Coping with Bullying (teens) Course

Last Update March 4, 2022

Course created and written by​

Dr Joseph Kekulawala is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. His last public appointment was at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He is passionate about improving access to quality mental health care globally.

Coping with Bullying (teens) Course

Last Update March 4, 2022

Course created and written by​

Dr Joseph Kekulawala is a Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. His last public appointment was at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. He is passionate about improving access to quality mental health care globally.

About this course​

A course on coping with bullying for teens. 

By doing this six-week course, you’ll learn how to deal with bullying. Coping with bullying can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We think that with the right skills and approach that most cases of bullying can be overcome. 

This is a psychology course written for young people. By doing this course, you will learn broadly how to deal with bullying. Week 1 is an introduction. Before we dive into deeper topics. We will cover anxiety, fears, making and keeping friends plus more. We want to give you all the skills and techniques you need to deal with bullying. 

Why we created this course​

We know that bullying is wrong, that it causes hurt and pain but it still happens. Bullying can leave you feeling scared, teary, alone, unable to work, play sport or study. Coping with bullying is hard. 

Millions of young people are bullied each year. We think learning how to deal with bullying can help. Which is why we created this online course. It can be accessed by any young person, anywhere in the world. We offer this course in over 12 languages online.

Good News! We have opened access to Week 1 of the learning material​

Week 01​

Topics Covered in this section​​

What is bullying?

Bullying is a repeated aggressive behaviour where a person or group of people hurts another either physically or emotionally. Bullying is unwanted behaviour that involves a real or recognised power imbalance. In other words, bullying is when people ( an individual or a group ) intentionally use words or actions against someone to cause distress and harm to their well-being.

 
According to the research, an incident of bullying must have all below characteristics:
 
  • Bullying is intentional
  • Bullying is a repeated behaviour
  • Bullying is aggressive behaviour
  • Bullies seek to control and power (Power imbalance)
  • Bullying may be physical or verbal
  • Bullying is not an innocent prank

A study of 16,000 students found that almost 3 out of 10 teens are bullies or victims of bullying. This study highlights the increased prevalence of bullying among teens, meaning that they may be at a higher risk of experiencing this hardship. Teens who are victims of bullying are also more likely to act like bullies, which can be particularly difficult. Bullying includes many different factors, but one of these is that teens feel there is nobody to talk to or who would understand. However, based on more recent data, bullying is a prominent experience that many undergo. In fact, boys are more likely to experience bullying or be bullies when compared to girls. 

It is important to not only focus on the bully but also the multitude of factors and people that play a role in the situation.  Bullying involves 3 widely recognised roles:

  1. Victim 
  2. Bully
  3. Bystander

Victim – Victims are the individuals who are on the receiving end of the bullying. They may experience someone trying to verbally offend them or even physically hurt them. Victims may become aggressive and fight back. On the other hand, victims also might accept all of the negative experiences, making them passive and vulnerable. These vulnerable victims tend to be shy and submissive, lacking the ability to say “No”. Vulnerable victims often share the following characteristics:

  • Submissive – They tend to obey or yield to someone. When someone is submissive, they put their own desires below others.
  • Passive – When someone is passive, they do not take action against what’s happening to them. 
  • Anxious – They tend to be shy, awkward and self-conscious due to fear of being judged.
  • Lack of assertiveness – Someone who lacks assertiveness might lack fluidity when speaking, stutters, or have low self-esteem.
  • Few or no friends – Someone who is being bullied has few or no friends, mainly because of the above characteristics.

Bully – A bully is the perpetrator of harmful behaviours. These behaviours may include physical aggression or verbal aggression. Oftentimes, bullies have experienced hardship in their life that may include underlying mental health conditions, behaviour disorders, or other social stressors. Some bullies may even begin their behaviours in response to being abused or in reaction to a traumatic event. However, there is no ONE reason that a teen may become a bully, and there are many factors that can place a teen at risk for bullying others. According to the research, most bullies exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Impulsiveness – They might be quick to anger, or act out in situations. They have no respect for authority.
  • Urge to control – They often insist everyone do things their way, even small issues that are a matter of personal choice.
  • Lacking empathy – They have trouble putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Simply put, they don’t empathize with other people’s feelings.
  • Anger management problems – They have problems with expressing emotions in calm and healthy ways.
  • No respect for authority – They don’t respect adults and seniors. They may speak back to teachers and disregard school rules.

