I recently stumbled across an article on Bustle which related the story of a woman who wrote to an advice columnist because she was ‘concerned’ that her ‘less attractive’ friends won’t ever find love.
In this letter which originally appears on The Cut the woman makes a point of injecting her self-perceived attractiveness into the equation and pits it against her so-called “ugly” friends.
She humble-brags about how happy she is with her ‘equally attractive’ long-term partner and goes on to add that in her group of mostly beautiful friends, two of her lonely and less attractive friends garner less attention from men than everyone else does.
Can you believe this woman’s absolute gall?
With words draped in insincerity and condescending pity, she finally asks the advice columnist to help her because she doesn’t want to come across as being heartless by not thinking her friends will be able to find love.
The two big things that are apparent to me here is that a) she has a very shallow perception of the world if she thinks that someone’s relationship happiness is only dependent on their level of attractiveness, especially when you consider the fact that we all age and b) her so-called worry is not so much concern than it is concern-trolling.
Basically, she is not as much concerned as she is being a jerk.
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She pretends to care, but what she doesn’t realise is that the attitude she projects is more telling about her own sense of self-worth. Her friends may not be as conventionally attractive as she claims them to be, but nowhere does it say that their loneliness is brought on by feelings of inadequacy.
And personally, if that were the case, then this woman is at least partially responsible for projecting and spreading that fear to her friends.
People are more than the sum of their looks and what this woman fails to get is that obstacles such as anxiety, social awkwardness and shyness are also aspects that could fit into the equation when trying to put yourself out there.
This immediately got me thinking about people who make assumptions and offer unsolicited advice.
The thing about concern-trolling is that it can present itself in subtle ways and can often come from someone who actually has good intentions. I don’t think that’s the case with the example above, of course, but it is disingenuous in the sense the concern is a guise for shaming people for their lifestyle choices or lack thereof.
For example, asking someone “Should you really be eating that?” could perhaps be seen as someone who is supposedly concerned with your health, but at the same time can also be construed as you being judged for your eating or health habits.
There’s also the “I support you but…” argument that’s meant to give the impression that the concerned person is on your side, except their aim is to invalidate your convictions and cause you to doubt yourself.
The latter is a classic example where the definition of concern-trolling actually stems from and one of the most insidious forms of trolling, simply because the person often lacks the self-awareness that comes with identifying this kind of behaviour.
Ways in which you can be concern-trolled often range from being tone-policed, to comments about your clothing choices (always hinted at, but enough so that you’re totally aware of the subtext), questions about your approach to tasks and questions about your relationship (or lack thereof) .
How you phrase questions that relate to someone’s life depends not only on what you’re saying, but also your tone of voice.
If the person who is concerned is making you feel bad about your choices by phrasing questions or statements in a way that will make you second-guess yourself, then that’s definitely a red flag that signals that said person is questioning and judging you and doesn’t have your actual interests at heart.
Genuine worry won’t make you question your agency. Concern-trollers always do.