A person who speaks negatively about you when you’re not around. A person who tries to dim the euphoria you feel about the things you care about. A person who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. A person who doesn’t make you feel safe enough to share your uncut, unfettered feelings with them.
Starting to sound familiar? I just listed some of the qualities of a toxic friend. Though these traits seem easy to catch on to, sometimes a toxic friend may make you forget their misdemeanors by downplaying what they’ve done wrong, or making you feel momentarily special.
There are things that toxic friends do that toxic boyfriends or girlfriends are also capable of, but when a friend does these things they may not seem so obvious to us. These things include: continuing to talk to you like nothing has happened after clearly upsetting you, doing things for their own benefit even if it means inconveniencing you, not treating you with the same amount of respect and consideration that they give to others, etc.
I’ve had my portion of toxic friendships.
I had a friend that made me feel like less of myself when I was around them. I felt the need to change my opinions and interests. I didn’t like the energy I felt when I was with them, nor did I like the energy that lingered when I had left their presence. These should have been big enough red flags.
Whenever I was sure I was done and close to cutting them off definitely, they’d find their way back into my life with a smooth “let’s hang out” or “come get food with me.” For someone like me — who was well acclimated with putting all my efforts into friendships just for them to not be reciprocated — it felt good to know that someone was choosing to be around me without me having to chase them down or shove some ‘why don’t you care about me, woe is me’ sentiment down their throat.
In addition to clouding my judgment by making me feel wanted, if I ever confronted this friend about how their negative actions made me feel within our friendship they would laugh it off and say “it was just a joke”, or my personal favorite “it’s not that deep.”
In the course of time, I actualized I did not feel emotionally safe around this person. I learned to curtail my emotions and convinced myself I was being melodramatic. As I diminished my emotions, I didn’t realize that my respect for my friend was diminishing as well. As my friend didn’t care for my emotions, I created an invisible emotional barrier between us.
Soon my wanting-to-please-people syndrome began to wear down, and I realized how much this friend was not serving the part of me that sought intricate, emotionally safe and healthy friendships.
Now don’t get me wrong. This friend of mine was not a bad friend. They gave good advice, held intellectual conversations, and listened when I needed it the most. And clearly, they had their own personal problems that they refused to come to terms with as well. Being a big advocate of psychology and understanding the reason for peoples’ actions, this caused me to stay in the friendship even longer. But like I said, my friend wasn’t a bad friend, completely. They just had a lot of growing to do.
When humans are undergoing the human experience, it’s not shocking that we might affect one another in the process. Years of built-up trauma is a big factor in how humans choose to interact. Hence, toxic friendships in which people don’t respect one another take place. But that does not mean it’s okay.
It’s good to acknowledge that anyone has the potential to be toxic towards you, but if they can’t look deep inside themselves to acknowledge the reasons for how they interact with the world and take accountability for their actions, they’re so not worth your time.
It’s not this person’s fault that they had a bad childhood, bad past relationships, or grew up in a close-minded or non-nurturing environment. It is their fault though, that they choose to continue to carry these things with them throughout life even when confronted by people that care about and want to better them. As the great Will Smith once said in an inspirational Instagram video:
It really doesn’t matter whose fault it is that something is broken. It’s your responsibility to fix it.
– Will Smith
Just as your friend may have been toxic to you, it is very possible that you may have been toxic to your friend. When you hold on to pain and grudges and still try to continue a relationship with the source of the pain, the chances are you’re not going to treat this person too well. I have first-hand experience.
People have the ability to make you become a nasty person.
Let this echo in your consciousness and use it to help you grow.
Rather than descend into a habit of letting people’s actions dictate the kind of person you’re going to be, learn to confront your friends when they make you feel like the worst version of yourself. If all else fails, rid yourself of these friendships before you’re in too deep and have a harder time cutting ties.
With that said, always protect your energy and don’t be afraid to remove something or someone from your life if it’s no longer serving you. A lifetime of negative feelings is not worth sacrificing your mental health and longevity.