Last night I was tucking into a tasty burger from Uber Eats when I came to a crushing realization: I don’t have any real friends.
My mind started going through my real-life friend list and instead of finding glowing, inspiring friendships that light up my life I found … well, mediocre friends, dependent friends, conditional friends, freeloader friends.
Remembering back to happy childhood memories with my pals building tree forts and playing by the river and comparing that to my present-day social life was … well … depressing.
Even as a teenager my few – but close – bonds in high school got me through some tough times and included amazing experiences I’ll never forget.
But like the fading colors on an old painting, those deep friendships faded away in the busy chaos of adult life and new obligations and life paths … leaving me there with my burger and a lonely heart.
I realized just how alone I was. Sure I have “friends,” but I don’t have any real friends. And it hurts me to admit it just like it did when I realized last month, even though I’m now working on improving that situation.
I finished that burger and sat there thinking for a long time. My emotional state was not amazing I can tell you that, too. Because for so many years, I’ve taken it for granted: making friends isn’t a big deal, it’s easy. Right?
Well, realizing I don’t have any real friends showed me I was wrong.
Here are the things I’m coming to terms with about my social life that made me realize I don’t have any real friends.
1) I always have to reach out first
Part of realizing I don’t have any real friends involved noticing that I always have to reach out first.
If I’d waited until a buddy called up to invite me out I would have waited until Halloween 2030 and gone as a skeleton. You know that feeling of always having to text or call first. It’s humiliating and disempowering.
I feel like my “friends” are doing me a favor just by hanging out or texting back.
I feel like I’m on one end of the friendship “seesaw” and I have to always do all the work to get the seesaw in motion.
2) I feel like a full-time therapist doing double-duty
I love helping people, but I’m not a therapist. Realizing I don’t have any close friends was also about thinking of all the times I’ve helped and supported them and all the times they’ve dodged and dismissed me when I needed help …
“I’d really like to help you out with that … Honestly right now I’m just slammed with work …”
Meanwhile there I was helping my one friend through his divorce and my other through an ongoing mental health challenge.
I didn’t begrudge being a listening ear and a friendly advisor at all, but thinking of how one-sided it’s been I had to admit that this wasn’t real friendship it was more like me being an emotional comfort dog to people going through life’s ups and downs.
And to be honest I’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs myself – mostly downs. So I eventually got a little bit tired of the whole experience.
3) The amount of favors I’ve been doing is ridiculous …
Like I said, I like helping people, especially those who I relate to in a good way, but realizing how one-sided it’s been is what made me face up to the fact that I don’t have any real friends.
I started to feel like a favor vending machine.
From small to big to everything under the sun I was the person to call and ask for a hand. Yet when I needed a hand – oops – there seemed to be nobody with the time or inclination to help me out.
Sounds like kind of a raw deal to be quite honest with you, and as someone who’s worked in the financial sector and real estate, I don’t like raw deals.
I appreciate respect and mutual reciprocity. Sometimes you’re going to want a favor from me and that’s absolutely fine – I don’t “keep score” – but other times I may also need a little bit of help and that’s when at least now and then I’d love if a real friend was there for me.
4) I not only have to help them constantly, but I also have to excuse their actions
The other side of realizing I don’t have any real friends was thinking of all the times I’ve had to cover for them.
“Oh, sorry he didn’t really mean what he said at that dinner when he was drunk …”
“Yeah, Tim is going through a weird time right now, I think he’s having money issues, but don’t worry I’m gonna remind him and for sure he’ll pay you back.”
And on and on.
I also found myself constantly making excuses for how they acted towards me. Like, yeah Jack was really annoying last week, but on the other hand, I know he hates his job.
Well … At a certain point, all the excuses run out. And that’s when you realize: I don’t have any real friends, and something needs to change ASAP.
5) Loneliness was my daily reality
Despite my long list of social media friends and my fairly hefty real-life friends, realizing I don’t have any real friends was also about reflecting on my daily mood and experience.
And to be honest the main thing I came up with can be summed up in one word: lonely.
Not the kind of lonely where you’re like “I’m a bit bored.”
More the kind of lonely where you would cry if you weren’t so emotionally numb and dead inside. Fun stuff.
So these supposed friends, what was their role?
To be honest, their role was that of making me feel even more lonely in many cases. We barely connected in any meaningful way and had no real interactions beyond the surface level. And that disappointment had become such a daily reality that I’d begun to take it for granted that this is what friends are.
