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Q&A for Teens: No Friends
Q&A for Teens

Q&A for Teens: No Friends

How to cope with loneliness.


Dear Lauren,

When I started high school I had a couple of friends. However, they ditched me and found new friends. I was never alone like that and I didn’t know how to get around, socially. I had no friends and I was very shy. At some point I thought I wasn’t good enough for friends, while my old friends made new ones. I’m going into tenth grade now and I’m still struggling a lot and I feel really insecure. How do I face my fears?

Imagine Little House on the Prarie. Close your eyes and let the image fill your brain: small town, small community, tiny one-room schoolhouse with about 15 kids in it…. Have you got the picture? You can open your eyes now: you’ve just experienced my high school.

Yup, growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, The Yeshiva of the South was a tiny brick house with 14 girls in the entire high school (my grade was the largest grade, coming in at a whopping SIX girls!) The boys’ school was a completely separate entity, with a grand total of TWO boys in the whole school. (When they both graduated one year, one was valedictorian and one was salutatorian. It was a win-win situation.)

Needless to say, it happened to be that none of the 14 girls were really suitable soul-mates for me, so I spent my entire high school career without a best friend in school. So I understand what you’re going through. I’m so sorry you feel lonely. I think loneliness is the most difficult life challenge to endure. But what can you do about it? Well, from my own personal experience in high school I learned a lot.

First of all, I learned how to cobble together a social life for myself. Because none of the girls in my school were going to work as my best friend, I was friendly with them, but not super-close with them, and not exclusively friends with them. I found other friends in other places, and each one of my different friends understood and could relate to a different piece of me.

My “semi-friends” in school were the people I spent all day with, and we shared on the level of “we are in the same school together.” Then I had a friend who understood my deep love of books. But she wasn’t the same friend who I could really have a fun time with and talk to about life. And that latter friend didn’t go to my school, so she didn’t understand what my days were like, and she didn’t really understand my observant lifestyle and what Shabbos and Kashrus were all about. And then I had the friend who just was my “fun friend.” (My most salient memory of her is driving 80 miles per hour down a dirt road in Arkansas with her in her new car, listening to Steve Winwood’s “Back in the High Life.” As I beg my own children: please, please, please learn from my mistakes so you don’t repeat them! My smart kids have (thank you, Lord!) already assured me that they are fully aware that driving down dirt roads at 80 miles per hour is not an intelligent decision, and they’re not planning on ever doing that—especially not in Arkansas.)

So yes, I was lonely, but I found pieces of what I needed, socially, in many different people. You don’t have to limit your search for a good friend only to the kids who attend your school with you. Perhaps you can find additional “candidates” in your local B’nai Brith, NCSY, or USY chapter, in your synagogue, in summer camp, in extracurricular activities…..

Another thing I learned from trolling around for a friend, instead of just automatically having a friend there for me: the best way to get a friend is to be a friend. Look around, and see whom you might want to become friendly with. Then sincerely show that person your interest in their likes and dislikes and opinions. Ask them what they think about things. Ask them what they like to do. People are touched when others are interested in them and their thoughts and their preferences. And sincerely show them that you like who they are. That’s the best way to begin the process of acquiring that person as a friend.

I’ll tell you another great lesson I learned the summer before seventh grade. I used to be very shy, much as you describe yourself to be. I didn’t just go over to people and start conversations with them, especially not people I didn’t know. But that summer, I decided I didn’t like being shy. It was too isolating, and I felt lonely. I was at sleepaway camp, so there were lots of kids around. I decided to watch, observe, and learn. I watched how outgoing kids behaved. I saw them marching straight up to someone and just laughing and talking to them, and I studied very carefully how they did it. Then, even though I was terrified that someone would say, “Hey, Lauren! You can’t act like that—you’re shy!” I did the same thing. I just marched up to people and started talking and laughing with them. And no one berated me for it! No one said, “Hey! That’s not the way you’re allowed to be!” By practicing and practicing acting gregariously, I became gregarious.

Finally, I’d say the most important lesson of all that I learned from my feeling so lonely in high school was: learning to love myself. Learning to be my own best friend when I couldn’t find someone else appropriate for the job. Being alone is not what’s difficult; feeling lonely is what’s awful. Learning to be alone and to be content just by yourself is a beautiful skill to practice and to become adept at. And it’s a skill I’m so grateful I have. Do you know that now, as an adult, even though I have friends, I really enjoy being alone, too? I make sure to schedule time to be with friends, and I also make sure to schedule time every day just to be alone. It’s a wonderful feeling to love yourself and to enjoy the company of your own thoughts.

You’re welcome to look for friends, but don’t forget the best friend who will always be there for you—yourself.

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Visitor Comments: 13

(8) Onlyme, September 21, 2012 4:39 AM

What do you do when you have friends who you very often hang around with and have loads of fun with, but some nights you just feel isolated from them and everyone else; lonely and horrible; like your in a fishbowl watching everyone else having fun around you, but not able to relate? That's how I feel now- yucky and horrible and just alone and I'm not sure how to deal with the feeling

Anonymous, November 1, 2012 8:39 PM

hi :) i know exactly what you mean an yep its a gross feeling an i wish i could help you with it but all i can say is that if its you whos causing these feelings then try beleive in yourself more because your unique and a person and incredibly special just cuz u are you! and if its the girls you hang around with who make you feel lonely and horrible then they dont desere you because no0one EVER has a right to treat someone like that! and if its just that sometimes you feel like that remember how fun it is with these girls usually and its ok if you have an "off" day/night-your only human! all the best and hope all goes well :) someone who knows what it can be like xxx

(7) Anonymous, August 5, 2012 4:33 PM

your advice is good but for two reasons. 1) some peopel cna't be their own firends. if they have no firend sthen they have no self confidence and they don't liek themselves. i haev the sme problem and i hate not working and beign alone iwht my thoughts. 2) even if you ahve firends elsewhere, you still need someone iin school to sit and eat lucnnh with and to hang out with during brekas. yes even in high school. lonliness is a terrbiel feeling for anyone, espessially teenager.s if i'm not liekd enough for other peopel to care about me and be my firend, i'm not worth anythign.

(6) sk, July 17, 2012 1:08 AM

i know how hard that is!

I know that its very hard to go through teenage years without any friends. I had a difficult time in HS coping as well. I really sympathise with you! But, I think Lauren gave the best advice. Try to find other friends that may not be in school. people outside of school that you might have more in common. I always grew up in a small town and I had my "home" friends and then girls in school who were "friendly" (I know its not the same thing as a friend! but it was actually nice to have that seperation because it was a "break" from everyone I saw in school everyday. also keep in mind that High school is not forever! it might feel endless now! but there is a light at the end of the tunnel! after HS you might find a whole group of new peopel that are from other places and you will also have more choices of where you decide to go to whether its seminary, college, new location to live! so things can always change and you never know who might walk in to your life and become your best friend! so good luck to you and try to say positive!

(5) Miriam, July 13, 2012 4:10 PM

Love this article

Hi High School Teen, My advice to you is to make friends with someone who also needs a friend. I'm sure there's someone out there, perhaps someone others think of as a "nerd" who is a wonderful person you would enjoy being friends with. Those of us who've graduated high school a while ago look back and laugh at ourselves. We wonder: Why were so determined to get into the "in" group and wasted years of our lives trying and trying? Why not just make friends with someone else who needs a friend? You could have the best time with them! And so many of the "nerds" go on to become wonderful, successful peopl and so many of the popular ones don't turn out that great outside of high school!

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