Looking for Self-Esteem in Friendships

As I mentioned previously, friendships were a big deal for me at this time. In a critical way, they were too big a deal. I was treating my friendships as the source of my self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This put an unnecessary and unfair burden on my friends at the time. In the end, it contributed to the ending of at least two friendships.

My religious upbringing had never given me a strong basis for seeing myself in a positive light in general. Indeed, I remember constantly feeling like I needed to ask God for forgiveness for numerous things in my life - many having nothing to do with my sexual orientation, even. Admitting that I was gay only served to increase this sense of unworthiness I felt. So I looked for ways to make myself feel better, like someone worthy of being valued.

Friends provided an obvious, if imperfect, solution to this predicament. I told myself that if I could attract people who genuinely cared about me and keep them around, it must mean I was an okay person. After all, what right-minded person would become and stay friends with someone not deserving of that friendship.

The problem with this approach is obvious to anyone who has follow through with it to its detrimental end. No matter how many friends I managed to make and keep, the underlying fear that I'd eventually prove myself undeserving of such friendship was always there. I responded to this underlying fear with constant worries at the slightest sign of a flagging friendship. If a friend even needed a couple days to themselves, I began to wonder what I did. As a result, I'd push them, looking to make up for whatever happened between us. Sadly, this usually had the opposite effect as what I had intended, and the friend would want to put even more distance between us.

Of course, to make up for my neediness, I would work extra hard to be the best friend that I could be. I'd help any friend out with anything, sacrificing my own needs in the process if necessary. My internal reasoning was that if I put my needs on hold for my friends, they would be all that more willing to take care of my needs for me. The problem was, many of the things I needed were not things my friends - or anyone other than myself - could give me. That is a lesson I wouldn't learn until much later. In the meantime, my ignorance would allow me to continue creating problems in my friendship. Worse, it allowed the problems I was trying to "fix" - or even avoid - through these friendships get more troublesome. One of the hardest truths I've had to face in my journey is the number of times I've made choices that actually made things worse for me.

In retrospect, I was fortunate that most of my friends understood what I was going through and had an incredible amount of patience with me. In the end, most of them were able to remain my friend through this troubled time. As for the few of those who didn't, I can't say as I completely blame them for eventually abandoning me. I was simply asking too much of them.