How Toxic Friends Affect Our Self-Esteem

July 10, 2013 Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Toxic friendships can destroy your self-esteem. Learn how to identify toxic friends check this list of friendship truths. Don't let toxic friends get to you.

Is it a toxic relationship? Is she a friend or frenemy? It’s a question that many adults and adolescents ask themselves when thinking about those in their social circle. No, it’s not the movie Mean Girls, and sadly, toxic friendships don't necessarily end when you depart high school. Many times, people put up with these toxic friends because they are tough to let go. But in the end, these toxic friends take a huge toll on your self-esteem.

Toxic Friends Destroy Our Self-Esteem

The more time you spend with negative and possibly abusive friends, the more likely your sense of self will feel compromised. You feel worse about yourself during and after your interaction, even a memory of them can bring you down. What keeps even some of the smartest and nicest adults looped into these toxic friendships is falling prey to the idea of what this friend has the capacity to be, or has been in the past (which may have been fantastic) but is no longer the reality. What’s real are your feelings and the bullying you are enduring.

This doesn’t just go for women. Men, too, often have a jerk in the group, that guy who puts others down to appear or feel superior. He, too, has a tribe of buddies but when you step outside of this circle do you notice how insecure they look for being friends with that guy? They appear insecure by association.

Ask yourself, would you ever put a small child in the face of a bully? Of course not. You would shield them or teach them to stand up for themselves. So why do you put up with toxic friends who continue to bully or belittle you? The healthier the friendship, the more self-respect you are showing yourself.

The Truth About Toxic Friends

Toxic friendships can destroy your self-esteem. Learn how to identify toxic friends and check out my list of friendship truths.Remember these truths and ask yourself if your relationships are in alignment with them.

1. A friend who gossips about others will gossip about you.

2. A true friend will never post, email, text, tweet, or put something online to intentionally embarrass or hurt you. A true friend never wants you to be in pain.

3. A true friend treats others the way he/she wants to be treated.

4. A friend who tells you someone else's secrets will tell your secrets too.

5. A true friend apologizes when he/she has hurt someone’s feelings even if it wasn’t on purpose. They don’t make excuses or blame the person whose feelings they hurt.

6. A friend doesn't judge others based on outer appearances. A true friend won’t judge you on your looks; they love you for who you are on the inside.

7. A true friend forgives and talks to you about it when they are having trouble forgiving.

8. A true friend doesn’t make fun of you or tease you about shortcomings. “Just kidding” is never an issue because the intention of a joke is to make others laugh, not cry.

9. A true friend is supportive. They will stand by your side, be your cheerleader, and stick up for you because they know you would do the same for them.

10. True friends are honest and tell you how they feel because they care about your best interests.

If you notice that some of those so-called “close friends” have qualities that are not in alignment with these truths, it may be time to take a hiatus. Sometimes, we don’t have the energy or the self-esteem to talk it out; maybe this is the type of person that just won’t listen.

Start to surround yourself with more positive, loving people. You don’t have to abruptly end or sever ties with toxic friends. Rather, start to become self-aware. Start to check in and see how your self-esteem is higher or lower around certain people and begin listening to logic. Once you are aware of toxic friendships, the easier they are to let fade away.

Emily is the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are.You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

APA Reference
Roberts, E. (2013, July 10). How Toxic Friends Affect Our Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Emily Roberts MA, LPC

Emily is a psychotherapist, she is intensively trained in DBT, she the author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are. You can visit Emily’s Guidance Girl website. You can also find her on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

Not Impressed
June, 29 2019 at 8:28 am

I think this article is very surface level and generic. These are the things our mothers tell us in grade school and high school. But as adults, we gain discernment and understand there are deeper levels to toxicity. This article should address those things.

June, 29 2019 at 1:03 pm

I appreciate the honest feedback on this article. While many people may understand some of these points, they may not have considered others. For this reason, a lot of us will have toxic friends without truly realising it, including the impact that these 'friends' have on our self-esteem. I think a discussion on the deeper levels to toxicity would be very interesting – and is important, as you say – but that would probably best be served by a separate article on the subject. This is something I will think about, so thank you for the food for thought.

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Nancy March
July, 15 2013 at 8:46 pm

I have a mental health friend thats troubling,and I told her things I didnt like that she does to me but she says because of my BPD ,I dont always get my stories straight and my thought processing right ,so she says she didnt do nothing to hurt me and Im lying ,nobody else treats me this way

July, 13 2013 at 1:06 pm

There is an old saying that when you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. I hated it when my father would make this comment. The truth was that down deep, I knew I was not hanging out with the best group of friends. I was hanging around friends at a young age that were unsupervised by their parents, dabbling in drugs and other destructive behaviors. I could not see it at the time. Teenagers are very protective of their friends and if parents are not careful in their approach when addressing their choices of friends, they will more than likely push you further away. Therapy can help parents Lean the effective tools and ways to communicate with their teens about the types of friends they are hanging out with and the harmful effects it can have.

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