RIZVI: Signs that your friend is toxic

Friendship is important, but you want to make sure you are friendly with the right people. Avoid these toxic traits at all costs.
Photo by Flickr / Lee CourseyFriendship is important, but you want to make sure you are friendly with the right people. Avoid these toxic traits at all costs.

Have you ever had a friend that you know you care about, but for some reason, something about them just is not right? They make you feel bad for things you would not normally feel bad about, or they know how to guilt trip you into doing almost anything. 

Maybe it is how they flake on plans, even though they seemed so excited to plan that lunch date with you. Or how they say they are just kidding, but it just does not feel that way. If any of those statements ring a bell, you probably have a toxic friend. 

Although it is painful to admit, sometimes friendships just do not last forever. Some perfectly healthy friendships cannot handle the test of time and space and eventually gradually fall apart. Others end in flames of heartbreak. But just because something lasts longer, does not mean it is better. Your long standing friendship might just be toxic.

As the age-old quote goes, “you are your company,” and in our socialite years of college, it is of utmost importance that we choose wisely.  But even the most circumspect of us oftentimes get entangled with toxic friends simply because they are exceptional at acting like our friends.

It can be hard to tell between who is real and who is covertly out to get us, especially when we do not want to believe someone we love could intentionally hurt us after everything we have been through with them. But unfortunately, some friends are just not who we think they are. 

While the line between paranoia and reasonable suspicion is thin, there are subtle patterns that can allow us to make a better judgement about the people around us. If you are unsure if you have a toxic friend, here are some red flags to look out for:

They are hot and cold with you: 

Somedays, they are all over you to shower you with gifts and thoroughly gas all of your Instagram pics. Then, the next thing you know, you have not heard from them in weeks, even when it is not exam season, or they just straight up ignore you. If you notice that this is a consistent pattern in your friendship, reconsider how much you can truly count on them to be there. 

They are jealous of your other friends: 

While subtle, this is a dangerous sign of toxicity as it usually indicates the type of “friend” who not only enjoys controlling others, but is profoundly insecure. Due to this, they will most likely use manipulation or blackmail to discourage you from seeing others and are likely to act selfishly. Beware of those friends who try to make themselves seem like they are your only one. They probably do not have the intentions that you think they do. 

They shut you down when you try to talk about your feelings: 

In other words, gaslighting. This is the “friend” who gets vehemently defensive and blames you for unreasonably making things into “a big deal” when you try to bring up something they did that hurt your feelings.

On the flip side, they might be stoic and unresponsive when you confront them. Either way, this person has no interest in how you feel nor do they care that they hurt you. Drop this person ASAP. No matter what they say, your feelings matter and deserve to be heard!

They make jokes that feel more like jabs: 

Whether it be the passing comment about your appearance or an insult about your major, this “friend” is known for making insensitive jokes and rarely apologizes for making them since they are “just kidding.” You may write it off as sarcasm or may blame it on “being too sensitive,” but do not dismiss your gut. If something feels wrong there is probably a good reason for it. 

They constantly flake: 

No matter how packed their schedule is or how far apart you live from them, if someone wants to see you, they will. If they do not, then they just do not think you are worth the effort, plain and simple. Save yourself from the excuses and make plans with that friend who has been trying to see you since the start of quarantine instead.

You do not feel good around them: 

You cannot quite explain it, but when you are around this friend, you feel self-conscious or a dulled version of yourself. You might even feel anxious. Maybe they have put you down in the past for your appearance or for your interests, or they always seem disinterested in what you have to say. This is the most important sign because ultimately, we stay with people for the way they make us feel. 

If we no longer feel good around them, that is a clear sign that either something needs to be worked out or the end is near. After all, the purpose of a friend is to make you feel good! They are a unit in your support system, someone who lifts you up, not brings you down. If they make you feel bad about yourself in any way, this is a burning scarlet red flag that you need to leave that friendship immediately!

There are many more signs, but these are usually the main patterns in any harmful relationship. It can be heartbreaking to realize that our friends are not who we thought they are, and even the best of us can still be fooled. After all, we are only human. 

If you realized that you are in a toxic friendship or just got out of one, know that the pain will eventually subside. Make sure to practice self-care and allow yourself to feel the way you feel. Friendship breakups can hurt just as much as a relationship breakup, if not more, so take the time you need to heal. 

The decision to leave what no longer serves us takes great courage, but in the long run, is always worthwhile. 

Rania Rizvi is a Rutgers Business School and School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in supply chain management and journalism and media studies. Her column, "Reali-Tea with Rania," runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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