Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… what do you do when your own best friend is insufferably selfish? When, no matter what you tell her, she has to “one up” you? Have your own questions? Email email@example.com
Dear Scary Mommy,
I love my best friend dearly. She’s been my A-1 since Day One, literally for as long as I can remember. But lately, I’m starting to realize how selfish she is, mainly because she’s what you’d call a “one-upper.” No matter what I tell her, she’s got to insert herself into it — and no matter what I’m going through, she’s been through a similar situation, but way worse. For example, I was recently diagnosed with fibroid tumors and shared with her how relieved I was to finally have a diagnosis for the pain I’ve been experiencing for a few years. She interrupted me to remind me of a time she, too, had reproductive issues when we were in high school and hers was so bad she had to be hospitalized — “at least you don’t have to go through something like that, right?” was her response. It doesn’t end there. She’s always interrupting me or invalidating my life stories to share in some way that her kids are always quirkier and sillier, her husband is always the biggest asshole or the Only Good Husband (depending on how she feels about him that day), her house is more exhausting to clean than mine because it’s bigger, her job is more demanding because of x, y, and z…well, you see where I’m going with this. I really do love her — but at this point, I think it has more to do with our shared history than for who she is. Should I tell her how I feel? I’m honestly not even sure I can get through to her about why this is problematic.
Hoo, boy. I’m so sorry that your friend is being shitty and isn’t giving you the support you deserve. One-upping, in addition to being frustrating AF and toxic, is often the knee-jerk reactionary behavior of someone with low self-esteem. Sometimes, it’s behavior people who are socially awkward retreat to without intention. But that doesn’t mean it’s not annoying as hell to be around. It’s also not a great indication of friendship when you’re internally screaming “FUCK OFF” every time you talk.
In order to have a functional friendship, there have to be reciprocal gestures of love and good faith. Just because your light shines doesn’t mean hers gets dimmed. And vice versa. When you’re going through life’s rollercoaster moments, of course you want to share them — the awful and the wonderful — with your best friend! It seems like your friend is hugely lacking in self-awareness and humility, even if she’s projecting from a place of insecurity. Which is so especially terrible when you’re going through a terrible time, or when you want to share a moment of joy with someone you care about.
Since you’ve been friends with her for so long, and that is understandably important to you, I would suggest having a gentle-but-extremely-honest conversation with her. Just the two of you, sans quirky kids and god-like husbands. Reiterate that you love her, but make it clear that you feel like you can’t share anything valid about your life because she’s being a giant asshole (you’re welcome to use whatever noun or adjective you like; I prefer this one). You cannot be friends with someone whose blinders prevent them from being selfless enough to merely listen to their best friend about anything, ever.
She’ll probably get defensive, and she might tell you she doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. Sometimes one-uppers are really just Chronic Interrupters more than anything, which is also extremely rude and irritating! But if that’s the case, you might have a shot at getting through to her and salvaging the friendship.
If she’s just, like, really competitive in nature or something, go ahead and tell her that her behavior makes it feel like she’s turning your friendship into a rivalry — which is the exact opposite of what a friendship should be beyond, like, second grade.
Be prepared for a less-than-desirable response. But remember, you shouldn’t have to censor yourself and the things you want to talk about with your best friend because she can’t process those things in a reasonable way or be supportive. Your friend should care about your feelings and experiences, especially the ones she’s directly responsible for.
Unfortunately, people who demonstrate an extraordinary lack of self-awareness don’t often “see the light,” so to speak (at least in my experience, anyway). If that ends up being the case here, well, you might want to start Pinteresting “why boundaries are necessary and great” to your “My Friend Sucks” board. You deserve love and kindness, even if it means you’re giving it to yourself.
Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org