How To Stand Up To Your Friends When They’re Being Mean To You

Hi Heather,

How do I learn to stand up to my friends? I’m a sophomore in high school, and my best friend has been picking on me for the last year. I know that this will sound dumb, but I’ve been letting her do it because I thought that it would make her feel better about herself because sometimes she has low self-esteem. Recently, however, it has escalated and gotten way past joking. I don’t know how to respond because I would feel really guilty about saying something mean to her. But she makes fun of me in front of everyone, makes me look stupid and is just not being nice. Should I stand up for myself and face the repercussions, or just try to ignore her? Please help.

It was very selfless of you to allow your friend to bring you down so that she could feel better about herself. However, even though I understand that your intentions were good, it may not have been the best idea. Your friend shouldn’t learn that the way to boost her self-esteem is to be mean to others. She also should definitely not be making you feel badly about yourself, no matter what the reason is.

I think you should absolutely stand up for yourself here. Even though this is a touchy topic, there is a way you can do that without being mean. Standing up for yourself doesn’t mean bringing the other person down – it means showing that you are demanding the respect you deserve. You’ve been ignoring her taunting and teasing for a while now, and it’s obviously not working or making the situation any better. In fact, it has only made things worse. So, continuing to ignore your BFF is definitely not an option anymore.

It sounds like your friend has been taking advantage of how nice you are. Since you’ve never told her to stop or said that she’s bothering you, she thinks she can say whatever she wants to you. She either assumes that you don’t care, or she just knows she can get away with her bullying. What she’s doing is wrong, whether she realizes it or not – but now you need to show her that this needs to end. While her behavior is not your fault, we can’t expect people to do what we want them to do without speaking up for ourselves.

So, how do you stand up for yourself without starting a huge fight? First of all, approach your friend on your own, when it’s just the two of you. Snapping back at her in public will make her instantly defensive in front of others, so that’s not a good idea. You should really have this conversation in person, but if you feel very uncomfortable, you can do it through the phone.

Now it’s time to be completely honest with your BFF. Instead of yelling at her, sternly say that all of her teasing has been hurting your feelings, and you want her to stop. Let her know that you don’t take it as a joke anymore, it’s gotten to be too much, and she’s been embarrassing you in front of other people. Tell her that you love her and care about her, but you can’t be close with her anymore until she starts to show some respect for you. You really need to lay down the law, show your confidence, and let her know how much she’s hurting you.

Hopefully, she will apologize and try to adjust her behavior. However, there is a chance that she will get angry and defensive. If she starts a fight with you over this, she’s in the wrong. Don’t let her make you feel like you’re being silly here. Your feelings are legitimate, and you need to stand up for yourself. If she refuses to change, there’s not much you can do except start to spend more time with friends who are always nice to you. Your absence may make her realize that she messed up, and needs to be nicer to you. If she refuses to do that, though, you may need to let her go until she can grow up and mature.

And, one more note: please don’t feel like your friend’s self-esteem is your problem. It’s really sad that she doesn’t feel confident in herself, but that is an issue only she can work through. You allowing her to make fun of you may make her feel good temporarily, but it won’t boost her confidence in the long-run.

take care,

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  • Natalie

    Sounds like your friend is going through a tough time. This is still not a good reason for her to pick on you, though. Maybe she doesn’t realize that she;s hurting your feelings? I suggest talking to her about it and being honest and stern but not accusing. Also, give her some space, but also give her a chance to improve. If she apologizes and seems nicer, then try slowly reestablishing your close friendship with her. Another good thing to do would be to try and help her with her self-esteem problem, or at least let her know you’re there for her. This will help her see that you care about her. There’s a good chance that your friendship will thrive again if the two of you just meet and talk things over and tell each-other how you feel and maybe forget everything and give yourselves a fresh start. Hope this helps 🙂