Bystander – A bystander is a person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. They play an extremely important role in bullying. One of the most important things a bystander needs to understand is that they have the power to stop the bullying. However, most times, a bystander won’t prevent the bullying incident. Often, bullying is intentionally displayed in front of others to get their approval or support. In this setting, all the teens watching this act become bystanders. Bystanders may often feel the following:

  • They may not know what to do to help
  • They are scared of becoming a victim
  • They think it’s none of their problems
  • They passively accept bullying

Teens who do nothing against bullying often feel guilty or bad about it later, and the bystanders who laugh or support bullying may be at risk of becoming bullies themselves.

Myths about Bullying

Our society often views bullying as acceptable behaviour, despite the impact it can have on someone. This may be demonstrated in popular media like TV shows, movies, and music. There are also some misconceptions that society might have about bullying that might not be true and can further perpetuate the vicious cycle of bullying. Below, we discuss a few of the common misconceptions, followed by the facts.

“Words will never hurt you” / “It never did me any harm”

This is not true. Any type of bullying can be harmful. Physical or Verbal. It’s true that words don’t leave broken bones, bruises or scars on your body, but they can affect mental health. Studies show that bullying may leave deep emotional scars and can have long-term, damaging effects. Some of these emotional effects may include social isolation, feelings of shame, difficulties with sleep, changes in appetite, low self-esteem, avoidance behaviours, anxiety, depression, and even psychosomatic symptoms.

“Bullies are loners. They have no friends”

Even though bullying is an act of power imbalance, it’s a mistake to assume that all bullies are the same. There are different types of bullies with different intentions. Some teens bully others because they, too, have been bullied. Others bully to get attention and climb the social ladder.  Some teens may even bully another person merely because they can. However, this can be different across genders as a result of societal gender norms. For instance,

  • Boys –  To show that they are physically stronger than others
  • Girls – To be perceived as popular

Usually, teens who bully do not lack friends. In fact, they have larger friendship networks when compared to other teens. Researchers find that they have at least a small group of friends who support and encourage their aggressive bullying behaviour. 

“Bullying is easy to recognize”

Bullies are smart. The most aggressive kids are the ones who can appear charming. Bullies are like chameleons. They are socially smart and talented. Moreover, they know where and when they should bully another one. These acts usually take place on a playground, in the bathroom, near the locker room, on the bus, or maybe in a busy hallway. Why is that? Bullies know exactly where teachers and other adults are, and they choose common places where adults aren’t around to witness it.

In addition, it’s true that physical bullying, such as hitting, kicking or fighting is recognizable because it may leave bruises, or worse, broken bones. However, verbal bullying and covert bullying, such as shunning or leaving someone on purpose, is not as easy to recognize. It won’t leave any physical bruises or scars, which is much harder to detect.

“They’re only teasing”

One of the most common misconceptions about bullying is that they think taunting is just teasing. That is not true. There is a big difference between teasing and taunting. Most teens are occasionally teased. Teasing does not hurt anyone. Taunting, on the other hand, damages self-esteem and confidence. Taunting is not fun for anyone. When teasing hurts a child, it is considered taunting or bullying. Yes, they are being teased, but the intent of the action is to hurt or harm them.

“Bullying will make you stronger”

Bullying does not make someone strong or tough. In fact, research shows that it has the opposite effect. Bullying damages self-esteem and lowers someone’s self-worth. Being bullied can cause someone to feel lonely and isolated. It can also affect someone’s relationships with their family and peers. In addition, bullying can cause distress, fear, depression, and anxiety.  While research is not certain the bullying directly causes suicide-related behaviour, we do know that involvement in bullying, along with other risk factors, can increase a teen’s chance of engaging in suicidal ideation or suicide-related behaviours.

“Bullying isn’t a big deal, it’s just a natural part of childhood”

Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. It is a big deal! This is considered normal behaviour because it is such a common experience nowadays. But this aggressive behaviour towards others should not be tolerated as a natural or normal part of childhood. As mentioned earlier, bullying can affect someone’s physical health, mental health, and relationships with others. Some of the emotional scars can last a long time. For instance, an adult who was bullied as a teen can experience long-term effects like anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem.

Types of Bullying

Bullying is not just hitting someone or verbally insulting someone. It is deeper than that. Bullying has different forms and types based on teens’ experiences. Some are obvious to spot while others are very subtle. Let’s have a look at the types of bullying that teens experience and the ways that bullying could be happening.

