8 signs someone isn’t your real friend, according to psychology

Sometimes, friendships can be as complicated, if not more, than romantic relationships.

You think you’ve found a real friend, someone who’s got your back, someone you can trust. But there’s this nagging feeling at the back of your mind that something is just not right.

Sometimes it’s not even a big blowout event that makes you question the authenticity of your friendship. It’s just this gradual realization that perhaps they’re not the friend they claim to be.

And that’s why I’m here—to help you identify the signs that someone isn’t your real friend, using psychological insights as our guide.

This won’t be an easy journey but acknowledging the truth is the first step towards finding genuine friendships that last a lifetime.

1) They’re never there when you need them

Friendship is a two-way street. It’s giving and receiving—it’s being there for each other when you need to be.

But what if you start noticing a pattern where your friend is never available when you need them?

They always seem to have an excuse or reason for their absence, but when they need you, they expect you to drop everything and be there for them.

This can be a clear sign of a one-sided friendship – which isn’t really a friendship at all.

True friends are there for each other through thick and thin. If your friend only shows up when they need something or when it suits them, then maybe it’s time to question the authenticity of the friendship.

2) They downplay your accomplishments

When I experience a win, whether it’s small or big, I look forward to sharing it with my friends. Their support, their excitement, their genuine happiness for my success – all these make the victory even sweeter.

But what if instead of cheering you on, your friend downplays your achievements? Or worse, they turn it into something about them.

I’ve been there. I’ve shared my joy with a friend, only to have them respond with something along the lines of “Oh, that’s great. But did I tell you about the time when I…”

It’s disheartening. It makes you feel small and insignificant.

True friends celebrate each other’s successes. They don’t use it as an opportunity to shift the spotlight back on themselves, to belittle your achievements, or as a way to one-up you.

3) They’re always trying to one-up you

You know that person who always has a better story, a better achievement, or just something ‘better’ every time you share something about your life?

I had a friend like that.

Every conversation felt like a competition. If I talked about a new project I was excited about, they had a bigger one. If I shared my holiday plans, they had been to a more exotic destination.

It was exhausting and honestly, quite demoralizing.

This one-upping behavior often stems from insecurity and a need for validation. But that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

A true friend doesn’t feel the need to compete with you. They are happy for your achievements and successes, and they don’t use every conversation as an opportunity to prove their worth. 

4) They disregard your feelings

I remember a time when I was going through a rough patch. My emotions were all over the place, I was feeling really low and just wanted someone to talk to.

I confided in a friend, hoping for some comfort, understanding, maybe some advice. Instead, they brushed off my feelings as if they were unimportant. They told me to “just get over it” and “stop being so dramatic”.

That was the moment I realized that this person didn’t really care about my feelings or my well-being. They didn’t respect my emotions or take them seriously.

A real friend validates your feelings. They understand that everyone has ups and downs and they’re there to support you during your low moments. They don’t dismiss your emotions or make you feel guilty for having them. 

5) They spread rumors about you

signs your friend may be a narcissist 8 signs someone isn’t your real friend, according to psychology

People who gossip about others are often insecure and use this behavior as a way to feel better about themselves.

I recall a friend who would constantly spread rumors about me. It was always something trivial, but it made me uncomfortable. I felt betrayed every time I heard about a new rumor that they had started.

Instead of confronting me directly or discussing their issues with me, they chose to talk behind my back, which is a clear sign of disrespect and a lack of trust.

Real friends don’t create or spread rumors about each other. They communicate openly and honestly, they respect each other’s privacy, and they don’t engage in behavior that could potentially harm the other person’s reputation.

6) They don’t respect your boundaries

Everyone has certain boundaries in their life, lines that shouldn’t be crossed. I believe respect for these boundaries is fundamental to any healthy relationship.

There was a time when a friend of mine constantly overstepped my boundaries. They’d show up unannounced at my home, go through my personal things, and even make decisions for me without asking. It felt like an invasion of my personal space and autonomy.

People who disregard others’ boundaries often lack empathy and understanding. They don’t fully grasp the concept of personal space and respect.

True friends respect each other’s boundaries. They understand that everyone has their own space, physically and emotionally, and they respect that. 

7) They make you feel bad about yourself

In my life, I’ve come across people who have a knack for making others feel bad about themselves.

I had a friend who would always point out my flaws, criticize my decisions, and make negative comments that left me feeling inadequate and insecure.

It took me a while, but I eventually realized that this wasn’t what friendship should feel like. A friend is someone who builds you up, not tears you down.

Psychology explains that people often project their own insecurities onto others. That’s likely what my friend was doing. But understanding the reason behind their behavior didn’t make it any less hurtful.

A real friend encourages you, believes in you, and helps you see the best in yourself. 

8) They’re not happy for your success

There’s something I’ve learned in my friendships, and it’s possibly the most important lesson: A true friend is genuinely happy for your success.

I had a friend who would always downplay my achievements or success. It could be anything from a promotion at work to a personal goal I have achieved.

Instead of sharing my joy, they would find ways to belittle my accomplishment or shift the focus back onto themselves.

Psychologically, this behavior is often driven by jealousy or insecurity. But knowing that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

A real friend is your biggest fan. They rejoice in your achievements, they encourage your growth, and they are genuinely happy when you succeed.

If you notice that your friend doesn’t share in your happiness or tries to diminish your success, it could be a sign that they’re not truly your friend.

The takeaway

Friendships should be a source of support, joy and mutual respect. If you find that a friendship is causing more harm than good, it might be time to reconsider its place in your life.

Start by observing how you feel after interactions with this friend. Are you left feeling drained or uplifted? Do you feel respected and valued? Is there mutual give-and-take?

Once you start noticing these patterns, consider having an open conversation with your friend about your concerns. Sometimes, people aren’t even aware of their behaviors until they are pointed out.

However, if things don’t change despite your efforts, it might be time to distance yourself. Letting go of a friendship can be tough, but it’s crucial to prioritize your mental and emotional health.

As the famous quote goes, “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” It’s okay if some friendships don’t last forever. Each one teaches us valuable lessons about ourselves and others.

Picture of Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair

Ava Sinclair is a former competitive athlete who transitioned into the world of wellness and mindfulness. Her journey through the highs and lows of competitive sports has given her a unique perspective on resilience and mental toughness. Ava’s writing reflects her belief in the power of small, daily habits to create lasting change.

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.