Ask Beth. (1993, January 1). The Boston Globe.
Many teenagers in today’s society feel “out of it,” not fully accepted by peers, put down, set up, or avoided by their friends, and misunderstood by the world around them. At times they may be overcome by a sense that the world is “out of whack” and life is intolerable.
There are many kinds and degrees of shyness or social ineptitude-as there are differing depths of resulting depression. Some are late bloomers, others creative geniuses, and some religious zealots. Here is the voice of one lonely sophomore:
I am 15. I’m not a nerd or a loner, but I don’t have a lot of friends because I am quiet at school. When I try to say something, I’m often ignored, so I feel stupid about what I said. It’s having serious effects on the rest of my life.
I’m not happy spending Friday and Saturday nights home alone. I’m getting depressed so I hate going to school. I do try to start conversations with people, but I feel like there’s a concrete wall between me and everyone else.
-Lonely with the Rest
Beth’s response emphasizes how shyness or lack of social confidence is a big social handicap for young people. It hinders the primary need for teenagers: building close peer relationships which enable good conversations and sharing. Since it stems from and contributes to a low sense of self-esteem, an effective strategy must begin with building oneself up in his or her own mind.
Having a strong talk with oneself is one place to start. Tell yourself that you are as good as all the others and even better in some ways. Make yourself look at your strengths, “…start counting your good points and give yourself credit…and build on them.”
Beth’s further suggestions:
- You probably speak in a soft, hesitant voice (others may talk with a loud, quick, nervous tone). That is why people do not listen. Practice speaking in a louder, slower and in a lower register. This will sound more confident and grabs attention better.
- Think up some good questions to ask other kids. As for their opinions, since most people love to talk about themselves. Being a good listener invites conversations, too.
Finally, Beth recommends a good book on this topic that includes any ideas and tips on how to avoid loneliness. It is by Denise V. Lang and is titled, But Everyone Else Looks so Sure of Themselves.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- Do all of us feel “out of it,” unappreciated, and rejected at some time? When is the last time you felt that way?
- Why do some young people become caught in negative situations and personal reactions to the point they that do not know how to get out of it? What are your suggestions for what a person like this?
- Are there some folks that no one likes? Can they change enough to find friends who do accept and respect them?
- What responsibility do we all have toward those who appear lonely and generally unpopular?
- Our world today is more competitive than ever before. Its images and advertisements are designed to play on personal fears of social rejection. It is understandable why there are more lonely and depressed people than ever before.
- The education of young people and youth work are about empowerment. Young people want and need to be leaders in some sense. Leadership involves making a difference in our world, having a following, and helping those in need. Besides being popular with the crowd or significant others, leaders must also give attention to so-called “loners and losers.” Youth empowerment should contribute to the elimination of loneliness and insignificance among teenagers.
- Faith teaches ultimate significance to all who can believe. A worthy creation is of transcendent value. The idea of our worth and significance must not only be believed but practiced. Such teaching is a basic goal of good role models and the basic stuff of good youth work. Parents have, and may still, provide loving support. But lonely teens need to find encouragement from sources outside the home as well.
© 2017 CYS