I’m a 19-year-old student. I was born in Kuala Lumpur and lived in Selangor until I was 17 when I moved to Johor to live with my mother. I was happy that I finally had the opportunity to live with her, but it seems that since the day I got here, I have faced a lot of problems.

I’m doing my A-Levels. Johor Baru is new to me. People over here are super different to people in Selangor. And now I have problems with my friends here.

When I first started attending college, there was a group of people I became friends with. There were four of us and I was the last one to join the group. I’m a loner and introvert. I do not easily talk to people. I’m super quiet and have a naturally arrogant look.

Even though I’m a quiet person, I always try to make others happy. I love to crack jokes and people laugh at my funny statements. I never hurt anyone’s feelings.

After a while, I started to realise that during class, whenever my three friends talked about something, they did not include me. But I was close with one person in the group, N. I told her that I was really hurt by how I was being treated. At one point, I wanted to commit suicide because I was so depressed.

And then I realised I needed to prove to them that I was capable of being by myself. So I told the others I was leaving the group. The four of us talked about it but it didn’t go well and I left in the middle of the discussion. Several days later, N told me that she was no longer friends with the other two. She said it was because one of the girls said I had dragged N away from them, which was my intention all along. That was never what I wanted. I left the group but always wanted the others to be happy.

N and I stayed friends. I trusted her a lot and could easily open up to her.

Thelma, I’m someone who notices things that others don’t easily notice. I observed that N often interrupted other people when they were talking to their boyfriend or girlfriend, and disturbed others in class. I didn’t say anything at first but then decided to talk to her about her annoying behaviour.

When I did, she was really upset and told me, “This is me, I’m friendly with everyone and I simply don’t hate people like you.” It seemed that the conversation had not gone well so I changed the topic. I thought she was over it too.

But a few days later, she brought it up out of the blue. We argued and I stopped talking about it. I thought once things had calmed down, I could talk to her about it, but we didn’t come to a proper conclusion.

A few days later, N and I decided we wouldn’t be friends anymore. I saw that she had returned to her old friends, although just two weeks earlier, she had said she did not like them.

Now I’m a total loner. I don’t talk to anyone in class and sit by myself. No one talks to me. I am totally fine with being alone. But I need someone to talk to about this. Your advice will really help. What do you think about me? Am I the worst friend? Do I deserve to be alone?

Ag


Dear Ag

You joined a group, found them to be bullies who deliberately ignored you and announced you’d be leaving. Before I give you some advice, I need to explain a few things about group behaviour.

People hang around in cliques, small groups, because it gives them a feeling of safety. To be in the group means never being alone.

It sounds nice but there is a price to pay. Groups do not tolerate differences, so you have to talk the same, have the same opinions, and often dress in a certain style. In other words, you sacrifice your identity.

Also, people in the group are not equal. There’s always a leader and everyone else is ranked in importance. If the group is nasty, the people on the lowest rank are bullied by their “friends”.

I know you’re asking, why do people put up with it? The answer is fear. They don’t want to get kicked out because they fear being alone. Therefore, they toe the line and tell themselves they’re doing it because they don’t want to upset their friends.

Now, you joined a group and they treated you badly – probably because you’re new and an outsider. Treating you badly made them feel good about themselves.

You stood up for yourself and left. That hurt and so they’re punishing you. Not pretty, is it?

The adults in your school should be working to break up that kind of thing, it’s dreadful for mental health, but sadly, they’re probably all involved in similar situations. This is because cliques are everywhere, including offices, government departments, sports associations, etc. Criminal gangs are cliques too.

My advice to you is this: Being shy and introverted is fine and so’s making jokes. As for your “arrogant look”, so what? It’s not a requirement to grin your way through life. So don’t be so hard on yourself.

Join a sports group, theatre group, several study groups and be social. But don’t get too involved with one clique. Have lots of friends instead of just one or two. Then you have company but if one or two don’t work out, you have the others for comfort.

As for your friend N, telling her off for the way she talks to people was wrong. You have no right to criticise her. For that, you should apologise. Tell her, “I had no right to criticise you and I’m sorry.”

Also, talk to your mum. She’ll know how hard it is to move and may have some good tips for you. And if you get those suicidal feelings again, reach out and get professional help. You are not alone and you don’t need to suffer in isolation.


Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Write to Dear Thelma, c/o Star2, Menara Star, 15, Jalan 16/11, 46350 Petaling Jaya, Selangor or e-mail star2.thelma@thestar.com.my. Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.