You Need Help: Your Friend Takes Everything Super Personally


I have a friend I’ve known for many years. She’s part of one of the queer friend groups I hold closest to my heart. I love her and I want to support and encourage her — but she is the most thin-skinned person I have ever known — and it gets so exhausting I find myself begging off with the whole friend group just so I don’t have to hear it.

She takes EVERYTHING personally, even things that have nothing to do with her. I comment something nice on another friend’s IG, she wants to know why I didn’t comment something nice on her IG. The bartender misses filling her water, he’s mistreating her on purpose. We’re talking about TikTok influencers and I say “Oh they only have 500 followers” and she says “Well I only have 70 followers, I guess I’m worthless too.” Someone in our friend group tweets something that, again, has nothing to do with her, and all of a sudden she’s on the group text saying “Well if you say that people are going to think this this and this about me.” (To be clear she’ll be texting that to everyone EXCEPT the person who tweeted the offense because she’ll never actually confront anyone about anything, she just complains about the perceived slights behind their backs.)

I’ve tried so many strategies. I’ve tried asking “But do you think that was intentional?” to get her to think more deeply about what’s upset her. I’ve tried suggesting she talk directly to the offenders. I even tried suggesting something someone once said in an advice answer here about how most people are never thinking about us, they’re only thinking about themselves, and how there’s freedom in recognizing that we don’t constantly have to be worrying what people are thinking about us because they’re not, but that was absolutely the WRONG thing to say. In fact, anything but outright agreeing with her that she’s a victim is gaslighting or not honoring her feelings or something.

She’s obviously miserable all the time and I don’t want to add onto that. I don’t want to lose my friend group either. I understand being sensitive. I’m sensitive. But I do not understand taking everything personally all the time. Am I being shitty? Do you have any advice for how I might salvage my friend group and maybe even my relationship with this woman I’ve known so long?


Before I jump into the heart of the issue here, I just want to point out how much you truly care for and love your friend. Instead of blowing up in her face, complaining to her, gossiping, or even just abandoning your friendship altogether, you’ve worked through quite a few solutions to help your friend and keep the friendship. It’s truly commendable because this is extremely difficult emotional labor. I want to give you the A+ friend credit you deserve because you’ve done a lot of behind-the-scenes work to keep her in your friend group and your life.

When I saw your post, I immediately thought of the friends that have come and gone in my life. I’ve had this friend. In fact, I’ve had quite a few of these friends, so I know how truly conflicted and frustrated you probably feel. The advice you found on Autostraddle about most people having selfish thoughts is generally smart advice. That’s honestly something I would’ve suggested because it’s definitely helped me. I think this advice worked in the past most of the time because a lot of us are hyper-conscious about what we look like, wear, eat, laugh, etc. in public, so when we take a step back and see that everyone else is only thinking about themselves, it makes people like you and me feel a bit better. However, it seems like this was the wrong thing to say because your friend wants to be loved, cared for, given attention to. She yearns to be thought of.

What I hear from the anecdotes you shared is someone who is deeply lonely and feels deeply unseen. Even as adults, we function like toddlers. We throw tantrums and get attention when we have a need that isn’t met. It’s pretty clear this is what your friend is doing. What seems to make this more difficult is that you and your friends are showing up for her, giving her attention, and saying “we’re here! we’re your friend! we love you!” and she doesn’t seem able to soak that in. The key world here is able. I’m sure if she could take all your love and hold it in, she would. It makes me wonder if you two have ever had a heart-to-heart about her deep insecurities, or if she’s even far removed from tapping into that herself.

This advice might be a little controversial, but when it comes to keeping friends, a lot of them are in your life for only a season. I write this with a lot of grief in my heart because I’ve lost so many friends as I’ve grown closer to the person I want to become. This is a part of life. A shitty one, but a part nonetheless. I’m not suggesting you throw the friendship away, but I am suggesting you take a step back and look at your friendship from a bird’s eye view. Has this always been the dynamic? Do you feel responsible for her? Do you feel like you need to fix her? Oftentimes, I’ve felt compelled to put in more work than I should to “fix” someone just so they don’t bring the group down. Even if your intentions are much purer than mine, you can only help someone who wants to be helped.

