4 Painfully Honest Signs You're Stuck In A Toxic Friendship

They're secretly sabotaging your life.

Toxic friend comforts her friend, but the friend does not notices the signs or know how to deal with them. Konstantin Postumitenko | Canva

Have you ever had a friend for a year, ten years, or even more, and then, out of nowhere, she turned on you? In one instant you go from confidants, almost sisters, to stuck in the mess of a toxic friendship and you don't know what to do next.  You had her back, supported her, and cared about her. You were there for her in her dark times and always available when she needed to talk. Maybe you told her your dreams and desires or perhaps she was more of a "surface" friend where your conversations didn't necessarily reach deep levels but there was a true camaraderie there — or so it seemed. Is it possible for all of that trust to be eroded? Yes, and it happens all the time in toxic friendships. 


RELATED: 7 Big Signs You Have A Toxic 'Mirage Friend'

Here are 4 painfully honest signs you're stuck in a toxic friendship:

1. Do I look forward to the time we spend together?​

Yes, she's your friend, so you probably have fun together sometimes. But do you feel anxious or worried when getting ready to hang out? Do you ever consider just ditching your plans because it's just too much stress? In general, a true friend won't make you anxious. Even if you are an introvert and may prefer to stay home or be alone, thinking about your friend and doing something you enjoy together should make you smile. 


Example of a toxic friendship: You've recently gotten a new haircut or color and people seem to like it. When you realize that this particular friend is going to see it for the first time, you feel your stomach tighten. You're worried she's not going to like it or that she'll find some sneaky way to make you feel bad about it. In a healthy friendship, even if your friend isn't the biggest fan of your hair, she either won't mention it, or find a way to be kind if you ask her for the truth.

2. How do I feel about myself when I'm with her?

Do you feel like your best self with her, or do you constantly think about what you're going to say, how you'll look, or worry about whether she's going to judge you? These are not good feelings! A real friend wants you to feel good and doesn't need to squash your joy to be happy. She doesn't need to step on you to shine. 

Example of a toxic friendship: This particular friend has a wonderful side that pulls you in, but when you're together, she finds a way to say negative things (even framed as a "joke") that hurt your feelings or make you question important and authentic aspects of yourself.

3. How do I feel about myself after your conversations or get-togethers?

Maybe when you're with her you have fun, you laugh a lot, or you feel like you're part of something. But when you walk away, that sort of friendship might trigger feelings of guilt or inauthenticity. Trust your gut! If something someone says or does hurts, that's real and deserves attention and compassion. 


Example of a toxic friendship: Toxic friends are great at sharing secrets and intimacies that will pull you in and make you feel special or inspire wild nights and bad choices. Maybe some of the things she said — about you or someone else — really sink in the next day and fill you with regret. 

4. Do I feel empowered or drained by this friendship?

How has your life improved since you became friends? Have you been making good choices, guided by good advice or has she made suggestions that seemed a little problematic to you? Do you feel like you could take on the world when talking through your plans, hopes, and dreams with her? 

Example of a toxic friendship: When you need advice about your romantic relationship, she tends to be negative to the degree that you feel more resentment toward your partner than before you vented to her, rather than helping you solve the problem. The same thing happens with challenges you face with other friends or family members. She always seems to put a damper on things or offers low-key unkind "reality checks" that make you feel like maybe your dreams are too big for your ability. That's not real friendship. 


RELATED: 10 Toxic Friends You Need To Lose By The Time You're 30

How did your friendship score? Is this relationship a benefit in your life? If so, congratulations! If not, every negative or uncomfortable answer is a sign that something needs to change. The negative effects of toxic friendships: When her low self-esteem finally gets the best of her, she may see you as a clear threat to her job, her man, another friend, whatever. These explosions from her ego will leave you reeling. Or, maybe there won't be an explosion, it may be more subtle — you may hear she was talking behind your back or see her doing something you never imagined a friend doing. Maybe she will simply stop acknowledging your existence, ignoring you completely.

She may double-cross you, use you to get revenge on someone else, or simply keep you "on hand" when she needs distraction or someone to be her wing-woman. But that's not a true friend. These manipulations and attempts at gaslighting can make you mistrustful of friendship and you may be tempted to withdraw from people in your life who are good for you. A toxic' friend's low self-esteem can impact your whole world, but you don't have to let it.

Our self-esteem isn't dictated by other people, but until we learn how to manage difficult situations like this with a healthy level of self-confidence, other people's behavior can throw us for one heck of a loop and leave us upside down rather than on our feet. Although the initial shock of the situation may rock your world, instead, look at it as if it were a science experiment. Find a new perspective by looking down on the matter from up high in the stands. This makes the painful part look small (and even unimportant) compared to the huge field of your life, great memories, and more time for new, healthier friends.


