The Lonely World of Friendship: Seeking Belonging as an Adult

Raise your hand if you have ever felt like you don’t belong or aren’t good enough. Yup, that’s what I thought. There are a lot of hands up in the air.  I have spent a good portion of my life feeling that way, and I know that some of you have, too. We put that idea in our own heads and then mentally torture ourselves trying to prove that we are worth being around.

I am the first in line to say that I am 100% guilty of doing this. In fact, I’m so guilty of trying to prove myself to others that I actually end up pushing quality people out of my life. I become so concerned about belonging that I become too needy. Friends might even use the words “annoying” or “a burden” when describing me. I completely own up to my own behavior, and I can’t say I blame anyone for icing me out of their lives.

Here’s the thing though. When these events in my past happened, I was crying out for help. I was struggling with many aspects of my life and was dealing with some deep depression. Several years ago, I would have never told anyone that I was struggling with depression, but today I’m confessing that secret, because I’m not ashamed anymore. I have worked very hard to get myself back to a good, healthy, and happy place. With the help of some awesome professionals, I’ve done some very hard work on myself for several years. I’m proud of how far I’ve come. 

All the blessings that I have in my life have never been lost of me. But the aftermath of my depression is that some of the people that meant the most to me in the world are no longer there. The people I saw and talked to every single day are gone.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I have felt like I’m not good enough. I have always felt like I’m below my friends and that they are far prettier, smarter, and more together with their lives than I.

Things that came easy to others, such as being athletic, having quality relationships with family, and even becoming a mom, were the things that I struggled with. I so badly wanted to be able to do the things others were doing so that I could feel a true sense of belonging, but that was just never in the cards for me.

So instead, I pushed others away. I have been hurt in my life a lot. When I was in my 20’s, I had a therapist tell me that I had been through more in my young life than some people go through in all their years here on earth. Some people would be absolutely shocked if they knew the real truths behind my depression and how deeply those truths have cut me.

Because of those life circumstances, I don’t let others get too close. I have a hard time letting people in to the reality of my life and trusting others with my truths. That’s what happened when my friends walked away. I was stressed, exhausted, irritable, and sometimes downright mean. I often lashed out and was a complete pain to be around. Believe me, I didn’t even want to be around myself! I don’t blame them for saying adios, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt.

Losing friends as an adult is extremely painful. Friendships that I felt were authentic and meaningful withered away like they were nothing.

Ten years worth of truly loving some amazing people was all gone in the blink of an eye. Women that I would have done anything for and that I supported 100% (and ironically still do), walked away. That cut me to the core. I still have nights where I lay awake crying, thinking about what I could have done differently.

The reality, though, is that when you are clinically depressed, you are in quicksand. All you want is someone to reach out and tell you it’s going to be okay. I couldn’t have done anything differently at that time, because I was not well. I needed them so much, but by that point, they wanted nothing to do with me.

Now that I’m in a good place and can see things very clearly, my heart hurts more than ever. Social media has increased my pain as I catch glimpses of gatherings, girls’ nights, birthday celebrations, and weekend trips that I was once a part of. I am no longer invited, and that is hard–harder than I ever dreamed it would be. I don’t have friends anymore that I can hang out with during the week or talk to face-to-face.

Struggling with your own self-worth creates an extremely lonely world.

I’ve always been social and have always had many good friends. Loneliness is a new thing for me and something I never expected to experience in my current life. It would be easy for me to crawl up in a ball on my closet floor and cry until I have no tears left–I’ve actually done that on more than one occasion–but this time I’m choosing not to. I have worked too hard on myself to go backwards, and I will also work to gain back the friendships I once had.

I’ve swallowed the pain and reached out to get together for dinner or to have a friendly conversation. They still, to this day, mean so much to me, so I will make an attempt to salvage relationships. They mean enough to me that I’m willing to put myself at risk of being hurt, something I’ve always avoided. 

I know things will never be the same, but I’m not going to give up.

I may be easy to walk away from, and I might sometimes still be needy, but I refuse to believe any longer that I’m not worth it. Old friends may not respond to my invitations or take a leap of faith with me again, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be there ready to welcome them back into my life at any point. It will take time, and hopefully one day they’ll see that I am a kind, supportive, and decent person. All people are worthy of friendship and love.

Iowa City Moms Blog exists to connect moms to each other and to their community. We are here for YOU. We would love nothing more than to encourage you on your journey towards friendship and connection. Do you have a story of loneliness or friendship to share? 


Melissa was born and raised right here in Iowa. Although she grew up in southwest Iowa (about as close to Missouri and Nebraska as you can get!), she has called eastern Iowa home for 15 years. She and her husband Eric live in North Liberty, along with their 4 year-old daughter Kennedy. Melissa attended the University of Northern Iowa where she earned her BA in Early Childhood Special Education and her MAE in K-6 Learning Disabilities. She currently teaches kindergarten for the Clear Creek Amana School District, where she has taught for 14 years. In her spare time, Melissa loves to be outside playing or working on projects in their yard, spending time with family and friends, and baking up goodies for her family. She also enjoys taking walks with their two dogs, plump beagle Lenny and shy dachshund-beagle mix Cooper. Life as a full-time working mommy keeps her very busy, but Melissa wouldn't have it any other way!


  1. When I was in the throes of infertility — that really bitter, angry stage where you’re mad at the entire world who seems to procreate without trying — my best friend since Kindergarten basically “broke up” with me. We’d been two peas in a pod for decades and she just walked away with nothing more than a short email explaining that she was done, and few details as to why. That “breakup” cut me to the core, and only now, five years later, am I ready to own up to my actions beforehand that likely led her to cut me out of her life, but that doesn’t mean I’m at fault. I was in a horrible place, and like you said Melissa, I wasn’t well, and there was only so much I could do.

    • So sorry to hear that you experienced a similar situation Lydia. It’s not easy, specially when you’re used to always having friends. I have a core group of women that I’ve been friends with since preschool and kindergarten, but they don’t live here locally. That’s the part that stinks. I have hardly any friends locally and it makes for some very lonely days at times.


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