Month: February 2017

Young friends laying on the grass in a park, having fun.

The Difference Between Good Friendship and Unhealthy Friends

Friends can be one of our strongest support systems. In some cases, friends may even be as close as family. Friends can offer a shoulder to cry on, or words of inspiring wisdom to help us get back on our feet. However, not all friendships are equal. While there are those that allow us to grow and flourish there are others that may be hindering our personal development. Such relationships are toxic and usually lead to more problems than solutions for all those involved. Because of this, it is usually a good idea to take a look at those closest to us and the relationships in our lives and determine which are truly helping us, and which are causing unnecessary pain.

Quality over Quantity – A Lesson in Friendship

Good friendships are ones that are authentic and true. Good friends provide us with intimacy, allowing us to feel free to be ourselves. In a good friendship, we feel as though we are understood, accepted, and appreciated. Through these relationships we feel validated and we know that we are cared for, regardless of what each day may bring. Overall, our friendships can have a strong impact on our well-being, as many previous studies have shown. However, on the other hand, negative personal relationships can cause interpersonal distress. This is one of the biggest reasons that many individuals seek help from a therapist or counselor in the first place. The therapist, then, provides healing through empathetic support and guidance in a trusting relationship. The same relationship the client is lacking with friends.

The Consequences of Bad Friendships

Bad friendships lack genuine caring and can lead to the development of various mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. They can also lead to a lack of confidence in other relationships, thereby resulting in less trust and more conflict. Individuals who have had bad experiences in friendships have been shown to have difficulty establishing and maintaining intimacy or communicating how they feel effectively. Perhaps in their bad friendships, they were frequently shut out or silenced when they tried expressing themselves. This can lead to a residual silence which carries over into other interpersonal connections.

When we come out of a bad relationship, including friendships, we might feel less responsive or willing to talk things through, regardless of their importance to ourselves or those close to us. We may also feel as though our thoughts and opinions don’t matter or that we shouldn’t trouble anyone else. However, expressing oneself is a necessary and healthy part of any relationship, this includes when we’re experiencing negative emotions, so long as we’re not attempting to take those feelings out on others in a destructive manner.

Signs to Look for in Good Friendships

When determining whether or not a friendship is actually good or healthy, there are several questions that come to mind. Below are a list of key characteristics we should be on the lookout for when deciding whether our friendships are actually having a positive impact on our lives, or are causing unwarranted pain and stress.

1. Are They Genuine?

The first and arguably one of the most important things to look out for when it comes to friendships are whether or not the individuals whom we call friends are actually genuine. Friends do not frequently lie to one another. A good, healthy friendship is founded upon openness, honesty, and authenticity. Good friends also make one another a priority rather than a back-up plan. If we feel as though we aren’t valued by certain friends, then it is likely time to seek new friendships that give us the respect and appreciation we truly deserve.

2. Do They Value Me?

Building off of the previous question, good friends make their friends feel valued. In any good relationship, we are loved for who we are, not who we are wanted to be. This goes for friendships as well. Good friends love and respect their friends for their true selves, not some idealized image or desired outcome.

3. Are They Interested?

Yet another highly important question to consider is whether or not one’s friends actually care. True friends are interested in our happiness and success. They want to celebrate with us when things go well, and support us when they don’t. Bad friends, on the other hand, don’t seem to care either way. They also have a tendency to put their perspective above anyone else’s, and are more likely to try to make us see things their way than listen to our own point-of-view.

Can Therapy Help with Friendships?

Therapy can be a good way to regain a sense of trust and support that may be lacking in our personal relationships, but it cannot fix those relationships single-handedly. While our therapist can help guide us on how to communicate effectively with those closest to us, we must ultimately decide on the course of action that will be of the greatest benefit. In some cases, this might mean ending a friendship where we aren’t being valued or respected. Our therapist can help us through this difficult decision-making process and provide the empathetic understanding needed to overcome any personal struggle.

To talk with a Boca Raton therapist about improving friendships and other relationships, call our office to schedule an appointment @ 800-378-9354.


