12 Ways to be More Outgoing

Scientifically reviewed by Viktor Sander B.Sc., B.A.

I’m an introvert who spent most of my childhood on my own. I felt uncomfortable, nervous and shy around people.

Later in life, I learned how to overcome my awkwardness and become more outgoing.

1. Remember that everyone has insecurities

Every time I entered a room, I felt like everyone noticed me. It felt like they judged me for how nervous and awkward I was.

In reality, we tend to overestimate how much others pay attention to us.

Scientists call this the spotlight effect:

Feeling nervous when you try to be outgoing

The spotlight effect is the feeling that we stand out, when in reality, we don’t.

We FEEL like we have a spotlight on us at all times, when in reality, people are as busy thinking about themselves as we are.

Here you can see the distribution of some common insecurities:

How common are our insecurities?

  • 1 in 10 have had social anxiety at some point in their lives.(13)
  • 1 in 3 millennials say they have no close friends.(14)
  • 5 out of 10 see themselves as shy.(15,16)
  • 5 out of 10 don’t like the way they look.(17) (Only 4% of women feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful.(18))
  • 8 of 10 feel uncomfortable being the center of attention.(19)
  • 9 out of 10 have some type of body insecurity.(20,21)

Yet, we compare our nervous inside with other’s calm surface.

Take a look at this photo, for example:

People are nervous on the inside, behind the confident surface

Underneath the confident shell, they are insecure and fragile beings (just like you and me). There are times most feel low or worthless or sob into a pillow. (But they never show that on Instagram)

When you look at them through this new perspective, how does that make you feel?

Doing this perspective-change can help us see the world more realistically. I call this recalibration. Recalibration is when we get a more realistic view of the world, and see that our beliefs don’t hold true.

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This more realistic view makes the world less threatening.

LESSON LEARNED:

Whenever you walk into a room, remind yourself that beneath the calm surface, most people are nervous and fragile. This can take the pressure off of you and help you to be more social.

Here’s my guide specifically on how to be confident for you who feel nervous or shy today.

2. Practice being curious about people

I’m an overthinker, so I’ve always had trouble knowing what to talk about.

Take a look at this photo:

Being more outgoing when talking to someone

Imagine that you say “Hi, how are you doing?” and she replies:

“I’m good, I had this huge party yesterday so I’m hungover though”.

Here’s how most people start thinking:

“Uh oh, she’s probably much more social than I am, and she’s going to realize that I’m not as outgoing as she is. And she seems to have loads of friends, too. What should I say to not come off as a loser!?”

This kind of negative self-talk does not help us be more relaxed and outgoing.

Instead of thinking about what you can say to not sound weird, focus on getting to know the one you’re talking to. When you focus on getting to know someone, you start thinking things like:

“Oh, how come she was throwing a party? What was she celebrating? If she’s hungover, was it wild or does she often get hungover like that? Was it her friends or was it through her job?”

Do you see what happened here? We made a mind-shift from comparing ourselves with someone to getting to know someone.

When we did, it got easier to come up with questions to ask and things to say. When we focus on getting to know someone, we get curious. And when we get curious, questions pop up by themselves.

(It’s like when you’re fully focused on a movie, and questions pop up without effort. “Did he survive?” “Is she the actual killer?” etc.)

So in the case with the party girl above, I can use any of the questions that popped up to continue the conversation. So, I’d reply:

“What were you celebrating?”

There are some more parts to this. You want to have a back-and-forth conversation: You ask some questions, then share a little about yourself, and so on. That’s what I will cover in the next step

I have also written a guide specifically on how to start a conversation with someone.

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3. Ask questions and share about yourself in between

I once met a guy who had a lot of interesting things to say. But he didn’t engage anyone else in the conversation, so after a while, people got bored.

Other times, I’ve met people who only ask questions. That also gets boring after a while, and you wonder if they are interrogating you.

So how do you find a balance so people stay interested? Enter the “IFR”-method:

  1. Inquire
  2. Follow-up
  3. Relate

First I Inquire: “What have you been up to today?”. Maybe they reply: “I slept until 2 pm so I haven’t done anything actually.”

Then, I Follow up: “Haha, oh. How come you were you up so late?”. They might reply something like: “I was up all night preparing a presentation for work.”

