1. You get really stressed out about what you’re going to wear around them.
You have planned and rejected outfits multiple times before going to a simple brunch or coffee date and, even though you would never admit it, might have even bought a new item of clothing just to look perfectly fashionable and put-together for a night out. And the weird thing is, no matter how much time or effort you’ve put into crafting the perfect look, you never actually feel attractive or stylish. You just feel like an idiot.
2. You heavily edit your personality when you’re around them.
There is the version of you who is completely natural, happy, and full of the kind of lame jokes that only your real friends actually enjoy. Then there is the version when you are with your toxic friend, which is basically The Real You minus all of the things that you make you original. You don’t talk about weird things, you don’t make cheesy jokes, and you are a perfectly neutral (and acceptable) friend to go out with. You tailor yourself down to the kind of person you are on a particularly casual job interview — friendly, talkative, but still very much in control of everything you’re doing. It’s exhausting.
3. The levels of communication are heavily disproportionate.
For every 10 texts/emails/Facebook messages/Gchats you initiate, they send about one. If that. And yes, you have counted.
4. You pretend like they’re more funny than they are.
Sometimes you catch yourself laughing and piggybacking on one of their jokes, and you’re overwhelmed with the realization that, hey, they’re actually not that funny and the only reason you’re going along with it is to gain their approval. You have fake-laughed at more jokes than you would like to admit, and have been uncomfortable with some of their offensive ideas of “humor”but have said nothing because you didn’t want to come off as “uptight.”
5. If they want to do something, you will ditch whatever else you had going on.
And it’s awful, too, because you’ve blown off cool people and fun things because this person decided to magically appear in your life unexpectedly.
6. You find yourself desperate for their approval.
No matter how degrading it is in practice, there is a part of you that always gets completely giddy when they show you a real sign of affection or approval. It feels, in many ways, like you’ve won something or passed some sort of test that you’d been taking for the entire duration of your friendship. While other, more healthy friends, can shower you with this kind of approval and you will let it roll off your back, a small word of encouragement from them and you are floating on a cloud of your own satisfaction.
7. When they make a judgment about you, it crushes you inside.
You try to play it off, because you don’t want to seem all sensitive and humorless around them, but it totally ruins your day. They make a snide, offhand remark, and you go over and over it in your head for the next few days because you never even doubt that it must be completely true.
8. You don’t eat normally in front of them.
You get all weird and picky when you’re with them, and even if you’re really hungry, you’re not going to attack your lunch Cookie Monster-style like you would with a real friend, because you don’t want them to think of you in a gluttonous way. With them, you are very in control of your actions, even if it means you’re going to listlessly pick away at a kale salad when all you really want is to shove your face directly into a box of fried chicken.
9. They make you feel like you’re not a cool person.
Which is weird, because you’re normally not the kind of person to divide people into “cool” or “not cool,” you just kind of like people for who they are. But with this person, you find yourself obsessed with the idea of social status and likability to the point that it clouds your actual perspective of “whether or not I enjoy hanging out with this person.” No matter how much actual joy you get out of your time together, you are always left feeling as though you have gained some level of social currency by being around them.
10. You feel like nothing will ever be good enough for them.
When we achieve things in our life, it’s natural to have that select handful of people you really hope will be impressed. Sometimes it’s a parent, sometimes it’s a partner, sometimes it’s a friend. But the sneaky thing about the toxic friend is that, no matter how many successes you rack up or how many positive life changes you go through, you will never get that warm and fuzzy feeling of “Hey, they are proud of me, and I am happy to have shared that with them.” It always just feels like another rung up on a ladder which has no discernible end to it. They might give you an offhand congrats, but you know that you’re still not good enough for them on some level.
11. You had one person in mind throughout this whole list.
And you know they are objectively terrible for your mental health, but you’re totally going to get excited about it the next time they reach out to you.