She turned into a toxic friend, but that just means it's time to learn how to move on, and it doesn't have to taint the whole relationship. "Does this mean I have to constantly be on guard in my friendships?” you ask. No. Allowing yourself to feel what's happening along the way and how you're being impacted by the friendship as it evolves is what your intuition (gut feeling) is for. It's too valuable of a tool to ignore. Trusting it also brings bigger and better connections and adventures to your life.

Regarding your friend who became a frenemy, there’s no excuse for treating someone badly, but there are reasons why it happens. In a frenemy situation, there is a feeling of not being good enough to have what you have and a fear of it being taken away. If you don’t feel good enough, to begin with (99.9 percent of us have been there) and you see that someone is a possible threat to what you currently have, the attacker mindset kicks in and you lash out. It makes sense but is still completely unacceptable, even more unacceptable between friends as they are supposed to protect each other.

As crazy as it sounds, people don't do things to us. They do things for themselves to get their needs met. If someone helps you, they do so because it makes them feel good to help. If they attack you, it makes them feel big and strong for the moment. If we take everything personally, we won't have any self-confidence at all, which results in low self-esteem, which creates a lack of healthy boundaries to protect us mentally, emotionally, and physically. That leaves us where most of us are today — feeling uncomfortably vulnerable with our emotions flapping in the breeze of other peoples' words and actions.

Before you write this person off as a toxic friend, ask yourself this: Is there a way to adjust it to be more positive, fun, empowering, or healthy? Perhaps you two need to have an honest talk, new healthy boundaries can be set, less or more time can be spent together, or perhaps ban certain negative topics of discussion. This isn't going to be easy to face, but you may also bring something to the friendship that's causing it to be toxic without realizing it. Talking it through honestly, kindly, and openly can help you both learn about yourselves. Just beware of the fact that truly toxic people will find a way to make everything your fault.  If you decide the friendship needs to end, here's how to let the relationship go while still supporting your self-confidence and protecting your self-esteem.


RELATED: 3 People Reveal The Brutal Way They Finally Ended Their Toxic Friendships

Here's how to deal with a toxic friend:

Step 1. Recognize what you learned from the friendship

Did you stay in integrity, having your friend’s back even though she turned on you in the end? Were you there to comfort her when she needed to talk or was having a meltdown? This means you know how to be a good friend. Maybe you weren't as good of a friend as you could be and now you know what to do differently in your next friendship. Also, recall the great times you had together. Those memories don't need to be tainted just because you won't be friends forever. Most friendships have a shelf life and very few last forever.

Step 2. Learn to let go

Determine if you want to keep your schedule full so you can honestly have a good reason to be unavailable or would you prefer to simply walk away and not communicate anymore? You can also have a grownup conversation letting her know that the friendship isn't a good fit anymore (of course, frenemies aren't exactly in their most mature state to be receptive and this could get ugly). Trust your gut feelings and intuition; they will always guide you in the right direction.

@barelyfilteredpod Friendship breakups are just as hard (if not sometimes harder) than relationship breakups 💔 #barelyfilteredpodcast #friendshipbreakups #emotionaldetachment #toxicfriendship #podcastsforwomen ♬ original sound - Barely Filtered

Step 3. Grieve your loss

Understand that even when a toxic relationship like a frenemy is eliminated from your life, there may still be a grieving period. Allow yourself to feel it rather than stuffing your emotions. (Stuffed feelings cause physical disease either now or later.) The reason you're moving on is to stay healthy mentally and emotionally, so if you feel hurt, angry, or betrayed, write it down. Journaling is clarifying. Note your feelings, reasons for them, lessons learned, what you can do (if anything) to soothe them, what you did right, what you will do differently with a new friend, and, finally, what characteristics your future friends should have — being sure you possess those same traits first.

Step 4. Focus on future friendships

Each time you find yourself thinking about how you were betrayed by your toxic friend, switch your focus to what you want in future friendships. Imagine fun activities, meaningful conversations, and the comfort of good friends. Keep this positive vision because if you continue thinking about that toxic friendship, your energy is going to attract more just like her. It's the Universal Law Of Vibration, not unlike The Law of Attraction, and is proven by science. We get what we focus on. Practice switching your focus to positive things you want to create more of in your life. You are now on your way. Enjoy your time to yourself and be open to new, healthy friendships. Become best friends with your intuition. It's there to guide you in the right direction, always.

RELATED: How I Finally Broke Up With My Long-Time, Toxic Friend


Kelly Rudolph is a Certified Life Coach and Hypnotherapist who helps her clients manage stress and experience personal growth through greater confidence.