Dear Alison and Tony (Leather and Lace): I’m writing to you for my friend, Emily. She’s been my BFF for years, and she’s really a beautiful, loving person. We used to have tons of fun together, but over the years, things haven’t gone well for my friend and she has really changed. Emily never finished college and now works in a menial field at a job she doesn’t really like. She gained a lot of weight, and lost a lot of confidence. I have an interesting job and I’m dating a doctor, but Emily has gone out with a string of men who don’t have jobs. They hang out at her place, drinking and smoking, and trashing her apartment with their friends, bringing in drugs, and then when she complains or stops giving them money, they dump her. She feels completely worthless and hopeless. When I’m with her, all she does is sit around and cry. She doesn’t even want to go out because she says she doesn’t know how to talk to decent guys and no decent guy would want her. I want to help her, but I really don’t know what to do anymore. Other than suggesting therapy, can you make some suggestions for me to help Emily to get her back on her feet, emotionally and socially?
Alison’s Take: Professional therapy would really be the best thing for Emily. I know you want to help her, but someone who is as depressed and whose self esteem is so diminished as you have described it, needs more than the love of a friend to help her out of her troubles. Still, props to you for wanting to help your friend. The first way to help her is to convince her that she needs some professional assistance.
But you can be an important part of Emily’s immediate therapy, too. Emily has to start believing that she has something to offer and that she is worthy of the affection of a quality man if she wants someone else to believe it, too. After all, if she doesn’t believe she is worthy, why would anyone else believe it? And, to quote drag queen Ru Paul: “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell how the hell you gonna love somebody else
Then, Emily needs a “win” to convince her that she is still love-able and worthy of someone who isn’t a user and a loser. For, to quote another popular expression, when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. So you need to get Emily out of the dog pound and into a place where she can see herself with people who are of a higher quality. This might not take the form of a love relationship, at least not right away. Emily just needs to feel needed and appreciated. Maybe the way to do that is to get her involved in something outside of her dreary existence. If she loves animals, the two of you might volunteer at the local animal shelter, where the pure joy and love from the animals and the thanks of the staff for her help would make her feel appreciated and valued. You might also encourage Emily to go back to school and get her degree, or at least find another occupation that she would enjoy.
Until she works some of her emotional issues through, a visual makeover can help. It is amazing how some new makeup, and a new dress can build confidence. If she can’t afford anything expensive, surprise her with a day of beauty or a girl’s night out for your birthday (or make up an occasion) for the two of you, so she can’t refuse.
When it comes to social life however, the real problem will be getting Emily to remove the bad influences in men from her life. Men who have found a vulnerable meal ticket aren’t going to let go so easily. If Emily keeps these bad boyfriends around, there will be little you can do to help her in the love department until she finally sees that these men are very bad people who will ruin her life. But if she gets some help, and if you and the other people who really do care for her, continue to stand by her and support her, she may finally see the light and dump the creeps. Then, after some time has passed, as Emily starts to get back on her feet, you can help Emily re-enter the dating world by getting her a dating coach. Setting her up with someone nice, even on a blind date, when she’s been in such terrible shape, is bound to backfire, and just continue to validate her every fear that she’s a loser. Short of “hiring her a date that would flatter her and make her feel good (and it’s an option, but a drastic one), the best thing you can do for your friend is try to get her out in general, in groups, or invite her to parties. Eventually, as she moves forward in her life, she will find either find someone on her own, or be introduced.
Tony’s Take: As with most things involving relationships, if you improve yourself, you improve your situation and you improve your relationships. Your friend has established a self- reinforcing spiral into a personal hell. Why she feels unworthy of love, why she feels like a lesser person, are all things which are best dealt with a good therapist. That having been said, there are a number of actions she can take to stop her sliding into oblivion.
We must first consider that some women are man magnets. They’re not particularly beautiful nor are they particularly well educated or witty, yet they always seem to attract men. The key to their success is self confidence and an outgoing personality. They care about other people and they project a pleasant, happy attitude to those around them. This is where your BFF needs to get to. Your BFF is where she is because she has no obtainable goals in mind. If she were to say: “I want to get a degree, ” she is still young enough that doing so is possible, and there are now many public universities doing online and off-campus education for reasonable fees , other than occasional fly-by-night, private universities. Even if she was only to go to a local junior college and get a certificate, it is still an accomplishment for her and something she could be proud of.
The next thing she has to do is get her weight and looks under control. We brand ourselves by how we look. Excess weight and a less than professional way of dressing and wearing your hair and makeup will brand you to a menial position. Looking good demands that you be treated with a certain class of respect. This is also true of how you talk, and what you talk about. If you are constantly moaning: “woe is me,” no one wants to talk about that. Everyone has their own “woe is me” moments, and they don’t need additional ones. She needs to find what is good in her life and what makes her happy, and dwell on those thoughts and those things. When she suffers a setback, she must replace that which didn’t work out with some new, positive goal. She must actively seek out improved positions where she works or in similar companies. She must check job requirements and work towards studying and gaining the required knowledge, so that she can be the person they want her to be.
As she starts accomplishing more, as she loses a little bit of weight, as she gets her wardrobe together, she will gain confidence in herself and the picture she displays to the world will improve.
At this point in time your role as BFF changes. You now have to be her wingman and guide. You need to take her places where she will meet a better class of man, and guide them to her. She is probably still shy and must be educated by you who seems to be successful at this already, about how to project interest towards the available men in the room. As BFF, your one duty to her is to slow her down, because as she gains confidence in herself and she finds new guys to connect with, she’ll want to move more quickly than social norms allow. You have to be there with her to smooth over her anxieties about new relationships and about the many heartbreaks of those relationships that may not work out. But as she blossoms, she, like you, will find somebody worthy of her attention and affection. And then you will have a friend with whom you can once again share happy times as well as the sad.