Your friend doesn’t sound like she’s in the place to accept help, and unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about that. What I will suggest, though, is reframing the way you respond to her comments. You can try rediecting the conversation to making her feel seen. For example, in the conversation about commenting on the friend’s IG post, you could say something like “I’m here with you now in person and this is how I show my love (or insert your love language). I didn’t mean to offend you and if you feel most loved through IG comments I can try and do better.” Granted, you don’t want to get into this loop of feeling like you have to constantly attend to her social media, but commenting a few times with intention might provide further insight into what she’s really looking for. As for a scenario like the TikTok followers, you could try and hit her with the cold hard truth: “I totally get why you’re upset. I sometimes get let down by how few followers I have, too. However, did you know most of those followers are bots/fake profiles? You have the comfort of knowing that the 70 people who follow you really care for you. I don’t know if [insert influencer] could really say that about their followers.” I’m wondering if a simple rephrasing away from the outer world and more towards her inner world of support could be helpful. Sometimes people need to have their support systems drawn out for them.

Additionally, you can point her in the direction of resources to help her like therapy or even free self-help apps like Woebot (I just learned about this in my therapy program!). I’ve learned from experience that even if you say all the right things, suggest resources, and even physically drive someone to therapy, none of it will matter if they don’t want to meet you half way, or really even a quarter of the way. You can’t be your friend’s therapist, even if you want what’s best for her. You’re allowed to love people from afar as they grow, change, and figure things out. I hope you’re able to strike a balance between wanting to support and feeling a sense of obligation. Sending you and this friend lots of warmth and affirmation!

You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 70 articles for us.


  1. Oof, this hit me hard. I’ve had long-term friends whose friendship has sort of sizzled out because we grew apart.

    “You’re allowed to love people from afar as they grow, change, and figure things out.”

    This is great advice and can be heartbreaking. Losing a friend is a huge loss, one to be mourned, and it can be even harder to navigate when there isn’t a clear break (ie. fading away vs a falling out). Sending love!

  2. “You’re allowed to love people from afar as they grow, change, and figure things out.”

    +1 to this. i am coming from a place of having been dragged down in significant ways by taking too much personal responsibility for caring for the feelings of somebody similar to this, and the reality is that sometimes people, even if through no fault of their own, can have wounding that expresses itself through a bottomless pit of emotional need. which means that no matter how many times you respond with sensitivity and compassion, that wounding is going to keep springing up again, and your trying is not solving anything but it is exhausting you. sometimes playing into the narrative actually feeds and escalates the behavior.

    i think, if you’ve reached the point where you are trying to decide whether it is worth -losing your entire friend group- to shield yourself from this person’s vortex of pain, you are maybe past the point where continuing to try to make her feel seen is your best move. i think maybe, if you want to, you have a chat with her about what you’re seeing and suggest that she seek therapy or other resources as em suggests, and you give yourself permission to detach and either no longer respond to this kind of comment or reduce your reaction to a very brief response and then continue on with the conversation, whether or not that results in this person acting out. i can’t tell from the letter whether you’ve been able to discuss this with another trusted member of your friend group, but if you can, i’d do that.

    there’s one sentence in particular–“anything but outright agreeing with her that she’s a victim is gaslighting or not honoring her feelings or something”–that sounds a specific alarm for me about what might be going on there, but if you’re dealing with that it’s just really important for you to hold onto your own sense of reality and proportion in interactions with this person. best of luck to you.

  3. I appreciate the callout to the “You know, most people are thinking about themselves” advice. This has provided a lot of comfort to me over the years – particularly on days where I felt I looked “obviously” trans or something – but it definitely has NOT gone over as well when I have offered it as solace for other folks.

    Good reminder that what puts oneself at ease might well be a horrifying fact for someone else.

    I also agree with the advice that not all friendships need be permanent. There’s a lot of societal pressure to both have tons of friends and to always be friends with them – or to feel compelled to BECOME a friend to someone who is trying to befriend you – but ultimately if you’re in a position where you feel someone is taking more than they give it’s totally fine to say “I do not have room for this relationship in my life at this time.”

    I can’t imagine a this friend would take such a rejection very well, but it could be a teaching moment for them. It sounds like letter writer has more patience for this hyper-sensitive behavior than most people, and maybe if their friend sees that their behavior is turning them into (frankly) a selfish friend then maybe they’ll learn to tone it down.

    I don’t envy letter writer, this sounds like a challenging situation to even GENTLY broach to their friend.

