By Caitlin Alfonso, LMSW

Recently, I had a student tell me: “I heard when you learn to love yourself, you lose a lot of friends in the process… because they do not love themselves and so they cannot accept you loving yourself”. Just sit with that for a second. That is powerful.

Relationships of all kinds are more positive for both people when we learn to love ourselves. However, self-love is a hard and difficult journey, that often has no end. This is because we are constantly evolving and changing and therefore learning and re-learning how to love our self in the process. One of the strongest resources we can hope for during our life journey is a friendship that is supportive, understanding, and encouraging. However, the reality is that some friendships do in fact thrive off of insecurities and undermine progress towards self-love. Self-love and toxic friendships are incompatible by nature, and therefore weakening your sense of self love is the very foundation of toxic friendships.

A common tactic is to create a sense of doubt. Comments and putdowns are made to make you doubt yourself from your abilities, to your beliefs, and ideas.

“I can’t believe you made the Golden Scholars list. Who knew you had it in you?”

“Why do you even talk to them? You know you aren’t their type.”

“Why would you try out for the dance team, you know you aren’t coordinated. Besides they only have three open spots and Bianca is so much better than you.”

In that last example, maybe you noticed a slight difference. Comparing you to others not only creates doubt, but it also creates a feeling of not being good enough and even more dangerous—a sense of shame. Bianca might be a great dancer, but it certainly does not mean that trying out for the dance team is a bad idea or out of one’s reach. Additionally, they might compare your style, hobbies, and other important aspects of yourself to something they deem better.

“I do not know why you like to read; it is so nerdy. Vikki and I just got on the Varsity Volleyball team. You should do something cooler like us.”

“That’s what old ladies do! I know because my grandma likes to garden.”

“Too bad your parents are not like mine. Then you would not have to be a baby and get home by curfew.”

Toxic friendships do not provide even amounts of support. In fact, their problems are usually made front and center. You might find yourself willingly lending your ear, time, and energy to support them, but when you have a problem, they are too busy or simply not to be found. Additionally, your problems might get dismissed as you being overly sensitive and dramatic.

In general, toxic friends are insecure themselves, and try to build themselves up by pulling others down to their level. Therefore, they are unable to support your growth and positive momentum forward as you learn to love yourself. However, your responsibility is not to stay in unhealthy friendships. Your responsibility is to yourself – to grow into your best version of yourself and to love yourself daringly.  As Marianne Williamson said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same”. So maybe then, we do not lose friends as we learn to love ourselves; rather we part ways so that we can shine our light and give permission for them (and others) to embrace the journey of self-love if only they are courageous enough to do so.


Caitlin Alfonso is a lover of coffee, reading, traveling and her dog, Remy. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker and owner of Acornic Consulting, LLC.