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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.

July 7, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 16

(9) Anonymous, July 11, 2016 2:04 AM

I know exactly how you feel although I really went into HS with no real close friends because Im a deeper person, I never really found my group and at times i feel so lonely in school i feel like going to the bathroom and crying and i feel not wanted because noone will even notice Im gone. and its true what Lauren said: "the best way to get a friend is to be a friend" and "love yourself" I work on myself everyday before going to school and tell myself, that as long as Im a friend I did my job and theres nothing more you can do. and also since i spend so much time myself I really "got to know myself more" and appreiciate myself. once you do that you appriciate others much more too Good luck:)

(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

Anonymous, July 11, 2016 2:10 AM

my best advice to you is that you should find a trusted adult whether a parent,teacher,or counselor and tell them exactly how you feel Im sure they can help you. also just try to do something you enjoy whether its riding your bike taking a walk or coloring do that and use that time for thinking your feelings and try to find the good stuff about yourself because your for sure an awesome person and hopefully you'll feel connected to yourself and wont feel so lonely anymore good luck!

(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.

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