The Friendship Doctor

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Friends Who Make You Feel Bad About Your Neck

A young woman seeks advice on handling friends who mock her appearance.

QUESTION 

Dear Irene,

My friends always seem to point out my flaws. I admit that I have insecurities, but they point things out that I don't even mention. (And no, I never have mentioned anything related to them—they're all beautiful on the outside and I could never say anything like that to them.) 

They'll say I have a big nose or small teeth. I don't know why they do this. Sometimes it seems like they're in a bad mood when they do this so maybe they are just lashing out at me. But it hurts and when I question them about it, they don't say anything or pretend it never happened. They have other friends, but I think they only do this to me. Is there something I'm doing wrong?

Signed,

Maria

 

ANSWER

Hi Maria,

You haven't told me your age but persistent teasing such as this is very childish and immature—and is totally unacceptable behavior at any age. 

Since your friends don't do this to other people, it may be that you are doing something inadvertently that is provoking their criticisms. 

1) You point out that you have some insecurities that you do mention to your friends. Perhaps they think that this gives them license to heap on some more. If you are sensitive to other people criticizing you, try to ease up on being the first one to point out your own flaws.

2) Think about how you react to their comments. When they make negative comments, try ignoring them rather than getting involved in a conversation, especially if you are in a group. This may end the banter.

3) You may want to think about your friendships with these girls/women and speak individually to the ones who are really hurtful in their comments. One-on-one, let them know how you feel. Could they be unaware of the impact of their words? Could they be insensitive people who don't really care about you—and whom you don't really want as friends? People who make you feel badly about yourself are not friends.

I'm so sorry that this is happening to you. But since you are the one on the front line, you will know which of these strategies might work best in your situation.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Irene

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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