I have had a falling out with my best friend. We have not spoken for weeks now and I am not sure what to do. You see, as much as I miss my friend, I have come to see that she is a very damaging influence in my life, regularly causing me a great deal of unnecessary drama.
There are many examples that I could address here, but what feels to be the last straw for me occurred following a recent event attended by my family and friends. My friend posted some very unflattering photos of me on social media, of which hundreds of people have since seen. I asked her to take the images down, yet she refused. Instead, she laughed and shared them on further social media sites. I do not consider myself a vain person, but I must admit, the fact that she deliberately and knowingly posted these pictures in an attempt to humiliate me is very upsetting. It has also affected my self-confidence, which I guess is the intention behind her actions. It makes me uncomfortable that someone feels that they have the right to post my image without my consent. I want to have people around me that I can trust and this sort of behaviour makes me feel very low. It caused me to reflect about other moments in which she has proven to be a bad friend, of which there are many.
I find myself wondering if I am right to feel this way? Am I, as my friend has suggested on multiple occasions, overreacting? I suppose my question is, when, is enough, truly enough? When is it the right thing to do to walk away from a toxic friendship?
Whilst we all know that a series of unflattering pictures neither define nor encapsulate who you are, there is no doubt that our society has become obsessive with how people look. Our self-worth often becomes entangled in this constructed web of perception and judgement, especially when the posting of such images are beyond our control. Social media platforms have become vehicles for how we project ourselves and unfortunately, as you yourself are experiencing, how others wish to project you. The relationship between social media and the way in which we perceive ourselves is becoming increasingly complex. Whilst social media can be utilised as a positive tool to project body image and enhance our self-esteem, it can also be an incredibly negative and damaging one. Be mindful Hannah that your well-being is your paramount concern here. In answer to your questions, yes, you are right to feel this way and no, you are not overreacting. There is an element of power at play here which is wholly undeserved and indeed the act of a toxic friend.
But what exactly is a toxic friend and how do they make us feel? Toxic friendships can simmer beneath the surface for years, such is the level of their deception. Toxic friends often harbour a hunger for drama which can lead you to feel exhausted and frustrated. In turn, their actions can lead you to doubt yourself or hinder your own self-worth. They may disrespect personal boundaries and, as in this case, thrive in your discomfort. Your so-called friend has publicly shamed you and continues to do so. What does she gain from this action? Why does making you feel bad make her feel good? Toxic friends may incite unwanted competition or attempt to copy you. In fact, jealousy is often a key driving force behind such toxic behaviour and it can often manifest itself in imitation. A toxic friend may attempt to copy what you do or what you have in order to lead a similar life to yours.
The fact that the unflattering images have been posted with intent to cause you embarrassment, it may be worth considering whether your friend is threatened by the way that you look or by any of your personal successes that she may be jealous about. She may be having a tough time in her own life and her behaviour may be an attempt to make herself feel better about her own looks or insecurities. Whilst this does not excuse her actions, it does provide insight as to her motivation and it is something that you could explore together if you want to work to save your friendship moving forward.
I say if warily, however, as a toxic friend should always be handled with caution and you are absolutely under no obligation to keep this person in your life moving forward. If your friend revels in conjuring negativity, as well as putting you down in front of others, it is important to shape your perspective so that you see that her actions are everything to do with her and nothing to do with you. It is, therefore, not your place to make amends. It is for your friend to apologize, to take down the images and to ask for your forgiveness. You must also acknowledge the photos for what they are in the grand scheme of your life Hannah, insignificant images, that reflect only upon your friend’s spite or resentment. We can be sure that whatever her intention is to post such images, it is not with your best interests at heart. Let it reaffirm that this person is not acting with love or respect for your friendship. Let it reinforce for you your wish to be surrounded by people who lift you positively.
If you find that your confidence and self-esteem has been deeply impacted by this situation and that you continue to feel low, do not hesitate to seek counselling support. Ultimately, Hannah, you are absolutely right in your desire to be surrounded by people that you can trust. The last thing any of us need is a supposed friend plotting our downfall behind the scenes. Remember that it is we alone who determine our self-worth and nobody else. Enough is truly enough when you say it is. Let your intuition guide you as to what happens next and as to whether you chose to walk away from this toxic friendship for good.
Wishing you strength and positivity,