Preconceived notions are the thoughts that we hold without fact or a basis for these beliefs. Even though we have no ground for these beliefs, we often hold tightly to them because they serve us in some way. I have found that preconceived notions are often the most challenging part of making friends because they hold us back from being vulnerable with other people. We know we are meant to form meaningful relationships with other people, but our own thoughts about relationships can stop this from happening.
In addition, our negative thoughts often make our mental health problems more difficult to process. Anxiety and depression can warp our negative thoughts to the point that we may struggle to discern the truth in situations. This leads to accepting untrue narratives that keep us isolated and lonely when a good friendship could actually improve our mental health.
My Story With Preconceived Notions
One example of this in my life is the way I perceived one of my closest friends when I first met her. At first, I thought she was very standoffish and proud, which made me not want to get to know her. Overtime, I realized that this was my own anxiety and insecurity, which would have held me back from getting to know one of my closest friends. It was not easy, but I needed to work through my preconceived notions to be able to let her into my life.
In relationships, we often assume that the other person would not want to get to know us or find us interesting. However, research shows that this is often not true and that people with similar interests can find enough common ground to develop a strong bond. Forming a new friendship requires that we accept our insecurities and choose to believe that we are worthy of a new relationship.
Examining Our Thoughts
To begin to feel worthy, we have to first examine the negative thoughts that hold us back: Why do I feel insecure around this person? Why do I find myself drawn to them? What have my previous attempts to form a relationship taught me about making friends now?
Once we take the time to analyze our thoughts and motivations, we may begin to realize that we are confident enough to pursue a relationship with this person. It may be challenging at first, especially because it takes work to establish trust with another person.
Learning to Connect
Over time, we may realize that we do not connect as well with that person as we thought. We may also realize that they are not as trustworthy as they hoped. If we decide to set boundaries or change the nature of the friendship, it does not mean that either party is inherently bad. It does mean that we are learning how to form better relationships with others.
There could also be awkward period of being rejected by the person. When this happens, it requires self-compassion to recognize that we are not all to blame in relationships or unworthy of friendship. There can be any number of reasons why friendships end or fizzle out and they often are not anyone’s fault.
When you struggle to believe you are worthy of friendships, taking the time to affirm yourself and the ways you are a good friend can help change your preconceived notions. The practice of affirmation teaches us to look for more positive things about ourselves and our relationships.
If you want to learn how to do these things for yourself, a therapist can help you challenge your thoughts and create a new narrative for yourself. Call today!
Written by therapist Elise Champanhet
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