‘So, you agree, you think you’re really pretty?’
Any self-respecting millennial knows that this iconic line comes from Regina George in Mean Girls.
When Cady Heron accepts her frienemy’s compliment, Regina puts her on the spot, making her feel awkward and uncomfortable.
From ‘you can’t sit with us,’ to ‘stop trying to make fetch happen’, the 00s classic is full of examples of mean girl behaviour disguised as friendship.
And while you might think these kind of so-called besties only exist in North Shore High, you’d be wrong.
In fact, according to TikTok, withering put downs, backhanded compliments and sneaky tactics are common in real-life friendships.
In one video that has five million views, titled, ‘Story time of my friend that did not like me’, user Becca Moore, said: ‘We’d be at a dinner and someone would be like, “your makeup looks good today.”
‘And Ashley would be like, “didn’t you get Botox last week?”’
People in the comments section were quick to relate. One said, ‘We all have one of those friends’, while another wrote, ‘they’re a hater, not a friend.’
Trauma expert and therapist, Stephen Joseph, tells Metro.co.uk that toxic friends like this can wear us down.
He says: ‘Good friendships provide us with mutual affection where we feel free to express ourselves and in which we feel understood and cared for. We can count on such friends to have our back.
‘Sadly, it is also possible to have friends who are more likely to talk about us behind our back. These are friends who put on a façade of friendship.
‘They may do this for a variety of reasons, often because of envy, or because they get something out of the relationship with us. They may even enjoy the power they have over us.
‘Such relationships can last for years without us noticing, but they will wear us down over time.’
How to tell if your friend doesn’t like you
Psychologist Emma Kenny shares the tell-tale signs that reveal if a friend is secretly hating on you.
- Whenever anything good happens to you, they can’t seem to be happy for you, or they’re opposed to celebrating.
- You find out that they’ve been talking about you behind your back.
- They try to humiliate you in front of other people or always make you the punchline of their jokes.
- They appear to derive pleasure in making fun of you.
- They try to exploit you. They may force you to sacrifice other plans to spend time with them, and use phrases like, ‘if you were a good friend, you’d do XYZ.’
- They will try to isolate you from other people in the friendship group – perhaps by spreading rumours – while simultaneously building bridges and making their own circle wider.
- They try to stop you from doing things that could be good for you, such as applying for a promotion at work.
- If they seem envious or jealous of you – these are not the traits of a good friend.
Hannah* has been best friends with Sofia* since the pair met in primary school. Now in their late 30s, Hannah tells Metro.co.uk that she believes her friend doesn’t actually like her.
‘It’s got the point that I dread meeting up with her,’ says Hannah. ‘She seems to enjoy making me feel bad. I know that she’ll say something that makes me feel rubbish about myself.’
The friends met when they were just teenagers. Hannah explains: ‘Sofia was really popular in school. She was blonde, tanned and slim – and now, decades later, that’s still her ultimate definition of beauty and status.
‘But I’m the opposite to her. I’m a size 18 with red hair. In her head, I don’t think she can get her around the fact that I can have a loving husband, wonderful friends and an active social life, but look the way I do.’
Hannah says Sofia will constantly point out their different sizes.
She says: ‘I was once showing her a new dress, and she commented that she had something similar, “but not in a size 18, obviously”.
‘And once on holiday, she was shocked to see that I didn’t have belly rolls, but added: “it’s probably because you’re so wide, the fat spreads.”
‘Confession: Everything she does irritates me’
Esha*, 32, from Birmingham, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I met Louisa* two years ago. I’d just been through a horrible breakup and it was a really difficult time.
‘Louisa had her fair share of relationship horror stories, and we seemed to bond over those experiences.
‘But as I came to terms with what happened to me, I tried to look to the positive side of life. I spent more time with friends and took advantage of all that living in a big city has to offer.
‘Meanwhile, Louisa was as pessimistic as ever – and that seemed to seep into all areas of her life.
‘If we met up after she’d had a stressful day at work, she’d be rude and snappy, and give lengthy monologues about how she was going to quit.
‘It’s never enough that she’s in a bad mood – everyone else has to be in one too.
‘Gradually over time the realisation sunk in: I don’t actually like her.
‘And I’ve noticed that being friends with her has brought out a bad side to my personality.
‘I talk about Louisa behind her back, and anything she does irritates me to the point where I find it hard to be happy for her wins in life.
‘That’s not the person I want to be, but I can’t seem to stop myself.
‘I know I shouldn’t be friends with her, but I feel like I’m trapped.’
‘Each time I tell myself she doesn’t mean it, and she doesn’t realise how much her words hurt – but I’m not sure how long I can keep making excuses for her.’
The amount of money the friends earn is also a cause of contention.
Hannah says: ‘We lived together in our mid-20s, when we both worked for peanuts. We wouldn’t dream of getting a takeaway or booking a city break.
‘But since then I’ve climbed up the career ladder a bit and, with no kids, I can afford to go on holiday a few times a year.
‘But if I ever tell Sofia about my plans, she can never be excited for me.
‘She once told me that she and her husband had decided I must be an escort to afford my lifestyle. There was just no need.
‘I think we’ll always be friends because we have a history – I’ve known her for longer than I haven’t – but I have to keep her at arm’s length to protect my own mental health.
‘I wish she’d just accept the fact that she’s doesn’t actually like being around me. It’d be easier for us both.’
Stephen, author of Think Like A Therapist: Six Life-Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life, says you can spot a toxic friend by asking yourself some questions.
He says: ‘Think about your own expectations of your friendships.
‘Firstly, do you put up with lies and half-truths from your friends or feel like you’re their back-up plan?
‘If so, raise your expectations and put your energy into those relationships that are genuine and truly respectful of you.
‘Next, do you ever feel that your friends only love you if you are the person that they want you to be? Friends should love you just as you are and be pleased when good things happen to you.
‘Finally, do you expect your friends to be interested and caring of you? Do you feel that your friends try to see things from your point of view? Or do they try to convince you to see things in the same way as they do? Friends should cherish you and how you see things.
‘Put your energies into cultivating true friendships and beware of toxic friends.’
And if you do realise you’ve got a frienemy, psychologist Emma Kenny says there are a few options available to you.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘You need to decide whether you’re dealing with someone who is inherently toxic, or if they’re just deeply insecure.
‘If it’s the later, let them know how you’re feeling, and see if they change their ways.
‘If you want to get a clean break from the friendship, treat it like a romantic break-up. Tell the person why this relationship isn’t working for either of you, and that it’s time to move on from it.
‘You might choose to slowly phase a friend out if you don’t want the confrontation of a face-to-face chat. But I would advise to confront the situation, and simply explain why the friendship needs to end.’
And what about if you’re the toxic friend? Emma has some advice for you too.
She says: ‘The fact that you’ve recognised you’re being a bad friend is a good sign.
‘Use this opportunity to change your behaviour, and become the friend that you wish to be.
‘It’s also okay if a relationship has become outdated. Time moves on and you simply might not enjoy spending time with someone anymore.
‘That’s fine, but it’s not an excuse to make someone miserable. Again, talk to your friend about it, and figure out what’s best for both of you moving forward.’
*Names have been changed.
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