Monday, 26 November 2018

Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Friends

In our last post in this series, we addressed the people on the periphery (toxic acquaintances and coworkers) and now it's time to move to the next level in our social circle: friends.

I think there are two types of toxic friends: 1/ individuals who you know are toxic who have somehow wormed their way into your friend zone without you realizing it, and 2/ those who have been your 'friend' for an extended period of time who you had no idea were actually toxic until you took a step back and were like, WHAT.

1/ Toxic people who have somehow wormed their way in without you realizing it
No need to feel bad if this has happened to you - toxic people tend to be sneaky and make a really great first impression before they go all batshit crazy on you; They either hide their true nature or dampen their toxicity intensity while they are acquaintances, but once they are 'in' your friend zone they throw all caution to the wind, their toxicity starts oozing into your life, and you're left trying to deal with shit that isn't yours to deal with. If you find yourself in this situation then the first thing you need to do is set up some boundaries and make space for yourself for some self-reflection. Ask yourself some reflective questions such as, "What exactly is bothering me about so and so," "How do I feel after interacting with so and so" or "Is so and so someone that I want to keep investing my time into?" After this stage, if you have made the realization this person has gotten too close for comfort and is toxic, start actually following through on your boundaries and begin backing away by distancing yourself. You will likely get a negative reaction from said person in question who are likely thinking, "What happened? Why is this person doing this when before they didn't?" but that isn't your problem. They start complaining to you that they are sad or whatever, not your problem; They were unhealthy for you and were sucking life from you (which was your problem) so if they come to you feeling sad because you won't let them keep sucking your life from you then that's their problem. You look after you, they can deal with themselves.

2/ 'Friends' that you didn't realize were toxic until later
Sometimes this happens: you have a friend who you thought was a good friend and were close with, but then over a period of time you start realizing things don't add up and actually aren't as peachy as you once thought they were. This may be because your friend has changed or because you have changed, but either way change happened and the friendship just isn't the same anymore.

In my experience I was previously really close friends someone who I used to have a great friendship with, but in the last few years or so I began realizing that things weren't quite right: I always initiated our conversations, went out of my way to say things to make her feel better even if they were self-deprecating, and would let things go that actually bothered me quite a bit. Anyway, it really wasn't until I sought help for my depression and was on my journey of healing and on my way to becoming a stronger and mentally healthier person that I started making more connections in my head regarding this friend saw the 'friendship' for what became: a toxic one-sided friendship where I was the fool.

When I came to this realization, I began asking myself the same self-reflective questions I mentioned above and came to the following conclusions:

1) Someone who makes you feel small and foolish all the time is no friend.
2) Someone who you don't feel comfortable sharing personal information with anymore is no friend.
3) The past isn't a good reason to put up with a friendship that is presently toxic.

With these things in mind, I started creating boundaries for myself regarding this person: I no longer initiate conversations (and since then we haven't talked one-on-one, seriously), I no longer engage in self-deprecating humour or talk around this person, and I don't disclose personal things with this person. Basically, I've stopped investing in this person and I no longer consider her a good friend anymore, but the thing is I'M MORE THAN OK WITH THIS. Life is full of ebbs and flows, and people move in and out of our lives depending on what season we are in; that's just how it works. In this particular scenario with this person, we just changed over the years and that's ok; If we didn't change and were the same people we were as kids/teenagers then I think that would be a bigger problem. I still see this person from time to time, but these days she doesn't have the same affect on me anymore. I friendly and civil with her, but mainly I just do my own thing; I'm not concerned with gaining her approval anymore and I don't let her affect me the same way she was able to before. If she attempts to become close friends again, well, what is that saying? "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." (Yah, no thanks.) I wish her well (it's not like I hate her or anything lol) I just won't be 'living life with her' the way that I used to.

Basically when it comes to toxic friends, the best thing for you to do is to create boundaries between you and them. I don't mean physical barriers (although sometimes you do need physical space from them), but more internal barriers where you detach yourself from them emotionally. The thing is, from my own experience, the big change was my own perception of things; my good friend-turned-acquaintance actually didn't do anything at all other than be herself. I feel a lot of the time toxic friends try to make their shit yours (like fishing for you to say certain things to them to make them feel better to your own detriment because of possible insecurity issues), but why should their stuff be your problem? Here's the truth that they don't want you to know: their problems are not your problems. They might try to drag you into things, but stay true to your boundaries and don't let them get you involved. They have no right to make you feel like less of a person because they need to feel like more of one so remember: their problems are not your problems. You can try to be helpful if you'd like, but if things start going south for you because of the toxicity, cut yourself loose and give yourself a break. Just because you aren't helping them with their problems doesn't make you a bad or mean person. Their problems are their problems (not yours) and they need to learn to deal with their own shit in a healthier way just like everybody else.

Phew, that was a doozy. Next up, the hardest group of toxic people to deal with: toxic family members...

Read the other posts in this series:
Toxicity Be Gone: An Introduction to Toxic People
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Acquaintances and Co-Workers
Toxicity Be Gone: Toxic Family Members

No comments:

Post a Comment