Physical bullying

This involves physically hurting someone. This can include hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying causes both short-term and long-term damages. It can leave scars, bruises, or even broken bones. Physical bullying includes:

  • Punching
  • Kicking and tripping
  • Hitting
  • Pinching
  • Pushing and shoving
  • Fighting
  • Damaging property
  • Yelling
  • Making rude gestures
  • Taking or breaking another person’s things

Verbal bullying

One might say words can’t physically hurt you. Yes, that’s true. Words can’t physically hurt you, but certainly, they can hurt you emotionally and mentally. So isn’t your mental health just as important as your physical health? Being verbally bullied can’t leave scars, bruises, or black eyes, but it may leave deep emotional scars that have long-term effects. Most importantly, verbal bullying can start off harmless, but it can slowly escalate to levels that start to affect the individual. Verbal bullying includes:

  • Name-calling
  • Teasing
  • Making bad jokes
  • Insulting
  • Intimidating someone
  • Making homophobic or racist comments
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Taunting
  • Threatening

Covert bullying

Covert bullying is sometimes referred to as social bullying or relational bullying. This is less direct than the above-mentioned types of bullying. However, this can be just as painful. This type of bullying was designed to hurt someone’s social reputation or relationships with others. Moreover, this causes humiliation. This type of bullying is often really hard to recognize because it is conducted out of sight and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. Covert bullying includes:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Spreading rumours or telling lies about someone
  • Mimicking
  • Encourage others to isolate someone
  • Damaging someone’s social reputation
  • Making nasty jokes to humiliate someone
  • Making bad facial or physical expressions
  • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Excluding someone from groups

Cyberbullying

“Cyberbullying is intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones and other electronic devices” – Cyberbullying Research Centre 

Cyberbullying happens through the use of information, communication or digital technologies. For example, this can include hardware, such as computers and smartphones, and software, such as messages or chats, emails, social media, websites or other online sites or forums. Cyberbullying can happen at any time and any place. It can be in public or in private. Cyberbullying can be anonymous, or it can only be known to the person who’s bullying and the victim. Cyberbullying doesn’t leave scars or bruises, but it can impact someone’s mental well being for a long time. The main reason is that the sent or uploaded material can reach a wide audience and can be really difficult to remove. 

Cyberbullying includes: 

  • Spreading nasty jokes or rumours
  • Excluding others online
  • Sending abusive or hurtful text messages
  • Posting untrue or abusive statements online
  • Sending or posting humiliating pictures
  • Sharing hurtful videos or images
  • Using someone else’s log-in
  • Making negative comments
  • Agreeing with someone who posts something nasty and hurtful 

Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying consists of repeated, harmful behaviour that targets a person sexually. Sexual bullying can affect someone’s mental health and can leave deep emotional scars. This can be really humiliating. In fact, the main goal of sexual bullying is to humiliate the victim and ruin their social reputation. Sexual bullying can include:

  • Forcing to engage in sexual activities (However, this is likely sexual assault rather than bullying)
  • Harassing, pressuring or nagging about having sex by a partner
  • Lifting someone up by their underwear, which can result in damage to genital areas
  • Photographing or recording someone naked or half-naked
  • Making fun of someone’s sexuality
  • Touching uninvitedly

Sexting can also lead to sexual bullying. When two individuals are in a relationship, it is normal they share videos and photos with each other. However, after the break-up, the boy might share the pictures/videos of the girl with other people. This can make the girl a victim of sexual bullying. She will be a target of sexual comments, inappropriate touching and being called crude names. Some may even see this as an open invitation to proposition her and sexually assault her.

In extreme cases, sexual bullying opens the door to suicide. Research says teens who report any involvement with sexual bullying behaviour are more likely to report high levels of suicide-related behaviour than teens who do not report any involvement with sexual bullying behaviour.

People once believed that bullying only consisted of physical bullying and verbal bullying. But, as you can see now, it is more than that. Not all bullies are the same. Each has a different style to control and intimidate the victim.

No matter which type it is, bullying is not cool and agreeable. Every teen is important and unique in their own way.

Why do people bully?

Why do people bully? This is an often asked question when it comes to understanding bullying behaviour. Those who bully persistently are likely to do so in order to dominate others, improve their social status and gain attention and power of control. While it may be assumed that bullies have high levels of self-esteem and confidence, this is not necessarily true. Research shows that bullies often have low-self esteem and high levels of insecurity. Thus, they bully others as a defence mechanism or maladaptive coping tool to fit in, claim authority, and become powerful. Overall, there are many factors that can lead a person to bully that differ from person to person.  Most importantly, they have high self-esteem and never regret their unacceptable behaviour. On the other hand, some individuals bully out of anger and frustration because they might struggle socially, and they could have been victims of bullying. 