Now, I Relate: “I see. I used to do all-nighters a few years ago.” And then, I simply I Inquire again: “What was the presentation about?” “It was about a study on the environment that I just finished”. F: “Interesting, what’s your conclusion?”.

“But David, how do I come up with these questions?”

Answer: By paying close attention to what someone says as I talked about in the previous step. Then, your natural curiosity will activate.

Do you see how we can loop IFR-IFR-IFR like that?

This can make your conversations more interesting:

You go back and forth, getting to know the other person and sharing a bit about yourself. You have a beautiful balance in the conversation. Behavioral scientists call this a back-and-forth conversation. 

Here’s my complete guide How to be more social.

4. Make conversations interesting by asking something slightly personal

Do you know what makes a conversation boring? Getting stuck talking about facts.

“They say unemployment rates have increased across the nation”

“Yeah, I heard they’re even going up on the east coast”.

Zzzz…

Unless you both love the specific topic, these conversations get boring after a while. Here’s a trick I use to make this conversation interesting: Ask a question containing the word “You”.

Here’s what I would say:

“Yeah, I hope that more people won’t lose their jobs. What would you work with if you were to change job completely?”

Or

“Did you have a dream of what you wanted to work with when you were a kid?”

After they’ve replied, I then relate by sharing some of my job dreams, as I showed in the IFR method from the step above. Do you see what happened there?

Now we’re talking about something personal, which is much more interesting. We’re getting to know each other, rather than talking about facts we could as well have googled. 

Personal is interesting because it means that you are getting to know someone.

Here’s my guide specifically on how to be more interesting.

5. Accept your flaws

Back in school, some bullies always picked on me for everything and anything.

My brain “learned” that people would judge me. Years after school, I still assumed that people would pick on me. (Even if it hadn’t happened since school.)

As a result, I tried to be as perfect as I could be, so no one could pick on me. But… it didn’t make me more confident. Only more self-conscious. And how can you be social when you’re afraid of being judged?

A friend of mine taught me something that finally helped:

Instead of trying to be perfect, he had started to be completely open with all his flaws. He was a virgin until very late, and he was always petrified that people would find out. Finally, he decided to stop caring if people knew.

It was as if he went “Ok, I give up, here are my flaws, do what you want with it”.

And the judging demons in his mind *poof* disappeared. Why? Because there was nothing left to chase. Now, this doesn’t mean that my friend started telling everyone that he was a virgin. That’s not what it is about.

I would describe the mindset as “If anyone would ask, I would tell them, not try to hide it”. I was always obsessing that my nose was big. It came to the point where I tried to angle myself in a way that people never saw my profile.

Whenever I entered a room, I assumed that everyone focused on my nose. (Which I now know was only in my head.) But I decided to not try to hide my flaw.

It’s not about trying to convince yourself that you have no flaws. I didn’t try to make myself believe that I had a small nose. It’s about owning your flaws.

Nervous over our flaws

Everyone walks around comparing themselves with other’s perfect surface. 

Owning your flaws is the realization that being human = having flaws. What’s the point of hiding that we’re human? It’s better to just put down our masks.

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We should still work to improve ourselves, but not try to hide who we are at any given point. Whenever you fear that people will judge you, remember this:

Own your flaws.

Here’s my friend’s story on how he decided to own his flaws.

6. Remember that rejection can be something good

My socially successful friends said something that I at first couldn’t believe:

They faced rejection all the time and liked it.

Wait, what. Why?

Well, here’s the thing: I saw rejection as a sign of failure, something to avoid at all costs. They saw it as a sign of self-growth. To them, getting rejected means that you take the opportunities life gives you. In other words, that you live life to the fullest. It took me some time to wrap my head around, but it makes sense:

A life lived to the fullest is full of rejections, because the only way to not get rejected is to not take chances.

There are even games you can play to practice rejection. Here’s what I do:

If I want to meet up someone, be it a girl I’m attracted to or a new acquaintance, I send a text:

“It was nice talking with you. Want to grab a coffee next week?”

Two things can happen. If they say yes, great! I’ve made a new friend. If I get rejected – great. I’ve grown as a person. And best of all, I know that I didn’t miss out on an opportunity.

LESSON LEARNED:

The next time you might face rejection, remind yourself that it’s a sign that you live life to the fullest.

