No man (or woman) is an island; people need people and even though our families are supposed to be our first source of unconditional love, support, and companionship, our friends are often the families we choose. They hold our hands through experiences we cannot hope to survive alone and are the ones we can count on to understand us in ways that our own families sometimes fail to. Developing meaningful friendships, is in many ways, the forging of a beautiful and powerful bond with people you choose to share your life with; people who were, hitherto, nothing but strangers. However, being vulnerable and sharing intimacy with people has its own risks. Opening your heart and mind to people doesn’t always end up being a positive experience and many fake and toxic friends end up cutting your wings instead of lifting you up.
With the new age surge of social media into our everyday lives and the advertisement of highly airbrushed experiences that distort reality, as well as, largely “faceted” relationships, one has to watch out for friends who do not have your back and are instead using you, draining your energies and affecting your mental health adversely.
It’s hard to know, at the onset, whether someone is good or bad for you and whether they should have any place in your life at all; but there are definitely some red flags to watch out for that tell you that your friendship is toxic, unhealthy and introducing negativity into your life. Watch out for these and don’t give these people the time of day. You will find that cutting out toxic friends will create all the more room for you to invest in people who uplift you instead of tearing you down.
3 Type of Fake Friends
1. Flaky Groupies – Friends For Money
This is quite possibly the least subtle kind of fake friendship. A lot of times when you go out with this category of fake friends, they will have conveniently forgotten their wallet at home or will constantly borrow money from you and forget to pay it back, to the point where you will feel embarrassed to ask. Quite often these people will guilt trip you into spending on them and will use your politeness to get away with it. By extension, sometimes people will befriend you for material reasons. Not necessarily to squeeze money out of you any chance they get, but to associate with free-flowing capital or even symbolic power. These people befriend you to use your influence, social status or access and you can be sure that they would have nothing to do with you if you couldn’t afford the latest iPhone or that lavish trip to Europe.
Beware of such friends because they will be the first to abandon ship if you lose said possessions, access or status. They will also be the first to humiliate you for not “keeping up with the Joneses” or for any shortcomings in your previously elite social appearances.
Sometimes, people will befriend you for your symbolic capital. These people will become friends with you to use your confidence or talents and resourcefulness for their own gains. When you feel that your friend only seems to be around and supportive when you’re on top of your game and thriving and disappears completely when you are in troubled times, you can be sure that they’re a part of your life just to take advantage of your power and success and not because they care about you as a person.
Ditch such friends! They are using you and don’t care at all about your well-being. They only care about what they can squeeze out of you in the time that you are friends with them. I call these fake friends the “Flaky Groupies.”
2. Soul Sucking Dementors - Emotionally Draining Friends
This is by far the most common type of toxic friendship that exists and perhaps the toughest one to get rid of. Emotionally draining friends are the ones you have to put in the most amount of work for and who are never happy regardless. Be it because of their own insecurities or otherwise, these people will project their issues onto you and constantly demand emotional labor from you. If you are a naturally giving, caring and healing person, the chances of one of these parasites clinging to you are exponentially higher. They will make mountains out of molehills, blame you for things that are not your fault and always be unhappy no matter how much you invest in your friendship. The expectations and entitlement in this category of fake friendship are so ridiculously high that it is physically impossible to give these people what they want.
Watch out for your energy levels before and after you meet a friend. If their company uplifts you and makes you feel safe, that’s a healthy friendship. If instead, you find yourself physically and mentally drained, then you’re dealing with a big fat red flag right there. The company of friends is a lot like exercising; if you are doing it right you will feel light, happy, refreshed and good about yourself afterward, but if you feel terrible and your mind and body hurt afterward, then you know you are doing something wrong.
A lot of people who have been emotionally abused only understand how much easier life can be when they come out of their toxic relationships; it is akin to wearing spectacles for the first time and realizing that those fluffy oval shapes are actually leaves full of wonderful detail. It’s a huge weight off your back when you’re free from emotionally draining fake friends. It’s a weight you are often unconscious of even carrying but without which, the quality of your life can literally skyrocket.
Often intimate friendships will not always be easy; sharing trauma or openly communicating is not always a pleasant experience, but if every conversation is about them and they don’t even bother asking what’s going on in your life and keep exposing you to situations that are harmful to you, repeatedly and unapologetically, you’ve got a fake friend on your hands. I call these fake friends the “Soul-Sucking Dementors” because they suck the life out of you.
3. The Snakes - Secretly brings you down
These friends are quite possibly the worst category of toxic friends. They only stick with you to bring you down, any chance they can get, and are secretly happy to see you at your worst. They will be most attentive and present during your difficult times, to make sure they can sabotage your healing and when you do recover they will hold your growth against you. There are many ways that this kind of terribly abusive, controlling and crippling friendship manifests itself.
Pay attention to how your friends react to your success and failures. If they celebrate your success and reassure you that your failures are temporary and offer hope and empathy, you are dealing with a healthy friendship. However, fake friends in this category will always try to ruin your happiness by offering cynicism and deflating your achievements. They will always have something negative to say about positive events in your life. Often these will also be friends who feel comfortable seeing you down and feel threatened when you are doing well. They’ll feel insecure if you look good, achieve academically, get a promotion at work or find love. There is a fine line between friends who care for you and point out problems in your decisions and those who want to keep planting the seeds of self-doubt in you and cannot see you prosper.
Remove these people from your life no matter how codependent or entrapped you feel that you have become. As long as you have them standing around in a corner shooting down your happiness, you will find that you have to work overtime to achieve the things you want and still end up feeling unworthy. This is also a form of emotional abuse. I call this category of fake friends the “Snakes.”
How to Deal or Avoid Friends Who Use You
If you notice red flags in a friendship, you should try to communicate them upfront or at the very least, start to distance yourself from such a company. If your friendship is a healthy one you should be able to solve a lot of problems by respecting each other’s feelings. If you are, instead, punished for trying to communicate your feelings that is the biggest red flag that your friendship is toxic.
The first step in forging health friendships and getting rid of toxic ones is to learn your own self-worth and introspect on the impact the people in your life have on it. Watch out for red flags and communicate them with your friends. If they are willing to work on them, they deserve a space in your life, but if they are bent on hurting you, trust me, you deserve way better than a flaky groupie, a soul-sucking dementor or a snake. They say you’re the average of the five closest people around you. Choose your company with care; It will make or break you. Do yourself a huge favor and get rid of the fake ones! It will transform your life completely!