We’ve all been there. We’ve all had at least one friend whose texts we dodged, calls we ignored, and invites we consistently declined.
We’ve all had that one friend who never quite seemed to “get the hint” that they were getting too close too fast or that we just weren’t that into building a relationship with them.
We’ve all been annoyed, frustrated, and maybe even stopped talking to this friend all together. There are some issues with boundaries here that definitely need to be addressed, but that’s not the kind of clingy friend that this post is about.
This post is about clingy friends like me. *gasps*
For as long as I can remember, I have always had trouble making friends.
My extreme introversion, coupled with my (frequently) crippling social anxiety, often contributes to the following responses when I meet new people: “You seem so unapproachable” or “you act really stuck up.”
For the purpose of clarity, I want to state that introversion and social anxiety are not synonymous. Dr. Joy of Therapy for Black Girls has provided a brilliant differentiation between introversion and social anxiety on Session 8 of her podcast, found here http://www.therapyforblackgirls.com/podcast/.
Introversion, refers to a person who has to recharge alone/internally in order to feel energized.
Extraversion, however, refers to someone who gains energy from being in a group of people.
Social anxiety, refers to a fear of social situations and interactions, including fears of what people may be thinking or saying about you, or a fear of saying the wrong thing.
While being cautious not to generalize, introverted Black girls/women don’t typically have a large group of friends. In fact, as Dr. Joy would say, that’s probably one of the last things that we would want to have.
Contrarily, we typically have one, two or maybe even a handful of really good girlfriends that we may cling to instead.
As a socially anxious Black woman, the thought of entering new spaces of friendship can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. “What are they thinking about me? Will I fit in? I want to make friends but I also want to stay at home. What if they want to go somewhere and I don’t? Being around people (especially people that I don’t know) is tiring! They aren’t going to like me. Everyone thinks I’m boring because I like to stay at home. So, I’ll just stay at home and not worry about it”…
If this perpetual cycle of internal “what ifs” sounds somewhat familiar to you, then you probably understand what it’s like to cling to a few friends at any given time.
The thing about introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women, though, is that we don’t use the word friend lightly.
Due to the time and mental energy that we expend when meeting new people, in addition to the time that we spend fighting against those internal “what ifs” about our social anxiety, we can’t afford to cling to the wrong person. It’s exhausting.
The process of trying to silence our socially anxious brains without seeming disengaged or uninterested in an already socially awkward situation (for us), further complicates the friendship-building process for introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women.
Further still, while probably not intentionally malicious, hearing statements like, “well, I do have other friends” from our extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends, doesn’t help us to build friendships, either.
Of course we want our (few) friends to make connections with other dope Black women and shake up the world. Of course we want to be a part of your sista-scholar network. Of course we want to sprinkle #BlackGirlMagic over the world with you.
However, as introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women, it’s just harder for us to navigate those spaces with our extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends.
We are drawn to your light and the fearlessness with which you can enter new social situations and freely be yourself. We don’t expect you to hold our hand or to only talk to us in social settings; we just want you to show up (on time) when you invite us somewhere, and PLEASE don’t leave us hanging!
More importantly, sometimes we just need a little extra assurance that you’re still going to be there, as our friend, when the dust settles and the summer parties fizzle out.
So, if you’re an extroverted and/or non-socially anxious Black woman, let your introverted and/or socially anxious Black girl-friends know that you appreciate the intentional time that they are willing to dedicate to building and sustaining your friendship.
Conversely, if you’re an introverted and/or socially anxious Black woman, let your extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends know that you value their willingness to share one-on-one time with you, as well.
After all, there’s enough Black girl/woman friendship to go around for us all.