7. Stay a little extra in uncomfortable situations to re-train your brain

I could be myself around close friends, but around strangers (especially intimidating ones) I froze up. With intimidating, I mean anyone who was tall, good-looking, loud, confident, and so on.

I even remember asking myself: “Why can’t I relax and be normal?”

What happened was this: I got afraid, and my body started pumping adrenaline. I entered the fight-or-flight mode. A friend of mine, Nils, tried to overcome this by doing crazy out of your comfort zone-stunts.

During one period in his life, Nils tried pushing as far out of his comfort zone as he possibly could.

laying down in a busy streetLike laying down on a busy street

Speaking in front of a large crowd

Doing stand-up on the subway

Talking to every girl on the street he felt attracted to.

Here’s the problem: It didn’t work because he couldn’t do this on a regular basis. It was too exhausting for him.

What can work better is to stay in slightly uncomfortable situations for longer than we normally do. And doing it regularly in a controlled manner.[10]

Here’s an example:

If you get uncomfortable talking to a stranger, you probably try to wrap up as soon as possible. Instead, try to stay in the conversation a bit longer, even if it’s uncomfortable.

The more hours we spend in awkward situations, the less they affect us!

How to overcome nervousness and be more social

Every time you feel nervous, try to stay in that setting because the longer you feel nervous, the more you’re emptying the nervosity-bucket.

Before, I saw that nervousness as something bad and tried to avoid it. When I learned this, I started staying longer in those situations. I even started feeling good about being nervous, because I knew that I slowly poured out the nervosity-bucket.

When that bucket is empty, that’s when you can be truly relaxed around people. That’s when you stop freezing up.

LESSON LEARNED:

Stay in situations that make you uncomfortable for as long as you can. Remember that whenever you feel nervous, you’re slowly emptying the nervosity-bucket. Once you’ve poured long enough, you’ll come out the other end a more confident person!

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8. Dare to be warm to people right off the bat

I used to have a strong feeling that people wouldn’t like me. I think it came from my time in elementary school where some of the other kids used to bully me. But the problem was that long after school, I was still afraid that people wouldn’t like me.

I also had a conviction that people didn’t like me because of my big nose. As a defense against rejection, I waited for others to be nice toward me before I dared to be nice toward them.

I illustrate the problem in this diagram:

How to be likable and social

Because I waited for others to be nice toward me FIRST, I came off as distant. People replied with being distant back. I assumed it was because of my nose.

Do you see how stupid that is? One day, as an experiment, I tried to be warm toward people FIRST. I didn’t think it would work, but the result surprised me!

When I dared to be warm first, people were warm back!

When you're warm toward people, they like you back

This was a huge leap on my personal journey to be more outgoing.

LESSON LEARNED:

When you’re afraid that people won’t like you and the safe path is to be cautious, instead try to be warm toward them.

Now, warm doesn’t mean that you should be needy, because that will backfire. I explain more here.

9. Share small things about yourself so they can get to know you

To be approachable and outgoing, we need to share a bit about ourselves when we talk to someone. I’ve always felt uncomfortable doing this. I was more comfortable asking questions and getting to know others.

But here’s the thing: For people to trust you and like you, they need to know a bit about you.

This isn’t about sharing your innermost secrets, but a glimpse into who you are, so you don’t come off as a walking black box.

Here’s what I mean.

Maybe you’re talking about, say, plants. I could say: “I remember growing tomatoes when I was a kid. Did you grow stuff as well?”

Notice how it isn’t about sharing something sensitive. It’s about showing that we’re human.

If we’re talking about Game of Thrones, I would say “For some reason I’ve never come around to watch it, but I did read the Narnia series some years ago. Are you into Fantasy?”

If we’re talking about apartment rents (To show that this works for all kinds of subjects) I could say: “My dream is to one day live in a highrise with a great view. Where would you wanna live if you could live anywhere?

Notice this back-and-forth “I did/think/dream of this, what about you?” – that’s a GREAT way to get to know someone, and for someone to get to know you.

LESSON LEARNED:

Share small things about yourself, and follow up by asking something about them. Don’t be a black box!

10. Smile using the Crow’s-feet method

When I felt uncomfortable, I used a fake smile, or I forgot to smile altogether. Part of being outgoing is to have a natural smile.

It’s one of the oldest functions we humans have to show that we have good intentions. If we don’t smile, social situations become harder to navigate.