Peer Factors

Sometimes teens bully others to:

  • Fit in with a clique
  • Control the behaviour of peers
  • Fit in and be accepted by others
  • Simply go along with the group
  • Avoid being the next target
  • Show their allegiance
  • Elevate their status inside the group
  • Attain and maintain social power within the group

Often, teens are more concerned with the above factors than they are worried about the consequences of bullying. 

Family Problems

Children who were exposed to violence in their homes at a young age may be more likely to engage in physical aggression or bullying later on in life. This may be because these children are exposed to intimate partner violence, physical aggression, and aggression between family members, leading to models of engaging in maladaptive behaviours among others. These teens who bully others:

  • Comes from families where there’s bullying, aggression and violence
  • Sometimes have absent parents who also may resort to bullying
    • This gives them a sense of power and control they lack in their lives.
  • May have parents or caregivers who aren’t emotionally supportive
  • Lack of communicating with their parents
  • May have parents or caregivers who respond in an aggressive way
  • May comes from families where there are low parental involvement
  • Often gets torment by their older siblings
    • These teens bully others to regain the feeling of power. 

To Gain Power and Pleasure

Teens who want to have control and power are most likely to bully. This can be because:

  • They don’t have control over their own lives and may struggle to cope with stressors, anxiety, or have a low sense of self-efficacy
  • To gain the power they need in their lives
  • They only interact with others when it is on their own terms
  • If things don’t go according to their plan, they may start bullying and make things go according to their desires. 

There are different types of teens: geeks, nerds, preps, athletes, hipsters, mean kids and emo kids. Athletes and physically strong teens, especially teens with other types of perceived power, may engage in bullying because: 

  • They have a power imbalance 
  • They want to eliminate others from competitions and games

On the other hand, for some teens bullying becomes an outlet for getting attention and pleasure because: 

  • They may resort to bullying to add some entertainment, excitement or drama into their lives and may lack attention or affirmation in their personal or home lives
  • hurtful jokes seem to be really funny to them
  • Most of them lack empathy in their lives

To Gain Popularity

Teens like attention and popularity. That’s a well-known fact. This feeling can lead to bullying. Sometimes bullying can be a way to show one’s social status. Teens who are very popular among others may bully teens who are not as popular among others. In fact, those less popular teens may be an easy target. Teens like to stay by the popular side. These teens might:

  • Bully others to climb the social ladder
  • Need to gain social power by taunting others
  • Bully to diminish someone else’s social status

No matter what kind of a bully someone is, there’s no right to bully another one. They have not learned respect, compassion and kindness. Most bullies don’t understand how wrong they are, and how it makes the victim feel. When bullies are asked why they engage in this activity, some of them replied: 

  • I get relief from feeling hopeless and overpower others
  • When I bully, I become likeable to everyone
  • It makes me stronger and better than the person I’m bullying
  • I’m bullied at home by my siblings
  • It’s what I have to do if I want to hang out with the right gang
  • I see everyone do that, it’s common among us teens
  • I should be the best, I’m jealous of the person I’m bullying
  • It’s fun. I can have a good laugh

Remember, whatever the reason is, Bullying is not cool!

Impacts of Bullying

As mentioned above, bullying involves three widely recognised roles: BullyVictim and Bystander. This act of aggression impacts all of those roles. One of the most common misconceptions about bullying is that society thinks that an act of bullying only impacts the victim. No! That’s wrong. It impacts all parties on different levels.

How bullying can affect a victim?

As mentioned above, bullying can affect every individual involved in this action. However, teens who are bullied are more likely to suffer than the other parties. The effects of being bullied can be short-term and long-term. Let’s have a look at how these can affect an individual.

  • Short term effects: 
    • Physical bullying like hitting, kicking or punching may leave bruises or broken bones
    • The victim may feel really guilty, thinking that it’s his fault
    • The victim may feel hopeless when he’s in an uncomfortable situation because he doesn’t know how to get out of that situation
    • Cyberbullying can make someone feel ashamed and afraid
    • Bullying can affect an individual’s academic performance such as poor attendance, low test scores or increased dropout rates

However, these short-term effects may turn into long-term effects with time. For instance, your low test scores and attendance may affect your future or increase feelings of guilt, leading to more anxiety. 

