friends or "frienemies"? Whether you like it or not, “frenemies” have become a part of our social culture. For those who may not be familiar with this exact term, a “frenemy” is someone disguised as a friend, intimately connected through shared social groups or linked by past experiences or stages of your life, but who have no well wishes for your wellbeing and happiness and no desire to see you succeed. Quite the opposite, actually, they generally either compete in an attempt to out-do you and belittle your accomplishments or will try to simply knock you down a few pegs by reminding you of any shortcomings or areas for improvement you may be working on. Now, it may seem like it should be common sense that such people are toxic and of no benefit to your life, but so many people have a hard time truly recognizing such a person for who they are and (many times, more difficult) removing that person from their lives. Your friends should be a safe zone, where you go to unwind, relax, talk out your feelings, and celebrate your accomplishments. Having a person there that robs you of this safe zone is unhealthy and can be detrimental to your self-esteem and sense of self-worth. So, how do you spot a “frenemy”? While every relationship is different and requires due consideration before categorizing it as a “frenemy” relationship, here are a few questions that can assist in evaluating your friendships to ensure they are helping to contribute to your best self.

  1. Do they support or attack your self-confidence? Think about a time you brought up something that you wanted to achieve with your group of friends. Did anyone suggest that it might be too much to tackle, that you shouldn’t even bother trying in the first place because you weren’t going to succeed, or that it was a stupid or lame thing to get excited about? Or did everyone get enthusiastic because you were enthusiastic, suggest different ways you might get started, or even offer to achieve it alongside you?
  1. Are their criticisms helpful or bullying? An important thing to remember is that not all criticisms are bad; with the right intentions, they can be a friend’s way of helping you be the best that they know you can be and the feedback will still be positive in nature. Criticisms can quickly turn into bullying, however, if a “frenemy” has got his/her claws in you. Their words will come from a place of jealousy and self-doubt and will be an attempt to tear you down rather than help build you up.
  1. Do they bring up past mistakes/failures/vulnerabilities to be used against you? As stated before, friends should act as a safe zone during our vulnerable moments. Once you have emerged stronger and wiser from those moments, your friends should continue shining that light forward, not reminding you of the darkness.
  1. Do they take advantage of the situation when you may be in one of your vulnerable moments? Think about the last time that you were in a rut, or maybe even hit your rock bottom. Did the person in question try to find ways to lift your spirits and help you to re-realize your strength? Or did they exploit your situation to gain the “upper hand” – to belittle you and make it appear as though they are winning while you are losing?
  1. Do they speak negatively of others, particularly other friends, with you? Someone who bashes on other people is not only a negative presence to be around, but also means that, however much they are talking about those people to you, they are talking about you to others. Everyone needs to vent once and a while, but there is a distinct different between healthily expressing momentary frustrations with someone (hopefully determining the best way to discuss the matter with that person directly) and someone meanly gossiping. Friendships should be built on trust and you can’t really trust someone who enjoys promoting that kind of negativity.

It can be a very difficult decision to actively terminate a friendship, just as it is hard to decide to break things off with a significant other, so sometimes it can be helpful to seek safe sounding boards (trusted and unbiased friends, a life coach, a parent, a sibling) to discuss the situation and, if ousting the “frenemy” is the determined course of action, discuss strategies for ending the friendship in a clear, direct way. Remember, friendships are meant to be nurturing and supportive, not competitive, mean-spirited, or degrading. The friends you chose to surround yourself with have a strong influence on your quality of life. Removing a “frenemy” from your life can be quite a freeing experience. Curt Canada Coaching and Consulting provides advisement and support in life, career, and leadership in Washington DC. Follow Curt online at and