Friends are always full of sage advice and sweet comments. That's one reason we keep them around. But sometimes, even the most well-meaning friends can say things that mess with your head, fill you with doubt, or throw off your self-esteem.
For a few quick examples, think about that time your best friend admitted to disliking your new partner. Or the time your roommate called your new job "questionable." While they're certainly entitled to their opinions, comments like these have a way of making you second guess everything.
That's because we value our friends, and therefore value their opinions — however accidentally rude or negative they may be. In fact, "the closer you are to someone ... the more their approval means to you," relationship expert Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, tells Bustle. That's why a tiny comment can stick with your for days.
Some comments can even start to affect your confidence. "Negative comments can erode self-esteem, especially in areas where you are feeling vulnerable or insecure about yourself," Milrad says. (Hello, new job?) That's why it's important to recognize ways your friends can affect your mental health. Even if they don't mean to shake you up, it can happen. Read on for a few more examples, as well as tips on what to do.
1. They Always Have Something To Say About Your Outfit
Of course it's not the end of the world if your friend doesn't like your shirt. But be wary if he or she constantly critiques your look, or if their "advice" seems more like thinly veiled criticism. As behavioral specialist Dr. Cindy Brown says, "When [people] comment on each other's clothes ... this can be very shaming and affect one's self image and self-esteem." If that seems to be the case, don't be afraid to let your friend know these types of comments are not OK.
2. They Don't Like Your Partner And Always Let You Know
If you were dating someone truly horrible, I'd hope your friends would step in and voice their concerns. But there's a big difference between looking out for you, and filling your head with needless worry. "Although they might very well have some insightful comments, the sharing [can make] you doubt your relationship," says Milrad. If you're happy with your partner, then it makes sense why this would mess with your head.
3. They Only Speak In Blanket Statements
Some people get in the habit of speaking in blanket statements, psychologist Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, PhD, tells me. These are "all or nothing" statements, such as "all men are jerks" or "all bosses are horrible." Apart from being wildly untrue, blanket statements can affect your mental health by casting the world in a negative light. If your friend does this on the regular, don't be surprised if it starts to affect your mental health.
4. They Joke About Your Sexual Experiences
Friends like to wax poetic about their sexual experiences, and that's totally OK. But if the convo turns from sharing fun stories to a game of comparisons, it may be time to change the subject. As Brown tells me, one upping each other or shaming each other (perhaps regarding how many partners you have or have not had) can really affect your self-esteem. And since there is no "normal" when it comes to sexual experiences, these types of comments are not something you should have to deal with.
5. They Question Your Career Choices
While you may want to factor your friend's advice into your life (he knows you best, after all) you definitely don't want his words to sway your career choices. Even a quick comment about money, or a question about "where the job will take you," can send you into a spiral of doubt. So don't let him get to your head.
6. They Don't Like It When You Disagree
Part of being in a friendship is agreeing with each other (seemingly all the time). But it's also healthy to be able to disagree. That's why it doesn't feel good when a friend can't accept that you're different. And, it's even worse when he or she tries to subliminally "pull" you into their way of thinking, Bais tells me.
7. They Never Say Anything Nice
If your friend can't seem to say anything nice, not only will it wear on your self-esteem, but it can also make you feel insecure in the relationship, Milrad tells me. Since we all want to win the approval of our friends, there's nothing more exhausting than feeling like she's always mad.
8. They Seem To Be A Bit Jealous
When good news comes your way, your friends should be all sorts of excited. So it can really hurt when they slip up and reveal their jealousy, psychologist Dr. Ganz Ferrance tells me. Not only is it negative, but being made to feel bad about your successes can negatively affect your mental health.
9. They Comment On Your Mental Health
Again, if something is truly wrong, your friends should run to help. Sometimes, however, this "help" can be a bit misguided — especially when it comes in the form of mental health misunderstandings. Sometimes friends don't say the right thing, and it can really sting.
10. They Call You Out Online
If your friend overshares online, it can leave you wondering when you'll be next. Will he accidentally share something private, or will she say something unflattering about your new photo? If you find yourself feeling anxious about what he or she might do, it may be time to sit them down and lay some ground rules.
11. They Only Give Back-Handed Compliments
Implying that you'd be amazing "if only you did this" is one version of a back-handed compliment, Ferrance tells me. So keep an eye out for friends who dish them out — especially if it happens all the time. "It's not the individual comments that matter as much as the cumulative effect of what you're exposed to," Ganz says.
And that's true for all of the above comments. If your friend says over lunch that she hopes your "questionable" job goes well, no big deal. But if you're experiencing a deluge of hurtful comments — and they're affecting your mental health — then it's time to sit your friend down for a chat.
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