  • Long term effects: 
    • Bullying can affect one’s mental health and it may leave deep emotional scars that can have lifelong implications.    
    • Bullying can lower a teen’s self-esteem. This creates fear and increases anxiety.
    • Teens who are being bullied have a higher risk than others of experiencing depression and having suicidal thoughts
    • Bullying may cause them health issues like sleep problems, fatigue, abdominal pain
    • These teens are at risk for using alcohol and drugs
    • They may have low confidence, which can affect their self-identity and their relationships

Suicide Risk

Suicidal thoughts and self-harm are considered the most serious effects of being bullied. Remember, every teen has a right to feel safe and be treated with fairness and respect. However, bullying can tamper with that sense of safety, fairness, and respect. When this is lost, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness may arise. When those feelings are amplified, suicidal ideation and even suicide attempts become a possibility. While bullying is not a direct cause of suicidal risk, it is possible that bullying can be one of many factors that put teens at an increased risk for engaging in suicidal thinking and/or behaviours.     

How bullying can affect a bully?

As mentioned above, you may now know about the short-term and long-term effects of being bullied. But, what about the effects that a bully might have from engaging in this aggressive activity? Teens who bully are more vulnerable to negative outcomes when compared to those who do not bully. Some of these negative effects may include:

  • Bullies are more likely to drop out of school compared to  other kids
  • Bullies may engage in using tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana
  • They engage in early sexual activities or risky sexual behaviours
  • They are at increased risk of developing mental health conditions 
  • Bullying increases the odds of future run-ins with the law. Research shows that former bullies tend to have more traffic violations and four times the rate of criminal behaviour compared to others. Research has also found that 60% of teens who bullied others in grades 6 through grade 9 had at least one criminal conviction by age 24 and 35.
  • Bullies are at risk for developing an antisocial personality disorder
  • They tend to have problems with relationships and might be abusive towards their partners
  • They may have a harder time maintaining employment

Most importantly, when teens who used to bully grow up and have kids, they are more likely to be bullies themselves, beginning the cycle all over again.

How bullying can affect a bystander?

Bullying is not just a problem for victims and bullies. This can have a negative impact on everyone, even bystanders. Some of these impacts may include:

  • Bystanders may feel angry, sad or guilty when they see or know of others been bullied  
  • They may feel as bad as those who are being bullied
  • They may start worrying that the bullying could happen to them 

When no one stops or challenges bullying, it can create an environment where bullying is accepted and where everyone feels powerless to stop it.

Real Friendships vs Toxic Friendships
What is a real friendship?
 

“ True friends are those who came into your life, saw the most negative part of you, but are not ready to leave you, no matter how contagious you are to them ”       

What is a real friendship? What is a true friend? What is the difference between being friendly and being a true friend? 

Friendly means being amicable and cordial with someone. Being friendly is important because any small gesture of kindness can make someone feel good. Since there is a lot of hate in this world, let’s not be a part of it!

What is being a true friend? A true friend is someone who you truly value. Do your friends often disappoint you and put you down? If so, maybe it’s time for you to find a new true friend. Here are some of the traits you can find in a genuinely true friend as well as some of the traits to look for when you are choosing a true friend.

  1. True friends have your back

When you are struggling in life, a true friend always shows up. A true friend is someone that  you can count on to be loyal. They don’t care if it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable, they will always show up. It’s easy for someone to be there for you during the good times, but only a few stay by your side during the bad times. Those people are the true friends in your life who don’t abandon you but rather stay with you through any disappointments, changes, or even illnesses.

“ A true friend is someone who has your back when things are going wrong in your life ”

Another important trait of a true friend is that they always defend you. They always have your back when someone tries to hurt you physically or emotionally no matter the time or place.  These types of friends always show up, even if it is 3 or 4 in the morning.

    2. True friends accept you, for you

True friends don’t judge you. They accept you as you are and love you anyway. Most importantly, they accept your blind spots, quirks and oddities that make you the unique person you are. In addition, they never try to change everything about you. 

“ True friends accept you exactly as you are you don’t have to hide or pretend that you are something that you are not ”

A true friend will always listen to your thoughts, ideas, and they will try their best to support you in everything you do. If a friend pushes you to become something you don’t want to be, then that is not true friendship. Although a true friend encourages you to become a better version of yourself and to make good decisions, they also trust your judgments and will help you to see your unique beauty. Do you have someone who will point out your flaws without judging you? That’s what a true friend does! Every one of us has bad habits. They might give you advice but still accept and respect your boundaries.  True friends are lovingly honest.