The problem is that if a smile isn’t genuine, it looks weird. Why? Because we forget to activate our eyes.

Here’s an exercise you can do right now:

Go to a mirror and smile with your eyes, so that you get small “crow’s-feet” in the outer corners of your eyes. THAT’S a warm smile that will make you look relaxed!

LESSON LEARNED: Smile with your eyes so that you get crow’s feet in the outer corners of your eyes.

11. How to keep eye contact

The third part of being more open is to keep eye contact. But growing up as a nervous, awkward nerd, I know that keeping eye contact is easier said than done.

Here are my tricks for how to keep eye contact:

  1. The eye color-trick: Try to determine the eye color of the person you talk to. When you do, you get preoccupied with trying to figure the color out, and it feels more natural to look them in the eye.
  2. The eye corner-trick: If it feels too intense to look someone in the eyes, look them in the corner of their eye. Or, if you’re at least three feet from each other, you can look at people’s eyebrows.
  3. The focus-shift method: This takes some training: Focus all your attention on what someone is saying when they are talking. If you do, it feels more natural to keep eye contact.

You need to move your attention away from you and re-focus on what they are saying. This takes some time to master, but it’s hands down the most effective way to maintain eye contact because it makes you more relaxed from the ground up.

Click here to read more about how to improve your eye contact.

12. Share your insecurities to overcome them

In step 4, I told you how owning our flaws makes us more confident and outgoing.

Here’s an exercise I invite you to do right now: Share in the comments below what your flaws and weaknesses are. Revealing something we try to conceal can be empowering.

You can also read other’s comments and see how everyone has flaws – so why even bother hiding yours?

Let me know in the comments below – I’m excited to hear from you!

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David Morin is the founder of SocialPro. He's been writing about social skills since 2012. Follow on Twitter or read more.

Go to Comments (71)

71 thoughts on “12 Ways to be More Outgoing”

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  1. I get very very nervous around people to the point where I start shaking and people would think I’m cold but I’m just nervous and I can’t make eye contact for longer than 3 seconds.
    I want to start talking more and stuff but I have a fear I won’t be heard or that someone will interrupt me and they won’t care that I was going to say something

    Reply
  2. I’m extremely comfortable with the friends I have and it’s become a bad thing cus I’m not outgoing at all and when my friends are talking to other people I’m just standing there awkwardly. People say that I look like I’m always frowning mean while that’s just how my face is and I guess that’s why people may feel intimidated by me.i

    Reply
  3. I’m semi awkward and socially nervous. I appear to be a confident person but I’m not. I’m tall and have an intimidating look which I think keeps people away. Because I’m quiet people assume I’m angry and that I don’t want to talk but I do. I need to work on free flow effortless conversation but I over think what I should say and I think people get bored very fast when speaking to me.

    Reply
  4. My flaws and insecurity: I’m soooo awkward . I think that some people think I’m stupid but I’m not I just laugh a lot and don’t always pay attention to surroundings. I have acne. A little over weight. In awkward situations ,such as talking to my crush ,I don’t know how to respond so I just laugh. Im really awkward when someone complements me. I have anxiety bout social situations. I’m only myself round people that I really know. I have a big teeth. My parrents are so strict and it’s kind of embarrassing. But I like who I am when being myself! (Btw this was helpful)

    Reply
  5. I feel insecure because I was bullied in school. Now I feel insecure that spending so much time alone has made me awkward and quiet. I really want a relationship, but I feel insecure that I’m too ugly and too quiet to ever get one.

    Reply
    • M
      I am just the same as you. Too long with my own company, I have lost what little art of conversation I may have had. Always felt socially inept, clumsy and awkward around those I might like. Always feel I’m saying the wrong things and making me look worse and the situation more awkward.
      Definitely too insecure and ugly too get anywhere in a relationship.

      Reply
  6. I’m insecure about what other people in think of me. Like I feel like people make assumptions about others all the time without actually knowing them. And I just try to “fit in” and follow the social norms. I hope to become more myself around others and less of putting on a mask and becoming what others expect me to be.

    Reply
    • I’m really self conscious of my body and my face. I feel like people think I’m ugly and just assume that they immediately don’t like me because of my face and body. Awkwardness and the fear of what other people will think of me has overcome my life. Instead of trying to be myself, I try to fit into what other people like. My goal is to become more social and truly discover who I am.

