College is one of the most exciting, eye-opening times in your life. It is a great time to make memories and discover your passion, and building healthy, strong friendships is arguably one of the most vital components of a college experience. I am happy that after all these years in college, I have finally found my true friends. However, making good friends at college is not an easy nor quick task. You cannot build your ideal friend on a computer and have them delivered to you in an instant (although that would be super cool). Finding the right friends takes time, and there is nothing wrong with that. Do not be discouraged if it takes you several weeks, or even several months, to find the people who will change your life for the better.
But you will also probably make many toxic friendships along the way. You will be left on read both in real life and on social media, you will lose friends you thought would be by your side forever and you will face betrayal from the very people you thought would never let you down. Unfortunately, that is just how it goes. But no matter how hard it gets, do not let yourself feel disheartened. Your true friends are out there, and they will be revealed to you in time.
You might be wondering: What differentiates a “good” friend from a “bad” friend? That is why I have put together these three indicators that will help you determine if the person you are spending your time with is a true friend or doing you more harm than good. Obviously, we all make mistakes from time to time — we are human, after all. But if you read these signs and realize that your friendship is ridden with too many red flags, then you may need to consider ending it and finding someone you are more compatible with. You deserve true friends who truly care about you and always look out for your best interests.
1. Lack of Support
My first indicator of a bad, or toxic, friendship is if they display a lack of support for your achievements. Say you earned an A+ on a paper that you worked very hard on. A true friend would commend you for your hard work and give you a pat on the shoulder for a job well done. A toxic friend would not support you; they would instead allow their jealousy to cloud their judgment. This jealousy would cause them to put you down and make you feel inferior, as opposed to building you up through encouragement. They would also dismiss your achievement altogether, refusing to comment on or even acknowledge its presence.
What to remember: If they are truly your friend, they will want you to succeed, and they will make that desire known through their words, actions or both. They will not only acknowledge your achievements, but they will applaud you for them. Rather than envy you for your accomplishments, they will encourage you to continue down your successful path.
2. Too Much Control
The second indicator of a toxic friendship comes down to control. If a friend exhibits overly controlling behavior or tries to own you in any way, that is a major red flag. It is acceptable for a friend to check up on you here and there to see how you’re doing. If you are out late at night by yourself, it is only right that they text you to make sure that you are on your way home and nothing bad has happened to you. However, an overabundance of such questions can be suggestive of much less friendly intentions.
There are many ways in which controlling behavior can manifest itself. For example, you may find that your friend constantly questions you about the people you hang out with or how you are spending your time. A friend should not treat you the same way a parent does. Period. They should not dictate what you do with your days or constantly judge you for who you spend time with.
Behavior like this is stifling and should not be accepted. They should not feel the need to strictly monitor everything that you do, nor should they attempt to take control over your life. If they are a true friend, they will trust that you are doing the right thing, even when you are not with them. It is important to remember that this is your life, not theirs. The decisions you make and the activities you partake in, as long as they are not hurting anyone, are completely at your discretion. What to remember: If you feel that you are the puppet on the string, being excessively controlled by your puppet master friend, you are most likely in a toxic friendship.
3. Not Taking You Seriously
A third key indicator of a toxic friendship is that they will devalue your problems. A true friend will listen to your struggles without judgment. They will not simply listen to respond; they will listen to understand. Rather than dismiss your problems as trivial or unimportant, they will actively acknowledge them and work with you to discover solutions to your pain. A true friend will recognize the validity of your struggles. Instead of shaming you for them and making you feel ostracized, they will make you feel appreciated, loved and heard.
A toxic friendship, on the other hand, will include the opposite. They will most likely not listen to your problems. And if they do, they will judge you for them rather than offer their support. They will attempt to downplay the hardships you have been through and invalidate your feelings. This will result in you feeling unheard and even more lost than you were before. You will wonder why you even opened up to this person in the first place.
The Main Takeaway: Be very mindful of your relationships, and pay close attention to how the people in your life treat you. Be on the lookout for signs such as these, which are strong indicators that you could be in an unhealthy, toxic relationship. Although the term “toxic” gets thrown around quite a bit in reference to friendships, it ultimately refers to those untrue friends who do not care for your interests or feelings. It is reserved for those who only care about themselves and what is right for them, and this is usually revealed through both their actions and words. These are the people you can live without.