How To Know If Your Friends Are Really Rooting For You

No person is an island. We all need a place where we can go for companionship, support, and a sense of belonging. And that place is often found among friends — in addition to family. When life seems bleak, the emotional support we receive from our friends sustains us. When life is good, they celebrate with us and amplify our joy. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology concludes that having friendships can lead to increased happiness, reduced stress, and better health. All in all, it pays to have at least one friend.

However, being with someone is one thing; being with them is quite another. There are those people that surround you on a daily basis — at work, at home, and in your close circle — who are not for you. Someone who is for you is with you in good, bad, and ugly times. It's not uncommon to see people pretending to be friends with someone because they have something to gain from that relationship. They're always in the picture when life is full of Insta-worthy moments. But when the crunch comes, they untag themselves from your life and write you off. What good can come from those trade-off relationships? True happiness only comes from having friends who root for you under all circumstances and help you live up to your potential. Here's how to find out if you have those friends in your circle.

They don't see you as a rival

A friend who is really rooting for you does not try to compete with you in everything. A little competition is a healthy motivation booster, especially in sports or studies. But it's not healthy if it comes from a place of jealousy or a secret wish to see a friend's downfall. You can tell a friend is over-competitive when they must have everything that you have, big or small. 

For instance, you told your friend you'd be wearing a certain type of dress to an event, and the next thing you knew they showed up with the exact same outfit. When you shared with them your vulnerabilities, they responded by mercilessly bragging about their strengths. A highly competitive friend might even show up at your wedding wearing white. As Ian Flemming puts it: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." Something's not right when your friend keeps putting you in twinning moments where you have to ask yourself "Who wore it better?" 

It's frustrating to be friends with someone who loves dragging you into a competition just to get the satisfaction of keeping up with you or even getting ahead of you. If your kiasu homie keeps getting on your nerves, confront them. You should let them know that you've been picking on some combative vibes in the friendship which make you feel uncomfortable and give them specific examples of the times they acted competitively with you. If they cannot give you a convincing explanation for their behavior, that's a sign they're against you — not for you.

They don't belittle you

You know your friend is the real deal when they open your eyes to your strengths even when you've hit rock bottom. They might point you to your shortcomings and encourage self-reliance — yes — but they will care about you enough to not injure your self-esteem or kick you when you're down. When a truly supportive friend tells you what's not right with your life, they usually follow with actionable advice that helps you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Friends who are really for you will give you tough love when necessary — but not emotional abuse.   

You know a friend is not rooting for you when they get hyper-critical of you for nothing. They tell you things that make you feel bad about yourself but offer no specific advice. Before you can come to your own defense, they justify their action by saying that they have nothing but good intentions. With a spirit-sucking friend like this, who needs enemies? If you always get that experience from a particular friend, stop enduring it. Every time they point out something bad about you, show them how much you love yourself and that you have the final say in your life. For example, if they say: "You need to work out" — reply with: "My body! My choice!" If tit for tat is not your cup of tea, exit that friendship. When you keep negative people at arm's length, you won't have to stoop down to their levels.

They show up during important moments

If you want to know if someone is really rooting for you, ask yourself: "Will this person show up when I need them?" Showing up here doesn't have to mean being there physically for you or texting you words of encouragement. Everyone has a different interpretation of "showing up;" but, generally speaking, a friend who shows up is someone who's willing to be inconvenienced for your good. They might provide you with a sizable loan while you're short on cash. They might babysit your kids when you're on an urgent work shift. Or, when you're upset, they offer you a shoulder to cry on. Friends can show up in a variety of ways.

On that note, it's also worth pointing out that it can be unfair to assume the worst of someone for not showing up when you haven't clearly communicated your expectations. It's hard for people to come through when they don't know what's expected of them. For instance, if you want your friend to support you by showing up at an event that you're hosting, let them know in no uncertain terms beforehand. If your friend knows what's important to you yet refuses to show up without an explanation, it shows they don't care about your feelings or respect your friendship. 

They celebrate your accomplishments

Good friends are happy about your achievements. That's what friends are for: congratulating you on your accomplishments and acknowledging your effort. It's important to have friends celebrating your success with you because it reminds you that they are as interested in your happiness as you are. If your buddy dismisses your accomplishments, saying things like you got a lucky break or that anybody could have done it, take it as a red flag. It's not a healthy friendship if you're made to feel guilty about expressing your joy around your friend. 

Having said that, you should also factor in your friend's feelings before sharing about your great feats. If you're always waxing lyrical about wins (even if innocently) when your friend seems to always be on a losing streak, they will feel annoyed and develop bitter feelings toward you. As much as you are excited about celebrating the fruits of your hard work, continuously talking about it makes you come across as a boastful, self-absorbed person. To avoid upsetting your friend, check in with the person first to see how they're doing before deciding on what to say. For example, if you got engaged and your friend had a breakup on the same day, breaking your happy news to them when their pain is still raw would make you look terribly selfish.  

They support what you do as long as it makes you happy

You know a friend is truly for you when they do not impose their views on your life and undermine your perception. They will give you their input, but they will give you their blessings as long as what you do makes you happy. They appreciate you for who you really are, which is why they care more about your emotional well-being than what the world thinks of you. You can be your whole, authentic self when you're with them. 

When a friend expects you to heed to their advice and shoot your ideas down all the time, that's a sign of narcissistic behavior. For instance, if they don't like the person you're dating, they'll keep talking bad about that person and pressuring you to exit the relationship. If they don't like the dress you're wearing, they will ask you to stop wearing it. When you say something that they don't like, they snap back with sarcasm to embarrass you. 

Even if they claim to have good intentions, it's mentally exhausting being in a friendship with someone who always acts like they know best and exerts their dominance over other people's lives. A healthy relationship must be one where both people respect each other's differences and treat each other as their equals.