How can you tell the difference between a true friend and someone who simply tells you what she thinks you want to hear? Even adults struggle with this challenge. Knowing whom to trust in life is not always easy. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way you learn to identify a true friend is by being burned a couple of times by a false one.
In 3rd grade, I met Jeanne. She was shy, smart, funny and seemingly kind. I was the new girl, eager to make a friend and somewhat shy myself. We quickly became BFFs. For the first few months, everything was great. We sat together at lunch, played on the playground and partnered up for school projects as often as possible. On weekends, we rode our bikes together and had slumber parties. I was certain I had a friend for life, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Something began to shift when I met Jeanne’s friend, Betty, who attended a different school. Instantly, I could sense that Betty didn’t like me, and frankly, there was something about her that did not sit well with me either. There was just something insincere about her cheery “hi”. When Jeanne was with Betty they would exclude me entirely while they spent hours recounting stories from their past. (They had known each other since pre-K). They would gossip about other girls, and laugh at things I didn’t think were funny. Sometimes Jeanne would ditch me, telling me she couldn’t spend the night at my house because her parents said “no.” I’d usually find out later that she had slept at Betty’s house. This happened several times, and it always left me feeling angry, hurt and confused. I couldn’t understand why Jeanne was acting that way. Why was she being so mean?
Jeanne and I went to school together through high school. Throughout the years, she kept me guessing. She ran hot and cold, acting very interested in me for months at a time, then suddenly becoming distant or outright neglectful and mean. I don’t know why I kept her in my life for so long. Her actions were not those of a trustworthy person. It was evident that our friendship was not a priority for her. Yet, part of me truly enjoyed the time we did spend together. We always had a good time when she was in her nice phase.
Perhaps I was desperate to feel like I had a close friend, or perhaps I thought she needed me more than she communicated. Whatever the reason, I allowed her to manipulate my emotions for too long. I kept hoping she would mature and realize what a good friend I was.
In college, I finally I cut her loose. I couldn’t trust her friendship, so there was no reason to keep her in my life, allowing her to hurt me over and over again. Part of me was sad to let her go…sad to see she had not changed, and very sad that she did not value me. But cutting my tie to her was the heathy choice for me.
Much later in my life, I would come to understand why Jeanne was incapable of being the friend I needed and deserved. To this day, I feel disappointed about how things turned out. Yes, Jeanne should have been a better friend to me, but I should have loved myself enough to let go of that toxic relationship years before I did.
I’m asking you to treat yourself better than I treated myself. The friends you choose should be people who make you feel valued, supported and loved. We don’t need a zillion friends. Sometimes just one or two people who care deeply about us are enough.
How can you recognize if a friend is trustworthy and if your friendship is genuine? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel uncomfortable, awkward or nervous around a person who claims to be my friend?
- Do I feel that my friend judges me about my appearance or hobbies or anything else?
- Do I find myself compromising my values or changing myself in any way to be more like the person my friend wants me to be?
- Do I feel let down a lot by broken promises or other hurtful behavior?
- Does my “friend” talk about me behind my back?
- Does my friend exclude me when she is with other friends?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to begin to distance yourself from the person who makes you feel uncomfortable. Remain kind, but be true to yourself. Friends make each other feel good inside. Remember that.