, even to my closet friends. I want to approach them with some of what's going on, but I don't know how. I often feel lonely or don't know who to go to for advice. How do I open up more?
- 16 year old female
First of all, you just opened up to me with this question, so thank you. That may be a small victory, but it’s a victory nonetheless. I felt the same exact way at your age — and a lot of times, still do. Being aware of the fact that you know this about yourself is very mature. A lot of people don’t possess the same level of self-awareness. That said, I have a few suggestions. I’m going to come from the angle of “if this were me, what would I need or want to hear that might actually help?” So take it all with a grain of salt.
Do you journal? Though it won’t help others know how you’re feeling, it will allow you to get all your thoughts out of your system. Some have suggested to me in the past, if I’m struggling with something really hard, I’ll write it down, rip the paper out of the notebook, wad it up, and throw it away. There’s something about the physical act of ridding myself of the thoughts that help. It sounds silly, but try it.
Next, if you’re afraid to talk to even close friends, maybe you could write them a letter. I don’t always know how to tell people how I feel, but if I write it, I take control of my narrative back. You don’t even have to give it to them right away. Get the thoughts out, let it sit, and then re-read it again 24 hours later. If it’s still how you feel, give it to whomever you wrote it for. I know that feels scary and intimidating, but I’ve often been able to get my thoughts across in a letter far easier than face-to-face.
I won’t suggest things like group settings or team sports, because I wouldn’t have done those things — they’d have wanted me to put myself too far out there than I was comfortable with. Unless you like these things! If you do, pour yourself into them. Focus on you. When you feel good about yourself from the inside out, that loneliness becomes a little less and the confidence a little stronger. This is far easier said than done — and something I’m actively working on myself — but by concentrating on being the best you, all the stress of how others perceive you, what they do or don’t do, and how they respond to you won’t matter nearly as much. They’ll soon see they’re the ones missing out by not gravitating towards someone who’s so comfortable in their own skin. It’s a beautiful thing.
You could start a blog to share your thoughts with others online because you’re not alone! They will flock towards like-minded people like you. I did this and found some of my very best friends that fully understood me.
It’s hard to open up. I get it. But again, you did just that by owning the fact that it’s something you struggle with and I commend you for that. Don’t stop. Use it as a stepping stone to open up a little more. I believe in you.
About The Author: Candace Ganger is a mother, blogger, TV staff writer for Romper, and contributing writer for sites like Teen Vogue, TWLOHA, Bustle, XO Jane & Hello Giggles. She’s also an obsessive marathoner and continual worrier (yay!). Her debut YA novel, THE INEVITABLE COLLISION OF BIRDIE & BASH, is out now via St. Martin’s Griffin, and she’s part of a YA mental health anthology, LIFE INSIDE MY MIND. Her forthcoming YA novel from St. Martin’s Wednesday Books, SIX GOODBYES WE NEVER SAID, comes out next month.
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A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.