     3. True friends are trustworthy

Trust is an important element in any relationship.. You can’t trust everyone with your personal stories. There are some people who will listen to your problem and then gossip about it to someone else. However, someone trustworthy will never go around sharing your stuff with others. Here are some ways to find out whether your friend is trustworthy or not:

  • You can trust your friend with your personal possessions
  • You can trust your friend with your pet or maybe something precious to you
  • You can trust them with all of your deepest and darkest secrets
  • They will never go around talking your personal stuff to everyone they see. They respect your privacy
  • They are dependable 
  • They return calls and messages and show up when you need them the most

Moreover, always remember that:                              

“ True friends are trustworthy Angels ”

 It takes time, effort and patience to build trust in a friendship. Talking about how to each deepen trust in the friendship is a great way to secure that foundation of trust.

     4. True friends share the spotlight

A true friend will show a willingness to negotiate, rather than just a desire to win. A true friend is supportive. They will show up to your baseball game, dancing performance and musical concert. They are supportive of your achievements and are never concerned that you are getting more attention than them. They are not jealous, and they understand that sometimes it’s okay to have everything about you.   

 However, it’s unfair to expect our friends to be 100% selfless all the time, and there has to be some give and take. 

  1. True friends are selfless and see your point of view
  2. True friends don’t abandon you
  3. True friends encourage us to be better
  4. True friends make your friendship a priority
  5. True friends are not superficial
  6. True friends are not jealous of you    

Always remember, a  true friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you just the way you are.  

 
What is a toxic friendship?
 

 Fire false friends as early as possible. Do it before they dig out the dream seeds you have planted! The earlier, the better; the quicker, the safer

Toxic friendships have a tendency to sneak up on people. Why? Because the signs of a toxic friendship are often subtle. But generally, a toxic friendship causes you anxiety, stress or sadness, emotionally harming you rather than helping you. However, a toxic friendship can be hard to spot. Therefore, you need to take some time to evaluate who is a good and true friend and who is a toxic friend so that you can choose the right friends for your life.

Here’s a look at some traits of a toxic friend. These signs will tell you if you are dealing with a toxic friend.

  1. Toxic friends judge you constantly

Does your friend always make negative comments about the way you are? These comments may include: 

  • your clothes
  • your hairstyle
  • the way you talk
  • the phone you are using
  • Or even the number of followers you have on Instagram

If you answer yes to this question, you have got yourself a toxic friend. Good and true friends accept you the way you are and never judge you or criticize you for being yourself. Your toxic friend may live in the present and make negative comments while you are trying to build your idealistic and sustainable future. If your friend judges you, it might indicate that he or she is toxic because a true friend would be willing to understand and support you and your ideas. A true friend is someone who encourages you and supports you without being envious.

“ Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down ” 

     2. Toxic friends are untrustworthy

As mentioned above trust is an important element in any relationship. We all need a trustworthy friend in our lives, with whom we can share our personal stuff. But what if that person goes around sharing your stuff with other people? You might tell your friend something in confidence and the next day, your entire circle knows about your secret. Toxic friends pretend to be loyal, but after, they chatter behind your back and spread rumours about you. Most importantly, they might enjoy spreading your secrets, which can destroy your reputation in the blink of an eye. 

“ People who are not happy with their lives will often try to start drama in your life”

Another way to identify whether your friend is untrustworthy or not is to question whether your friend is lying or not. Maybe your friend is not lying to you, maybe he or she is lying to someone else, maybe even his or her parents. However, a friend like that is not trustworthy. Someone who is constantly lying is selfish and doesn’t really care about the consequences of their actions. They may think that  they are telling an innocent lie, but for the other person, it can be something really hurtful.

      3. Toxic friends are always self-centred

When you are struggling in your life, you need someone to rely on. You need your friend to show up. But what if your friend only shows up when it is convenient to them and not you? They only think about themselves and never consider you.  They will always drop in when they need something from you or when things are going well. You can never reach out to these fair weather friends. 

Some friends can go on for hours talking about their problems, but when you start discussing your own experiences, they might leave or change the topic back to themselves. Toxic friends can be very self-absorbed. They might manipulate the situation to bring attention to them and their troubles.

