Toxic friends can suck the life and happiness out of you, and the worst part is you don’t always realize that until it’s too late.
If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship with a narcissist, sociopath, emotionally unavailable person or someone otherwise disordered, you have benefited from learning more about the red flags that toxic people exhibit in romantic relationships. You have used these red flags to protect yourself and recognize abusive behavior the next time you see it.
Yet what we often forget to focus on are the red flags of toxic friends – people with whom we should have mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationships with, people who are supposed to support us and provide a validating environment, yet fail to meet our needs even though we’ve met theirs time and time again.
It’s important to cultivate and pursue only healthy friendships as well as healthy relationships because overall healthy interpersonal habits lead to a strong, viable and reliable support system during hardships.
Note: Sometimes, the pronoun “she” is used to represent the friend, but this article is not meant to be gender-specific and can refer to male or female friends.
10 Signs of Toxic and Narcissistic Friends by Shahida Arabi
1. They are not happy about your accomplishments.
When you mention your success, your friend’s face goes automatically sour. She may look like she’s eaten an entire lemon as she struggles to say congratulations. Or you receive a totally blank facial expression and no response at all, just a stare. She may even attempt to “one-up” you by mentioning her accomplishments quickly before you’ve even finished your sentence.
This is the type of friend who is never happy about anything you do and is secretly hoping you’ll fail so that she doesn’t have to feel so badly about her own life. This is toxic because real friends celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and even if there is any jealousy involved, they will put it aside in order to congratulate their friends.
Instead of feeling despair at their friends’ accomplishments, true friends will be secure in their own accomplishments, and thus feel celebratory, inspired and motivated to better themselves when they hear about the accomplishments of others.
2. They covertly put you down.
If you’re happy and cheerful for whatever reason, toxic friends find ways to rain on your parade by introducing little storms and tempests of invalidation, belittlement, and degradation. These are often disguised as “helpful” or “honest” comments that actually have no value at all except to make you feel less proud of yourself.
Saying things like, “Oh, anyone could’ve done that,” when you mention something you accomplished or, “That’s not a real major” when you mention your academic concentration. They also seem sadistically happy when you’re failing or when you’re going through a difficult time. This is a sign that something is seriously wrong with them.
Real friends don’t attempt to criticize or put down people just for the pleasure of making someone seem small. Only inferior people do that in order to elevate themselves. If you can’t be your greatest, authentic self around your friends without being constantly demeaned by them, then they’re not your true friends. They’re malignant bullies and narcissists. Get it straight and know the difference.
3. They emotionally exhaust you.
Have you ever had this experience? You’re on the phone with a friend. You ask your friend how she’s doing, and find yourself being “talked at” rather than “talked to” for hours on end – and this consistently seems to happen all the time. As you finally get your chance to speak, your friend suddenly needs to get off the phone because she is now so tired from all the “talking.”
Sure, we all have to vent sometimes and talk about ourselves. Certain situations warrant this type of behavior such as a break-up, a loss in the family, or any other traumatic event. However, if this happens quite often and you rarely get a chance to have a reciprocal conversation with a person, you’re acting as their audience to a monologue and not as a friend. You also deserve to be listened to and deserve to talk about any problems in your life.
Don’t let these toxic friends convince you otherwise. Stand up for yourself and tell them this is an issue. If they continue to do this despite you establishing that boundary, it’s time to forfeit the friendship altogether.
These toxic friends drain you and your ability to engage in self-care because they are emotional vampires whose only focus is them, their lives, their wants, and their needs. You don’t exist, or if you do, you only exist in relation to them. For example, if a friend hears your traumatic story and uses it to turn the conversation back to her life constantly, this is a red flag for narcissism, so be careful.