Usually, friends are there to tell you the hard truths you can't get anywhere else — the type of advice you'd brush off if it came from your family or partner, but you'd listen to from your BFF. But what if your friends are concern-trolling you? It's one of the most subtle forms of shaming, largely because the criticisms are hidden behind a facade of concern for the person they're directed toward. You know the kind: The unwanted suggestions to go to the gym, the admonishments to wear more modest clothes, and so on. On and offline, concern trolls claim to be on your side, but their actions reflect the opposite.
As a result, concern trolls are easy to miss in the moment; you may not realize you were being judged until hours later, when the implication of their words hits you. In fact, the trolls themselves may not know what they're implying unless you point it out, especially when it comes to things like fat shaming and slut shaming. These behaviors are often so ingrained that even the staunchest feminist falls prey to them at times — so if your friends exhibit any of the following behaviors, give them the benefit of the doubt at first and talk about it. Chances are, you'll both feel better afterward.
That being said, you may want to reconsider your relationship with repeat offenders; if they're more concerned with criticizing you than supporting your decisions, the friendship may be one-sided — and toxic relationships are never fun for anyone.
1. They Tell You To Cover Up More
It's pretty much slut shaming tactic number one, but concern trolls often get away with telling women to dress more modestly by shifting the blame to other people. "I think you look great, but other people will call you slutty," they say. Translation: They're calling you slutty.
2. They "Worry" About Your Sex Life
If your friend is worried about your habit of repeatedly risky sexual activity, their concern may be justified (although your sex life still isn't anyone's business but yours and your partner's). But if a friend admonishes you not to sleep with someone because they won't respect you in the morning, it says more about your friend's opinions of your sex life than your date's.
3. They Give Unwanted Suggestions For Losing Weight
Fat shaming is so firmly entrenched in our culture that this is one of the most common forms of concern trolling. Research has shown that fat shaming doesn't encourage people to lose weight, and extreme weight loss diets are pretty terrible for your health — but you rarely hear people judge those. (Not that we should be judging anyone, of course. Can't we leave other people's life choices alone?) Being overweight isn't synonymous with health problems, nor is being thin morally superior in any way, yet anyone who's plus size is bombarded with judgment couched in pretenses of health concerns.
"You're super beautiful and all, but aren't you worried about your heart?" concern trolls say. "Not that I have a problem with plus size people or anything."
4. They Question Your Diet Choices
If you want to have a second cookie, that's your prerogative — but concern trolls don't quite seem to have the same idea.
"What are you doing? Don't you know how much sugar is in those? Nobody's going to want you if you gain weight — not that I don't think you're beautiful," they say, as if it's any of their business what you eat.
5. They're Always Reminding You What Other People Will Think
Concern trolls find ways to shift the blame for their criticisms: They're not worried about how short your skirt is, but someone else might be. They don't have a problem with your weight, but your doctor will. They are totally OK with that Instagram of your new hobbit feet prosthetic, but other people might think you're weird. Admittedly, that last one might be valid, but if a friend is always framing criticisms in terms of what other people will think, they're just avoiding responsibility for their opinions. Does that sound like a healthy friendship to you?