• Other Friendship Advice

Fitting in with groups in high school

Published: January 6, 2015 | By | Reply Continue Reading
A high school student feels like an outsider and is concerned about fitting in.



I’m currently a high school junior and I feel like I have no close group of friends (or clique) at school. I have some really close friends who say I’m one of their best friends and we hang out a lot but they’re not close to each other, they’re all very different people.

I’m really grateful to have them, but the problem is they all have their own cliques to hang out with at lunch and do stuff with. Everything’s fine when I hang out with them individually but I always feel super awkward when I try to sit with them and their groups at lunch. I also feel bad doing it because I feel like I don’t really belong and I’m just tagging along.

Everyone in my school is pretty much already in groups and it’s hard to get close to multiple people at once, especially at lunch. I’m starting to get really depressed, especially since Winter Formal’s coming up and my best friend has her own group to go with and I don’t want her to feel like she has to hang out with me because I have no one else.

Signed Abby,


Dear Abby,

When I read your letter the first time, I thought Abby seems to be a great kid, I wish she realized it. I love that you have different type friends close friends whom you consider among your best friends. That tells me you’re a strong young woman, open minded, and probably a wonderful friend. You make your own relationship decisions, rather than having friends who are friends only because you share mutual friends.

Some people prefer to socialize in groups, others prefer one-on-one or one-on-two. Some people like both. From your letter I gathered that you’ve got the one-on-one but you’d really like the group too. I wonder if some of that group-envy is more based on how these cliques look than how they actually are.

Whether someone is in preschool, a senior citizen and at every age along the way, groups are hard work. Sometimes subgroups exist within groups and people feel left out. Often two members will argue, and others feel like they have to take sides and some or everyone feels angry and hurt. Feelings can also be hurt over miscommunication or when girls (or women) make assumptions about what others saying and doing.

Based on girls I’ve worked with, cliques seem to have a lot more drama and tears than two-person friendships. Looking in from the outside, you can’t see all the drama, tears, hurt feelings and negative aspects that can be present; you’re only able to see the positive parts.

One way to make lunch or going to a the Winter Formal feel more comfortably is to focus on your relationships with one or two of the girls. You already have your best friend, then get to know one or two people better. Chose girls you have classes or something else in common. You’re absolutely right that trying to be close friends with a whole group at once isn’t realistic. Even if you don’t become part of the group, if you friends you enjoy talking to, you’ll feel less left out.

If you feel uncomfortable with your best friend’s group, act as if they are glad you’ve joined them for lunch. I can almost guarantee you that you won’t be the only insecure one at the table. Teenagers don’t usually wear their insecurities on their faces. Have you ever heard the term “fake it until you make it”? Initially, be more an observer until you figure out how the group communicates. Is there an unofficial leader? Do others feel comfortable disagreeing with opinions? Do they gossip? Are they friendly toward those outside their circle? Observing can help you decide if you want to spend more time with the clique.

You shouldn’t have to give up friends, hobbies or values to be part of a group. Once you’re ready to participate in more discussions, increase your interactions slowly so no one else feels displaced.

After you’ve spent some time with the group, check in with yourself. Are you more or less secure? Are you more or less happy? What or who, if anything, have you given up? What have you gained? Are your interactions with your other friends as meaningful and if not, is that something you’re comfortable with?

To summarize about how to fit in without feeling like an outsider:

  • Act as if you belong
  • Observe how the group functions
  • Be yourself without competing
  • Don’t compromise who you are
  • Evaluate your any changes in your life

Whether you work harder to pursue a group or decide to be happy the way your relationships are now,  please give yourself a break and realize if you weren’t a wonderful young woman, you wouldn’t have several girls who see you as a best friend.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Child and adolescent friendships

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