      Reply
  7. I feel insecure about my looks, my double chin (even though I’m underweight) my uneven eyes and my gummy smile.

    Even though I know I’m not ugly and is at least average looking, my tiny flaws put me off.

    I’m not confident with talking to new people because I often come off as someone shy and sometimes the conversations I have turn awkward as I overthink everything I say and I feel like my smile is fake looking.

    I just need a confidence boost because even though I know I’m being too harsh on myself I can’t get myself to stop fearing social interactions.

    Reply
  8. I feel insecure that girls won’t like me even if the date seems to be going ok in my mind, so I don’t take steps that may lead to rejection. Like kissing at the end of a date.

    Reply
    • When I’m shy,some reason I get negative . Which I hate cause I’m a positive person and now people think that’s who I really am

      Reply
  9. I feel insecure about myself and it matters more to me what random people think about me than what I think, I try to avoid seeming like a self centered person but when I get nervous I just talk about myself to fill up the awkward silence

    Reply
  10. I forget things way to easily so after about a minute into the conversation I’m stuck on what we are even talking about. I also have to repeat myself like 3 times to whoever I’m speaking to because I talk soft all the time which results in me not being able to talk within groups. Also I’m mad clumsy and I usually never do anything right.
    Honestly it felt good to write this all down and I look forward to becoming a better person?

    Reply
  11. My parents were tellers. So, even years later I don’t listen to what someone is saying for the first 3-4 words , in case it is something bad/negative. This then causes me to miss the important part. Ugh.

    I also hate being interrupted when in the middle of something. Note: this modern day problem of getting texts, replying, greeting email, replying and then someone talks! Tee Hee can you imagine that!

    Reply
  12. I feel very insecure about not having so many friends. I don’t have any really close friends either. But at least I’m working on it. 🙂
    Secondly I sometimes feel that I’m boring or don’t have anything interesting to say. I feel like I have experienced way less things then other people and that that makes me a bit boring.
    It was helpful just to write that down! 🙂

    Reply
  13. I am an introvert and enjoy my personal space . However, I have a girlfriend that is very outgoing and extroverted and I admire her personality. I sometimes have social anxiety especially over dinner tables or meeting new people. I have a problem getting personal with people and sharing my own personal experiences and simmer only around the facts or focus more on small talk or chit chat. I think this article really speaks to me and my experience and I am going to make a goal of mine to combat this social dwarf nature of mine and will engage in activities and situations outside my comfort zone.

    Reply
  14. I am an introvert, that’s dealing with social anxiety. When I find my self engaged in one on one conservations, I become stiff and awkward, and just can’t relax. This causes me to not speak probably of topics I know in great depth that if I was alone I could talk about it for hours. This only happens with something or someone I’m passionate about or I really want something that might lead to me being rejected. I also get this nervous shock through my body and start sweating alittle more. I had a conversation over the phone one day with my supervisor, and was asking for the max raise. I had my foot rested on a shopping cart and I noticed my foot was shaking uncontrollably.

    Reply
  15. David, your first point is really strange thing to say to make people more confident. I would think it would have the opposite effect. “Everyone is walking around “nervous and shy” all the time?” I don’t agree with that. Some people are truly confident and outgoing and don’t really care what people think of them. So you are basically saying that it’s normal to walk around feeling nervous and fragile like a scared bunny all the time? Then how does being social become at all enjoyable? How does one get through the day of interaction with people? I’ve made it a point to stop caring about what people think of me and really that is the ONLY thing that finally made me feel free. All the other stuff is just filler and fluff. So NO, you’re wrong. Everyone does not walk around feeling nervous all the time or when going to a party or interacting with a stranger. Some porople just truly don’t care if they are liked or not or what anyone thinks of them. This is TRUE confidence and freedom. You should focus on that; not telling people that nervousness is the norm for all.

    Reply
    • It’s one of our core human traits to care what people think and look for their approval. We do it constantly, even if we don’t want to. Evolutionary speaking, getting others approval has been about life and death, and that’s why it’s so hard to get around.

      Even if we would WANT to not care what others think, we still do it to a certain extent. That’s why behavioral therapists don’t just tell their clients “Stop caring what others think”. It’s great to care less, but it’s hard to do by just trying.

