Think back to your early high school days. Were they full of braces, glasses, and bad skin? Now imagine being the only one of your friends going through this awkward transition to young adulthood. My good-looking friends, seemingly only affected by the fun stuff that puberty brings, seriously damaged my self-esteem—and a lot of the time, they didn’t even realize it.
They were extroverts. I’m very much an introvert. I’ve learned to embrace the beauty of this trait as I’ve gotten older, but as a high schooler, I was constantly out of my element. For some reason, I gravitated toward those who were outgoing which only seemed to make me more reserved. These friends basked in the attention. I, on the other hand, wish we could’ve all gone unseen.
They were boy crazy. Now don’t get me wrong—I was boy crazy too, but this became the sole focus of our friendship. Being the most awkward in the group certainly had its disadvantages, especially in this department. It’s not so fun when you and all of your friends chase boys and you’re the only one who doesn’t catch any.
They were all about looks. My friends were genuinely pretty. I’d say I do alright but I had a lot of things working against me back then. My skin is fair, sensitive, and at that time prone to breaks outs. With boys being such a high priority to most in our group, all of us had to look good. All. The. Time. This, of course, took much more work for me to accomplish. What if So-and-So was going to be at the party? Makeup was definitely not optional. We always straightened our hair and we had to buy new outfits for every occasion. These weren’t spoken rules, of course—we all just did as the majority did. Ugh.
They were overly critical. Always and of everything. From the way I applied mascara to the way I laughed, I couldn’t do anything right. Constantly feeling inept wears a person down. I hated feeling that way but at the same time, I was kind of just happy to be accepted—even if it was who they were making me be that was accepted.
They needed constant validation. I became the cheerleader in my small circle of friends. Oh, he totally likes you. Ew, you’re so much prettier than her. Your hair looks fantastic today. OMG, I’m in love with those shoes! I suppose I didn’t mind giving out compliments, even if I wasn’t always telling the truth. I enjoyed making others feel good about themselves, especially in regard to their appearance. As they bruised my ego, I continued to inflate theirs.
They were manipulative. Being the shy and awkward girl that I was, I admit to being all too easy to manipulate. I longed to belong and my friends knew this. I’d do just about anything that was asked of me, which often meant putting my priorities last and the needs of the group first.
They talked behind my back. Growing up, my mom used to say, “Anyone who talks about other people behind their backs with you will surely talk about you behind your back.” Not me, I thought. Sure, they might gossip about each other, but not me. I brushed off my mom’s advice until one day I heard it happen with my own ears.
They made fun of me in front of others. I like to think I have a decent sense of humor. I’ve always been a person who likes making other people laugh. I find it funny to be self-deprecating. However, just because I can poke fun at myself doesn’t mean you can. I often became the butt of the joke, especially to make guys laugh. No embarrassing story was off-limits. I started to dread going out and doing things with my friends. If I happened to embarrass myself, I didn’t want them to use it as material later on.
They told me I was too sensitive. I didn’t speak up all that often in my circle of “friends” but when I did, I earned the label of being overly sensitive. I convinced myself that they were probably right. It was a good trick, making me think I was the one with the problem. They carried on in their usual ways and I made even more of an effort to keep my mouth shut.
They never got to know me. In some ways, I think this convinced me that I wasn’t worth getting to know. My job was to support the group, stay quiet, and provide some comic relief. My job was not to open up and share secrets. As far as they were concerned, I didn’t have my own favorite band or favorite book. I had their favorite band, their favorite book.
They had low self-esteem. Even though I do hold these toxic friendships responsible for damaging a good chunk of my self-esteem, I realize they were damaged long before I was. Most grew up with very materialistic parents. I overheard the mom of one of my friends say that she looked ugly without makeup. We were only 14 or so at the time, so it’s really no wonder my friends were the way they were.
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