But they’re not. Real friends are so much more.
6) I could never count on my “friends”
Another part of what made me realize I don’t have any real friends is I could never count on my supposed friends.
Not only was our relationship one-sided, but I consistently had them break meet-up times, back out of helping me out, cancel at the last minute, and even … unfortunately in one case … stab me in the back and steal my girlfriend.
Amazing friends you can rely on, right?
Feels bad, man.
And while I know any friendship has its ups and downs, I didn’t sign up for friends who are just fairweather freeloaders and perverts who ogle my girl and pretend to be my buddy.
It’s low-down sh*tty behavior that I can already get from a stranger: I don’t need it from a supposed friend.
So if there’s no trust and no real respect then you can make a good bet that you don’t have any real friends.
7) You find out who your friends are …
When I was younger and had real friends they helped me out of some real jams: I’m talking about more than just traffic tickets.
But as I’ve entered so-called adult life and acquired new circles of what I’m no longer embarrassed to call fake friends that have all changed.
In every situation where I really needed a friend including last year when I broke my ankle and needed a ride to the hospital to avoid a high ambulance bill, there was just nobody willing to do it.
Sure, my “friends” expressed their shock, their empathy, and all of it.
But did one of them actually step up to the plate and take some time away from their job to take me to the damn hospital? Nope.
I paid up for the ambulance and sat there swearing about my sh*tty ass fairweather friends.
You find out who your friends are when the sh*t hits the fan: it’s even worse when you find out “I don’t have any real friends,” like I found out …
8) They don’t stick up for you
I can’t count how many times my fake friends haven’t stood up for me. Work friends, family friends, personal friends, you name it. A situation comes up where even a supporting word or two will help me out and they just kind of shrug.
F*ck that. It took enough time of this kind of situation for me to reach my burger moment that I told you about at the beginning.
There’s already enough critical people and judgmental sh*t out there, the least you can hope for is friends who will stick up for you, right?
9) They steer conversations to what they can get from you
This is related to my previous points but it’s a big one. Every second conversation with my fake friends seemed to always turn to what I could do for them.
Whether it was a ride, a small loan or a reference.
Something always seemed to be extracted from our interaction by the end: some gain on their part and some favor on mine.
This transactional type of thing isn’t friendship, sorry guys. You don’t use your friends for what they can give you and if you are then you’re not friends you’re just temporary associates.
10) They’re not interested in your life or passions
This is another big one. When I realized I don’t have any real friends I thought about my passions: baseball, personal finance, home renovation: yeah, I know I’m a bit of a bourgeoisie square, what can I say?
But seriously. I don’t expect my friends to share my interest, but I always take an interest in what they’re into.
At the very least to try to share in their joy.
But my fake friends never did. They just rambled on at me and treated me like an afterthought and it sucked.
So, I took steps to correct the fact that I don’t have any real friends and … not surprisingly the first step started with me.
What you can do …
After grappling with my situation and watching helpful advice about what to do if you have no real friends in the video below, I started to develop a realistic action plan for the fact that I don’t have any real friends.
I grappled with the hard truth: I myself had been too focused on myself and wanting friendship. I began to build inner peace and reorient myself to doing things for others – even small things – that had no expectation or even attachment to getting anything back.
In my own friendships, I’d been the giver, yes, but I’d also been subtly engaging in my own form of attachment by expecting or wanting something back. Realizing I don’t have any real friends was the wake-up call for me to start being more of a friend to others I meet without expecting anything in return and to become internally self-sufficient and reclaim my power.
I have left the fake friends who only used me behind and am now being the example I wish to see in the world … It might be a cliche but I feel much more peaceful and fulfilled.
I have re-established contact with a few old friends and – even though they’re busy too – I can feel that new dynamic of non-neediness and letting things flow.
I’ve also begun to more fully embrace finding my purpose and following it, and in doing that I’ve become less reliant on external validation.
By making myself into a transmitter instead of a receiver – to use an electrical metaphor – I have gained so much confidence and been able to start letting many things go.
Yes, fake friends disappointed me and left me feeling lonely and used, but by being the kind of person I wish others would have been to me I am rediscovering that I have all the power and strength within myself to begin attracting and keeping the right friends and to build meaningful friend connections based on mutual respect and enjoyment.