      What behavioral science DOES suggests is that we get a more realistic view on how most people are. By doing so, we stop putting others on a pedestal. That helps us feel more confident.

      Reply
  16. I suffer from insecurity, anxiety, a fear complex, and depression because I suffered a lot in my childhood and early adolescence and have a fear that I will have to go through it all over again, which in many cases I have. These mental blocks have caused me to be less social, outgoing, and have caused me to feel and experience much defeat in my life. I feel as though every time things seem to be going right, they go wrong, which they often do, and then I fear that it will always happen. I also have a “life’s not fair” mentality when I go through hardship, which I am currently in a financial crisis which is not helping things. I have a hard time coming out of my shell and being real with people. This article was very helpful.

    Reply
  17. My biggest problem at this moment is that often in social and stressful situations it gets hard to think about things to say and if I say something, it sounds pretty nervous and awkward.

    Reply
  18. i am the shy type dat when ever i learn new things(like new vocabularly,language,skills,phonetic pronunciation of words etc) i feel so ashame to put it to practise when interacting or dealing with people. i also feel so ashame to interact with girls and to speak in public. and feel so shy to let a girl know about my feeling for her and if eventually this feeling is noticed by my friends or people around me i will then feel akward speaking or playing with her as i normally use to do and will end up being indifferent to her. i need ur advice on hw to overcome these flaws of mine.

    Reply
    • I am in a similar pot to the girl part. You know what? There is a girl I like. Six months now. I’ve just been dancing by the side. Next week when we return to school I will tell her. If she accepts, fine. If she doesn’t then I have to accept it.

      By the way I always have a certain feeling that since I am 45(people guess 10 years younger) I should be looking for women who are 30 or more. But last time in school I noticed that a 20 year old classmate is interested in me.

      When we return I will talk to that first girl. She is cool headed just like me. I just keep thinking about her everyday. She has noticed that my classmate.

      Reply
  19. My insecurity is that I’m really introverted and whenever there is someting I really want to do or try, I don’t do it and I use my shyness as an excuse and I stop myself from doing soemthing because that’s simply something I wouldn’t do.
    But my goal for 2019 is to overcome that and to get the person I want to be and this article is incredibly helpful, so thanks a lot!

    Reply
  20. Im introverted person and most of my friends are extroverted and when i see this how alot of them go partying out drinking it really makes me feel insecure on how im missing out but all i want to do is to focus on my studies and goals.

    Reply
  21. i’m trying so hard to be an extrovert because i feel like it’s the right way to live life. i’m shy most of my life, even around family members i’ve known my whole life. but sometimes i just have an extrovert mood and i’m super outgoing, it doesn’t happen very often but i’m always happier when i get like that. my insecurities are my hair length (it’s too short for me and just doesn’t grow) and my eye size and color.

    Reply
  22. I though I would always be a introvert until I read this article. This was very helpful and I now want to go out and talk to people! Thank you so much!

    Reply
  23. Hi
    I’m so shy when I’m amongst other people and I end up spending more time indoors. I think I loss aease ll my confidence please help

    Reply
  24. Hi, my boyfriend is not outgoing and I’ve realised that our lives have become boring because we are always indoors. He’s not into sports, drinks less but loves exercising. How do I make become an outgoing person?

    Reply
    • u said that he loves exercising! take that as an opportunity. u can go with him for exercising daily as it is beneficial for both u n him. and during that exercise u can try n make new friends. as exercise elevates ur mood …m sure ur boyfrd ll be ready to hang out somewer outisde after the exercise . u both can enjoy together after that! 🙂

      Reply
  25. Also begin to do sport where you get natural active. I run 5,5 km every second day. And that really make you more happy with yourself. And you are able to give more pleasure to other people. 🙂

    Reply
  26. I have a friend who’s complainging a lot and that can be quite frustrating. I know that I can complain quite a lot sometimes too about different stuff that doesn’t really matter when I think about it in retrospect. I will pay attention to this. Thank you for a great article! I learned a lot from it.

    Reply
    • This is very similar for me as well except a friend keeps criticizing me, but they see it as a joke. I have really low self esteem and I find it hard to stay determined and keep social, and it’s really frustrating for me and I’m sure for othe people in the same situation. I feel like this article is going to help me SO much!

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