      4. Toxic friends compare you to others

A true friend always recognizes that people have their own unique qualities. A true friend knows about you deeply.  Therefore, they never judge you or compare you to others. You may not be good looking or your apartment may not be big enough to hang out, However, a true friend won’t compare you to others or make you feel less than anyone else.. If they compare you to others or use peer pressure to make you do things that you are not comfortable with doing, then that is not a good or true friend. That’s toxic, and it is important to get out of that friendship as soon as you can.

  1. Toxic friends take advantage of you
  2. Toxic friends don’t respect your personal boundaries
  3. Toxic friends make you feel nervous
  4. Toxic friends convey criticism
  5. Toxic friends leave you unsettled
  6. Toxic friends knowingly give you bad advice

When you rise in life,

                      Your friends know who you are

When you fall down

                     You know who are your friends ”

How to End Toxic Friendships?

“A true friend cares about what’s going on in your life, but a fake friend will make their problems sound bigger”

Now you may have realized what kind of a friendship you have with your friends. What if it’s a toxic friendship? What’s next?

We suggest you two main options:

  1. Offer your friend a second chance 
  2. Slowly distance yourself from your friend
Offer your friend a second chance

No human is perfect, and your toxic friend is no exception. When you are close to someone, you are going to have ups and downs. Maybe your friend wasn’t trying to be toxic. Maybe they don’t know or understand how their actions affect you. Some people need extra support, and talking to them about the impact of their behaviours and actions could improve your friendship. Be open about how you feel, and always show empathy while expressing  your feelings.            

For example:

“ Please don’t make any negative comments about the way I dress or talk. It hurts my feelings, and I don’t want to pick fights with you over silly situations like that” 

However, this isn’t always the best idea. No matter how much you talk and explain the effects of their actions, behaviours and words, you can’t change another person. They have to do it on their own. Sometimes they might promise to be better, but it may  be only temporary. They may start belittling you again, returning to their old toxic behaviour. If this is the case, this friendship doesn’t have many positive benefits for you, so you’re better off moving on.

Slowly distance yourself from your friend

Cutting a friend out of your life can be really difficult, and it is a big decision to make, especially when you are being too emotional. Perhaps, when you are feeling calm and less emotional, you might be able to work things out with your friend as mentioned above. However, if you can see no way forward or if you can no longer bear your toxic friend, here are a few ways you might consider ending your toxic friendship:

Try to fade them out

  • This can be really easy if you both are on the same page and putting less effort into the friendship. Stop messaging them daily and limit your calls to once a week. Moreover, if you are catching up with your friend frequently, bring it down to less personal interactions. Such as group projects or parties.

However, this would only work if it is mutual.  If it is not mutual, your friend might think you are judging them or avoiding them. If that’s the case, it’s better to be upfront with your friend rather than making unnecessary problems.

Let them clearly know you don’t want to see them again

  • Toxic people always struggle to understand others in any given situation. This is the same when it comes to friendship. No matter how close you two are to each other, that toxic friend might still don’t understand you. Therefore, make it really clear to them that you are ending things between each other and you don’t want to see them again.
    • It’s okay to be a little blunt here
    • Try to be firm and not too aggressive

To make it clear that you were serious about not wanting to see them again,  do not answer their text messages and calls. In addition, you may want to block that person’s contact number from your phone.

Try to open up to others

  • In life, we have both good friends and bad friends. We suggest that you talk with one of your good friends regarding this experience. They might really offer you some support. 
  • On the other hand, if your toxic friend and you both have mutual friends, they might have a slight awareness of the situation already. At first, you might worry about how they will react or you might feel uncomfortable giving them further information. However, we believe that reaching out to a supportive friend and explaining to them the situation might help you to regain your positive friendships.
    • Simply say, “ I decided to end this friendship with him/her because it affects my well being and I’m having a hard time dealing with it ”

Remove them from social media

  • If you have removed someone from your life, then there’s no need to continue interaction on social media. It’s better to unfollow or block that friend from your social media accounts. If you do not do this,  you will constantly see their updates, and it will be difficult for you to control your emotions and focus on your own life.

Surround yourself with positive people

  • Always try to surround yourself with positive people who remind you about all the good and positive things about yourself. Friends who encourage you to be better for yourself. Friends who support you and your dreams. This environment might help you to avoid toxic friendships.

Once you end a toxic friendship with one of your closest but toxic friends, take some time to focus on yourself. You went through something really difficult, so it’s better if you take time to heal yourself mentally. Spend time with your loved ones or do something you like, maybe a hobby. Practice good self-care and fill your life with positive things.        

