The relationships we share with those around us are central to our identity and well-being. Our friends can lift us up from the darkest places, celebrate our successes as if they were their own, and give us a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and belonging. But some of the people we share our lives with don’t play such a positive role in our story. We’ve all had them – toxic friends, poisonous pals, unhealthy acquaintances. These are the people in our lives who take more than they give and, in the end, leave us feeling resentful, drained, and frustrated more often than not. If this is hitting a little too close to home, it might be time to do a little housekeeping – sometimes it is in our very best interests to simply let go of relationships that no longer serve us.
So how do we identify these toxic types? Here are just a few of the red flags that I've noticed, that have helped me to ferret out my most parasitic pals:
1. Negative Nelly – oftentimes, toxic friends are the ones who always have something to complain about. There’s always something going on with these folks, and they don’t shy away from monopolizing the conversation with their tales of woe. What’s worse, is that when there’s nothing wrong in their life to complain about, they’ll often point out the shortcomings in yours. These types of people will go out of their way to either boo-hoo about their own plethora of misfortunes, or bring you down instead.
2. Green Monster of Jealousy – these friends are the ones who can’t stand it when you succeed or have a moment in the spotlight. While they should be celebrating your triumphs with you, they instead try to bring the focus back on themselves, try to best you at your own game, or try to knock you off your cloud by undermining your achievement. These folks have no problem pointing out their own accomplishments, but give you the cold shoulder when you try to do the same.
3. The Toughest Critic – as if we aren’t hard enough on ourselves, toxic friends can be really rough on us too and snatch at opportunities to lower our self-esteem. Whether it is scoffing at your fashion sense, making comments about your weight, or telling you that you don’t stand a chance at that competitive program or promotion, these types will deflate you on the regular.
4. The Perpetual Victim – feel like everything is your fault when things go wrong in the friendship, even when it makes absolutely no sense to feel that way? Are you the one that is always apologizing even though it defies basic logic? That’s because these types of people have mastered the art of spinning a scenario so that they come out the looking like the victim, and you’re the bad guy. These folks will never admit that they are wrong, won’t take responsibility for their own actions, and will manipulate a situation to ensure that the blame falls entirely on someone else.
5. Take, Take, Take – in every relationship there should be some give and take. Sometimes our friends need all the attention, love and support, and that’s ok – as long as it sometimes swings back the other way. Poisonous pals will not respect this balance, and will expect more from you than they are ever willing to give in return. Perhaps it’s constantly asking you for favours which they can never reciprocate, or maybe they simply monopolize the conversation and expect you to care about their life when they can’t afford you the same courtesy. Either way, all these types do is take and take and take – and this can leave us feeling empty and resentful.
Now that we know how to identify our unhealthy acquaintances, it may be time to do a little housekeeping. Here are some tips on how to get safely out of a relationship with a toxic friend:
Cut them Off – you have to be careful with this one. Sometimes we feel like we just want to sever all ties and call it quits NOW. However, this can often backfire, cause a huge blow-out, and exacerbate the situation. That said, sometimes this is the last and best option. If you’ve tried everything else, this one might be the one for you!
Get Busy – throw your time and effort into something that makes you happy, and become busy with it – too busy, in fact, to spend time with your toxic someone. Eventually they may get the hint and move on too. If not, at least you’re spending time doing something you like, with people you like, and your happier self may be better able to just say no to your toxic friend.
Stand Up for Yourself – Set boundaries and be honest with your poisonous pal. They are bound to hate this, especially since they dislike hearing negative feedback and being stood up to. But hold your ground! You are an important, intelligent, worthwhile person and you deserve to have your voice heard and respected.
Say “Whatever” – try to detach emotionally from the person and their animosity towards you. If you are able to realize that these are just sad, unhappy people with low self-worth, then it becomes less impactful when they are unpleasant. When they don’t hold that kind of power over you anymore, it might just become easier to let go, and walk away.
Now move forward! Cleanse your life of the toxic relationships that are weighing you down, and go surround yourself with people who love you, support you, and balance you out. When you are part of an inspiring, uplifting network, you will feel happier, healthier, and more in tune with the real you!
*Side note: It’s important to realize that sometimes our most toxic friends aren’t truly bad people – it might be the case that we just aren’t a good fit together. Two people really can bring out the worst in each other, and that’s no kind of relationship to spend effort maintaining! If you feel like a relationship isn’t helping you be your best self (or worse, is making you into your worst self!) then it’s probably just time to let it go. It doesn’t mean that either of you are terrible people, you just don’t work well as a team, and that’s ok!