Puzzled over classmate’s behaviour.
I AM a Form 5 student and I really want to help my friend R. I met R at the start of last year as we are in the same class, and we often did things together after school. We established a group with several classmates, who got along pretty well and we have a Whatsapp group.
This year, tragic events happened to R. He tried to get a girlfriend from among our classmates but all three girls rejected him and he’s been isolating himself.
Prior to one of our group outing, he refused to come along, saying that he does not like our class. I asked R why he hates the class and he said he doesn’t like hanging out with people he doesn’t trust.
When I pressed for further explanation, he told us a bit of his past and how it is connected with his dissatisfaction with the class.
I’ve always assumed he hated the class but he mentioned that “hate” is too strong a word. He said he never truly belonged anywhere other than with his family.
He used to be segregated from the popular kids in primary school and he turned out to be a bully, but he then changed for the better.
He sees a social hierarchy and he believes he is at the very bottom of it. He said our class has this social hierarchy as well and he knows of a group of girls in our class who are talking bad about him behind his back. Another friend, L, who is in our Whatsapp group, made a small joke about the message. R threatened to beat L up and left our Whatsapp group. R said that we are all the same before he left. We tried to add him back but he left again and again.
The next day, he messaged us privately, apologising, but said he still wouldn’t come back to our group. R said he will still talk whenever needed, but he does not care about people in general anymore. It felt like he is saying that all the ties of friendship meant nothing.
Every time we asked him about mething, he merely replied without expression. He only talks to a few people, none of who are from our class.
I believe friends are important, and he already has us. He does not need to feel left out.
Why is he shutting himself out and going into s li Has he really lost l ople? Please h .
Concerned There is a proverb in English: you can bring the horse to the water. But, you can’t make the horse drink the water.
This pretty much sums up the conundrum you are facing with your friend, R. You and your friends are there for him, and want him to participate and feel like he belongs. But, he won’t accept that. So, what do you do?
It is not as bad as you sum it up to be. It is doubtful R has lost faith in all people. With some perspective, you may see that he just has issues with the group of people he currently knows.
Looking at R’s past, it is clear that his problems did not just begin with this class. It started a long time ago. R sounds like he may have issues with his selfesteem. He thinks lowly of himself, and his past experience in his former school affirms that belief. Coming to your school, his negative experiences with the girls he liked further confirms that low perception he has of himself.
It is common, in school especially, to have social hierarchies. There are cliques. There are the popular ones. Then, there are the pretty/ good looking ones. There are the brilliant ones; the weird ones; and the ones who just march to the tunes of their own bands.
And, yes. There are hierarchies. It may be obvious who the ones at the top and lower ends of the hierarchy are. This is normal in a school setting.
Because of R’s low self-esteem, he views these cliques negatively. He feels left out.
The girls rejected him. This adds to his shame and humiliation. Because he is already in a vulnerable position, jokes others make – as innocent as they may seem – become personal attacks to him. The girls may be speaking about him. On the other hand, they may not be. It could just be him projecting his embarrassment.
Whatever the case, he has chosen how he wants to deal with the situation. R feels like he has his family and that is all the support he needs. And, that is a good thing because at least he has some kind of social support.
Plus, it is not like he has totally cut himself off from everyone. He is still attending your school and comes to class every day. One would assume that if he really wanted to cut himself off, he would change schools or not attend classes at all. He still speaks to people – albeit if and when he needs to. It is still a good thing. Cause for concern would be when he doesn’t speak to anyone at all.
So, really, things are not that bad. Look at it this way. He is obviously still finding solace in being around people. It does comfort him. It does count for something.
He is hurt. Things did not go as well as he had hoped they would. That is all right.
There is nothing you can do about how he feels about his classmates. He has cultivated this perception due to his past experience. Only he can change that perception. And, it seems that he is not ready to do so at the moment.
What R needs now is some space. Let him be. Do what you are doing now. Keep up your friendship with him. Speak to him – acknowledge him, make small talk. Just expect that he will respond in the way that he is comfortable with. Do not expect anything more. Remember that as long as he responds, it means that he still values you. Because he can choose not to respond to anyone. Yet, he chooses to.
Drop him a line every now and then via social media to say hi, or even to invite him to join you for activities. He has the right to say no. And you should respect that.
When he feels like he is ready, he will participate more. He will be able to reach out and be like his old self again. He just needs time. And he does not need pressure.
Friendship means different things to different people. For you, it means being active in your relationships with others. That may not be what R thinks friendship is. You will have to respect that. Sometimes, it can be very overwhelming when people are only comfortable with a certain level of closeness and others are trying to force more onto them. That can also cause people to shut down and cut themselves off from people.
For some people, being left out is not a bad thing. They have a choice on whether they want to join in or not. That is why you ask them, right? They can say no.
You are right. He does not need to be left out. He wants to be. Let him be.
Sometimes, being a friend means knowing when you need to back off. Touch base with him. You can be friends from a distance.