“ Life was meant for good friends and great adventures ”

Toxic Friendships and Bullying

Most teens experience the pain of interacting with a toxic friend during school years. This might serve to damage a person’s sense of social place. 

For example, some teens appear to be friendly but use passive-aggressive strategies like gossiping and belittling others. This can lead to feelings of shame and loneliness.

Teens might internalise their emotions in unhealthy ways if there are no healthy ways to express what they feel. This might look like anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders.

Isolation fears - Ending toxic friendships

One of the most common questions teens have after ending a toxic friendship is:

  “ Now it’s hard to make new friends. How do I deal with being lonely? ”

Yes! Dealing with loneliness after ending a friendship with a friend can be harder than ending that friendship. Even if that friend was really toxic to you, he or she used to be one of your long-term friends. You may have shared all your happy and sad moments with that friend and even milestones together. We understand why ending a friendship might raise fear. You may think you won’t be able to make new friends or create new connections. Further, you may feel alone and have painful feelings of loneliness. Feeling isolated is the worst feeling ever. It can be really painful.

However, taking that risk might also be liberating. You need to understand that this is what’s healthiest for you. Eventually, this period of your life will get better. Use this time to focus on yourself, and to learn about yourself and what you want to do with your future. Try to build new friendships with new people, and you’ll realize you’re a lot happier than you used to be. 

We advise you to focus on why you ended this toxic friendship, the positive aspects of ending a toxic friendship and your current and future bonds with others. 

Certainly, it’s easier said than done. However, don’t forget that you are not alone and you are not the only one who is going through this same emotional process right now. And most of these people have found a way forward to a satisfying, healthy and happier life with good friends.

        “ Don’t let getting lonely make you reconnect with toxic people

                                  You shouldn’t drink poison just because you’re thirsty ”

Sign up now to access the rest of Week 1 to 6​

  • During teen years – A time of change (Adolescence)
  • Typical Social Changes
  • Typical Emotional Changes
  • Developing New Friendships
  • Learning to Understand and Express Complex Emotions
  • Learning to accept yourself
  • Self-acceptance Exercises
  • Always Remember that No One is Perfect.
  • Be Your Own Friend
  • Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
  • Always Say These Things to You
  • Thoughts – Feelings – Actions
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Actions
  • Thoughts are not feelings – Feelings vs Thoughts
  • Getting to know your feelings
  • Getting to know your thoughts
  • What is Anxiety?
  • Learn about Depression
  • My Not-so-obvious or Subtle Anger Signs
  • Coping with the anger you have
  • Weekly review
  • Action Plan Review
  • Watching out for bullying and its consequences
  • Signs of bullying
  • Signs someone is bullying others
  • Signs someone is being bullied
  • Effects of bullying
  • Long-term effects
  • How to respond to bullies
  • Case example: Lilly
  • Why teens suffer in silence and why you shouldn’t
  • Ways to stay calm and manage stress
  • Mindfulness
  • How to practice mindfulness
  • Why practice mindfulness?
  • Summary
  • Week 3 Action Plan
  • Weekly review
  • Action Plan Review
  • Week 4 Outline
  • Bullying and the law
  • How to notify your school of bullying
  • How your school can help
  • Suspend students who hurt other students
  • Suspend any student who hurts staff
  • Create different learning environments for aggressive students
  • Clear plan for teachers
  • Provide required training for teachers
  • Good standing requirements from students
  • A parenting program for parents
  • Reviews of incidents
  • Begin community conversations about bullying
  • How some schools target bullying
  • What is a school’s duty of care?
  • Prevention at school
  • What activities can schools engage students in?
  • Does your school have a mission statement?
  • Bullying prevention in sports and other extracurricular activities
  • Address bullying behaviour
  • Developing the confidence to stand up to bullying
  • Why do we lack confidence?
  • Confident thoughts and actions
  • Summary
  • Week 4 Action Plan
  • Family Support and Assertiveness Skills
  • How your parents can help
  • How the rest of the family can help
  • Knowing your values (and how it helps)
  • Assertiveness skills
  • Summary
  • Cyberbullying and Recovery Pathways
  • Social Media and Bullying
  • Types of cyberbullying
  • What can you do about cyberbullying?
  • Recovering from bullying
  • Sources of support
  • Why do an emergency action plan
  • How to create your own action plan
  • Practising self-compassion
  • How to practice self-compassion
  • Wrapping up
  • Course completion