  4. I actually disagree with the example of more things you could say for the social media examples. If this person wants attention, that’s what they’re getting. Instead I would try picking a short response you can give (something like “it’s not about you” or “it wasn’t personal”) and then really consistently shutting down any talk like that with that line so that you’re not engaging and encouraging this behavior (and I just googled grey rock method like suggested in another comment, and that sounds like the same idea!).

    I feel like the part of the question that the answer didn’t address was what if you want to keep the friend group but not this friend? Do you know if the other people in the group feel similarly to you about this person? Can you get them all on board with the strategy to not engage? Or all have an intervention together about how you’re bothered by this behavior? These are ways that would give this person a chance to change and stay in the friend group, or potentially remove themselves from the group because they can’t hear what you’re trying to say.

  5. It sounds to me like your friend is very insecure and dissatisfied with herself/her life, and a lot of her sensitivity comes from those departments.
    Wow, you tried a lot, and I can really see your love and care for this friend of yours. They are lucky to have you! And also: you are not required to do so much emotional labor.

    It’s not the same as what you’re describing, but I’ve had a number of friends and other close people in my life who were deeply insecure and didn’t feel their own worth. In these relationships, I attempted to provide safety and I wanted to show them how precious they were. In the end, I was utterly exhausted, and they felt it for a moment, and then it was back to zero. It seemed to me as if – and I say this with lots of love for these relationships and grief that they didn’t work out – they were black holes in space who absorbed my energy, care, love, attention and efforts. Or a bottomless pit that I would try to fill with love, care work, attention and space. I tried incredibly hard to give them something that they were only able to give themselves. And at some point, I walked away. This was not the main reason why the relationships ended, and there were a number of reasons. But in the end, they were friends – or family – for a season. (Conversely, once I worked on my shit and went to therapy, I stopped looking at other people to give me what I wanted and needed and became less of a bottomless pit that I might have been myself.)

    Back then, I wanted to keep many people in my life because they were so incredibly important to me and we had so much history, but it became too hard, we were not compatible, and now I love (and mourn) them from a distance. The relationships I have today require less work, work, work, work, work than they did for me in that past, and I am not constantly stressed, anxious, exhausted and angry.

    I don’t have good advice; maybe you can see how much this friendship gives you, and also how much it costs you; and if you don’t want to end it (which I understand), maybe tune it down a bit for less labor on your side? I don’t know. What I do know is that you are not alone.
    Best of luck!

  6. I agree that some friendships aren’t made to last and that’s ok. But before you go down that road I suggest having a conversation with your friend where you’re very explicit about this pattern and how it shows up and how it affects your friendship. It sounds like you haven’t been quite that clear so far (understandable — this is stressful!) but your friend might surprise you if you give them really honest feedback.

  7. To be honest, the passive-aggressive responses need to be shut down not respected in my opinion. Her insecurity and loneliness are understandable but her lashing out at other people is not excusable.

  8. I have a similar version to this but it’s my girlfriend and she constantly thinks everything I say and do is me hurting her.

    I’ve tried giving her reassurance that I care about her and I think the words she might mean is she is feeling insecure or mad or sad etc and tried to not focus on her semantics and communication style. But she always frames things in a way that is very accusatory of me doing things to her – like when my phone texts didn’t go through on my iwatch, she immediately told me it’s because I don’t prioritize her and I’m lying to her and jerking her around and i’ve always got good excuses etc…and I tried telling her I did text her and I thought we were having a conversation and I was responding to her but she thinks that I lied that I wanted to talk to her and it hurt her so much.

    It makes me wonder what point would I have in lying to her about it? What exactly would I get out of faking wanting to talk to her? If I am lying that I want to hang out with her – like, I can’t think of anything other than actually getting time with her would be what I get and it is ultimately what I wanted – which is what is nice about dating someone is getting to see them and spend time with them??

    At first I really wanted to help figure out the root of the problem and what she really was feeling under the wall of accusations, but I’m starting to feel a bit weary of it because it’s getting to be a constant trend.

    I think I’m starting to want to throw the baby out with the proverbial poor communication/insecurity water. It would be so nice to have her not be so insecure that every move I make isn’t seen as a slight against her. I want her to feel good and I want her to be happy and I know she isn’t feeling that way and I want to respect that that is her battle but Im starting to feel resentful and am starting to wonder where the line between insecurity and manipulation is.

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