Loneliness, anxiety and low self-esteem

It’s my last semester in the Uni, yet I feel like I have never had a close friend since my arrival in Melbourne two years ago. Everybody has their own circle since they are here since their first year or met during a foundation year. I have tried so hard to approach people to make friends. It’s sad to have nobody here, to not talk to anyone for days, to have nobody to study together with. I always think there is something wrong with me, so I push myself more to approach friends, such as taking the initiative to work together in a group assignment. But, as expected, it’s only a formality and once the assignment ends, we lose contact. I also hate myself at some points. Every time I hang-out with someone or have group discussion, there are voices in my head saying bad things like “they think you are weird”, or “they must feel uncomfortable around me” “they must want this to be over soon”. I went to a CAPS consultation but can’t seem to really tell the counsellor everything that’s inside my head. I was so stressed out with my thoughts and problems but can’t say much during the consultation. Please help.

Thank you for your message – I really feel for you! It sounds like you are having a difficult time and feeling very alone. I can see you’ve made a lot of effort to try to build connections with others – you have taken great initiative and been brave. It also sounds like it can be hard when your mind comes up with those difficult thoughts when you’re trying to connect with others.

I want to encourage you that you’re not alone – it is quite common to feel lonely, sad and like everyone else has made friends but you. Making friends does take time and can seem very daunting, but it definitely isn’t too late. It sounds like you have felt like this for a while. This period of lockdown has magnified feelings of social isolation for many people and changed the way we can meet others; however it is still possible to meet people at this time. Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has a resource page that talks about skills for making friends. Look out for the University’s Social Connection online events, which are designed to help new people meet. You may also like to join some other UMSU groups and societies.

It also sounds like the thoughts about feeling judged or unaccepted can make it hard for you when you’re trying to connect with others.  This kind of social anxiety is very common and there has been a lot of research on it, meaning there are a lot of good evidence-based treatments available. Every semester CAPS runs webinars and workshops about these kinds of experiences, with lots of information and practical tips on tackling social anxiety.

I am glad you have come to see a counsellor at CAPS. I wonder if you might consider telling the counsellor you have seen about this Ask Counselling question? Some people find it easier to write down their thoughts instead of talking about them – and you’ve done a great job sharing about your feelings in this online forum. Perhaps you and your counsellor could look at this question together – we really want to support you.


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