I'm not really the jealous type. But a couple of years ago, when my best friend introduced me to one of her friends (who had very quickly gone from acquaintance to inner circle), I remember feeling a bucketload of envy rise up inside of me.
Usually, I would have been unfazed, and even happy for her, but after hearing one too many stories about their awesome Sunday brunch escapades and their incredible late-night DnMs over Taco Bell, the resentment over this new-found friend clung to me like a bad smell. Were they having more fun together? Did she relate better to my best friend than I did?
My rational side knew that the existence of a new friend doesn’t (and shouldn’t) make our own friendship any less, but that didn’t stop my mind from running rampant and picturing a time when this new friend had robbed me of my place on the friendship pedestal.
Judging from recent videos on TikTok, I'm not alone in this line of thinking. It seems that a lot of people have, at some point, felt insecure about their best friend’s other friends. But does that make us horrible people? Are we bad friends for feeling this way?
Friendship jealousy is real
Relationship therapist Amanda Lambros assures me that’s far from the case. “Jealousy is real," she tells Refinery29 Australia. "Although you have an established relationship with your friend, the introduction of a 'new' person becomes a perceived threat [and] as unrealistic as that may seem, our brains love to play tricks on us and keep us on guard,” she says.
“You may be spending less time with your friend, and so your mind creates a narrative and simply fills in the gaps with its own story, typically based around any of your insecurities.”
So, how do we stop this resentment from boiling out of control and causing a human-sized wedge between you and your best friend?
Acknowledge your feelings
“Let your friend know how much you value your relationship with them. [And think of it as an] opportunity to do some self-reflection and get to the bottom of why you are feeling this way,” Lambros suggests. “The sooner you recognise and work on these feelings, the better. Don't allow this negative narrative to grow out of proportion...which is what will happen if you leave it unchecked.”
Luckily, I was able to pinpoint pretty quickly that I was projecting my own anxiety and feelings of inadequacy onto my best friend’s new friendship, which had very clearly manifested itself into a fear of being replaced. Understanding the root cause of this jealousy honestly set me free, because it meant that I could finally get to the bottom of those specific feelings and prioritise the active process of trying to interrupt my catastrophising thoughts with the true reality of the situation — that the existence of a new friend can be mutually exclusive to us retaining our unbreakable bond.
TikToker @mojojojo496 says that it can be helpful to rationalise your feelings by “ask[ing] yourself: when [you] hang out with a person who isn’t [your] best friend, are [you] doing so in an attempt to replace her? Is that a thought that even crosses [your] mind? No. What would your friend say if you felt like you were trying to replace her? She would probably say no, I just wanted to hang out with this girl”. When you flip the perspective, it allows you to see the situation in a less insecurity-clouded light.
Now, I’m not saying this whole “healing” process happened overnight and I just woke up one morning feeling completely fine about the situation. But if you’re in the same kind of vicious cycle of being jealous and then feeling guilty for having negative feelings towards someone you love and care about, I want to reassure you that doesn’t make you a bad person — it’s how you handle it that counts.
Open up to your friend
If you feel like it would be well-received, it's a good idea to casually open up to your friend about your feelings. I’m very lucky that my best friend and I have the type of relationship where we can talk about everything. So I felt comfortable enough to tell her what was going on in my mind, and she was able to help manage some of my fears by reassuring me that these thoughts were far from reality. After that, she also made an active effort to include me in plans where the three of us could hang out and get to know each other, which helped assuage my initial insecurities.
Now, a few years on, I no longer feel jealous when my bestie makes a new friend. I don't feel like I'm being replaced, or that she doesn't love me as much anymore. I've come to realise that it's important to be secure enough in your own friendships to know that your friends can have other friends without it taking away from your relationship. In fact, having multiple close friends can be a really enriching experience. It can expose you to new ideas and perspectives, and give you a broader support network. So the next time you feel a twinge of jealousy when your friend makes a new friend, try to reframe it as a good thing. It means that your friend is expanding their social circle and finding new people to love and be loved by. And that's something to celebrate.