Not able to keep up with friends

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Not able to keep up with friends Empty Not able to keep up with friends

Post by fr33et on Sat Jun 27, 2015 8:24 pm

So, last year was my freshman year of college, and I was surprised to find that I can actually make friends! But now my relationships with my new friends don't seem to be sticking. The last couple of times I've hung out with these people I've felt completely intellectually outclassed. They'll be having this completely smooth conversation about Esperanto or object permanence or why Java sucks and c is the best and I won't really have anything to add. And eventually I'll think of something to say and they'll look at me funny and I'll realize that what I said is stupid.

What I find really frustrating is that at the beginning of the school year everything was going well and people seemed to actually like me as a person. Someone even said they couldn't imagine anyone disliking me. But I think a lot of this was actually just the result of new-place-new-people excitement. When I got to college, I was very "on" a lot of the time. But after a few months it just disappeared. I started falling into old habits like procrastinating on schoolwork out of anxiety, and I think I was just plain scared of being liked because I felt like I couldn't live up to the expectations. And new-found social skills seemed to go away. I almost felt like my subconscious was purposely sabotaging me because of the fear and stress of schoolwork and being liked. Now I feel like these friends still have positive feelings for me, but only out of habit, not because they like who I am now.

Since this relates to the majority of my friends, I can't easily talk about it in real life, so I would appreciate any advice or opinions or thoughts or experiences you have that might relate.

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Post by Enail on Sat Jun 27, 2015 9:35 pm

It sounds like some of what's going on might be psyching yourself out in a way that builds on itself in different aspects of your life; you're feeling anxious about schoolwork, so you're feeling behind or less smart on intellectual subjects with your friends, so you're interpreting their reactions as negative, and feeling even more stressed about school. Does that seem like it might be something that's happening?

It sounds like it's really stressful for you, and it must be tough to deal with without much real-life support, so maybe it'd be a good idea to check out your school's resources to help you, like academic coaching to deal with the procrastination or tutoring to help you stay on top of things (if you feel like tutoring isn't for 'smart' people and worry about it making you look stupid, don't! In college it's very common for people at all levels of academic success/smartness to use those resources!). You could also see if they have a free counselling service to talk about what you're feeling and build some extra techniques to deal with stress.

One thing I'd suggest you try to keep in mind is that your friends probably don't like you just because you are smart. People don't just pick their friends for one quality! You have other traits that you bring to the table even when you're not feeling at your best intellectually. Maybe this is a moment to take the pressure off and not worry so much about showing your intellect by putting more emphasis on trying to be kind or curious or interested in trying new things (something that people who prize intellect also tend to prize a lot!) or whatever other good trait.

Another thing is that it is really normal for perfectly intelligent people to experience a shock from being around so many other smart people and from the increased stress of college-level work and of college life in general. Getting overwhelmed and procrastinating, feeling out of your depth with your peers, an upswing in anxiety, those are quite common things. I'd bet at least one or two of your friends are experiencing something along those lines themselves, even if they don't talk about it.

Also, are you all studying similar subjects? If not, chances are that the people talking about Esperanto aren't always totally into the conversations about Java vs. C, who don't necessarily have much to say about object permanence, and you're just not noticing it because you're so worried about your own response. Try keeping an eye out for those moments where someone else is left out, and see if you can start a little sub-conversation by asking that person about what they're doing in class lately.
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Post by The Wisp on Sat Jun 27, 2015 10:27 pm

Enail said a lot of smart things, but I'll just add that when you know nothing about a subject, and the people you're with no a little bit and can talk confidently about it, it cans seem like those those people are totally outclassing you. In reality, they're probably talking about things that were covered in one or two class periods (especially given that they are undergraduate college students), and/or by reading a few wikipedia articles and forum posts around the subject. I'm not saying they're dumb, but rather that you just aren't familiar with the domain they're discussing, but they're likely by no means geniuses or experts. Knowledge =/= intelligence (and, as enail pointed out, there are other valuable things you can contribute as a friend besides intelligence).

Another thing is that if you feel like you have nothing to add in those conversations, it's totally okay to ask curious questions (unless they're having a super intense conversation, but those are rare). People like explaining things to somebody who is genuinely interested, generally. If they're not interested in engaging in that way, they'll let you know with a curt response.
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Post by fr33et on Sat Jun 27, 2015 11:20 pm

Thanks so much for the replies! They are really helping me think about this, and so is just writing it out.

OK, now that I've sent it out into the world I'm finding it easier to be more objective about this. First of all, I realize that in writing my OP, I was reacting to a feeling I got from being around my friends, and because of this I lumped them all together, as well as lumping together a variety of interactions and ignoring more positive ones.

Now, one of them (at least) is in fact a genius, as in she published a math paper at, say, 15 or 16. And the discussion was not wikipedia level: it was about a friend of a friend (or some such) who's first language was Esperanto, and it was about someone's parents testing their toddlers for signs of object permanence. They don't just know about these subjects, they have personal experience with them, which they are able to competently incorporate into academic discussion. They're all doing research or IT work over the summer. Now, I love my summer job because my boss is a really cool person, but it doesn't really take any skill (I sit behind the library desk).

On the other hand, since they're really brilliant I (for the moment--I wasn't feeling this way when I wrote the OP) am not so worried about the fact that I am less brilliant. As far as class goes, I have managed to pull through with pretty solid grades. In particular my subject is math and I actually found that, even among other math people, I am usually able to hold my own in that subject. It's just that these people are also brilliant at other things too.

Actually I'm afraid that this has more to do with my personality and interpersonal abilities. Or maybe it's a compatibility thing. I mean, one area that I'm kind of proud of is that I have some ability in music. And I have a friend that I work on music with who is better at it than me, but somehow I don't feel as threatened. Part of it is I've known her for longer. I think also part of it is that music is something I work on entirely outside of class. Perhaps I'm not good at dealing with an academic environment? Often I find that pressure and competition decrease my performance. I definitely have a problem with trying to hard (or trying with too much tension), and I get frustrated/discouraged easily.

As far a counseling, I kept thinking that I should get some, but I never did. Part of it is the college health center does intake over the phone... Neutral In retrospect, I think that my mental health was strained, and I wish I had made the call. I think next semester I will.

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