Black and white picture of a man putting his hand onto his own shadow in disgust.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings About Ourselves

Everyone has insecurities. As such, it’s not unusual for someone to have the occasional bad day when it comes to their self-esteem. When faced with these days, remind yourself of all of the qualities and traits that you should feel proud of. Everyone is entitled to an off-day, once in awhile. When these days grow more frequent, it may be a sign of some underlying trouble. We are most often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. The negative thoughts and feelings that we save for ourselves are seldom something we would ever say to someone else. So why don’t we care just as much when the pain is self-inflicted? When it comes to scrutiny or harsh expectations, we are often our own worst enemies. Try to mend the relationship with yourself and turn animosity into generosity. In other words, learn to be your own best friends.

Negative Feelings Can Lead to Self-Abuse

Negative feelings about ourselves rarely go unaccompanied by self-abuse. In fact, clinical assistant professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Seth Gillihan, explains that “negative thoughts and feeling about ourselves often go along with treating ourselves badly. For example, we might verbally abuse ourselves, deprive ourselves of sleep, eat poorly, or abuse substances that harm our bodies.” We may never think of harming one of our close friends or even an acquaintance, and yet when we feel negatively about ourselves we become much more likely to administer self-abuse. We are no more deserving of such treatment than anyone else, and yet we somehow feel as though we are. Negative mindsets such as these can have a harmful effect on one’s health, happiness, and well-being. We deserve to be happy and healthy just as we would hope for our friends. In this way, we must learn to view ourselves similarly. As a friend, not a foe.

We might think to ourselves that if we just ignore our negative thoughts and feelings that we have about ourselves, they will go away. This is almost never the case. Many people try to compensate for their negative thoughts about self by being overly nice to others. Placing emphasis on other people can mean neglecting our own wants and needs, thereby contributing, not easing our bad spirits. Dr. Gillihan says that “we might be very considerate toward everyone in our lives except for the person who inhabits our own skin.” The problem is learning to view ourselves as someone of value. We are just as valuable as those closest to us, we just need to learn to see this for ourselves. Our friends and loved ones know this to be true, which is why they want what’s best for us. We are worth knowing and loving. This can be difficult to remember when we’re too busy talking down to ourselves or acting as our own abusers. No one deserves to suffer an abusive relationship, especially if they are fulfilling that role themselves.

Negative Self-Treatment: A Vicious Cycle

Dr. Gillihan provides the following example to illustrate how negative self-treatment can affect one’s self-esteem and perception of self: “imagine being in a relationship with a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner who never asks how you’re doing. (Hopefully this is not your reality.) Imagine if this person never attended to your needs or did anything nice for you, and if s/he did, it was begrudgingly and with minimal effort.” Such treatment is almost guaranteed to have a negative impact on one’s perception of their own self-worth, which will only worsen the treatment in question. The same logic applies to self-inflicted negativity. When we treat ourselves badly, we are only contributing to the problem of our own negative emotions and low self-esteem. The only way to break the cycle is to realize that we deserve better. We deserve to be happy with ourselves and in our lives.

Fake Self-Love Till You Make It

How can we break out of this dangerous cycle of negative thoughts about ourselves? Dr. Gillihan recommends that while changing thoughts can be helpful to some extent, the way to see real results is through changing our behavior. He explains: “even if we don’t feel it, we can choose to act as though we love ourselves. Act as if you’re someone who matters. We can, in fact, fake it, and the feelings often follow.” In other words, “fake it ‘till you make it.” This old adage holds more truth than we may have previously realized. When we alter our behavior, through reconditioning, we can also alter our mindset. We might start by treating ourselves to a nice lunch, whether at a dining place or homemade. In fact, we might take the time to thoughtfully plan our day, including time for at least one activity we truly enjoy. While running from place to place trying to complete tasks and fulfill obligations it can be easy to neglect ourselves along the way. We should remember to include time for what we want, not just what we need, and in doing so, build positive emotions towards ourselves through what we like. And perhaps most importantly, we should surround ourselves with those who help us become the best versions of ourselves, not those who bring us down. After all, relationships can have a huge impact on our happiness and well-being.

At the end of the day, we will always have ourselves. Therefore we must learn to love who we are. We are our own longest-lasting and strongest relationship and this relationship is one worth caring for and nurturing. While it may feel awkward at first, self-love is entirely possible. It doesn’t have to be forced, rather, it can grow organically through regular self-care and kind treatment.

If you’d like to talk to one of our therapists about the negative feelings that you are having about yourself, please call our office @ 800-378-9354.
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