Alright, let’s be honest here, we’ve all befriended at least one toxic person in our lifetime. What you think might start off as a great friendship can ultimately turn out to be not-so-great, and that’s totally okay! But what’s not okay is you armoring yourself up for a friendship that’s just simply not worth fighting for.
On Dec. 13, 2020, I received the grand opportunity to speak with Sara Phillips; a public relations student at the Management and Science University in Malaysia. The two of us discussed the concepts of toxicity and what it means to redefine a friendship. As we shared our first-hand experiences with toxic friendships, we also delved into the signs of a toxic friendship, how to conquer a toxic friendship and how to recognize and understand when we’re being the toxic one ourselves.
Stick with us to hear our point of view on when and how you need to put the “end” in friend.
Choose your friends wisely
As I always like to say, “Pick your friends like you would pick your apples.” Much like people, there are good ones just as there are bad ones. You definitely want to reach for the ones that appear the most appealing and fruitful, contrary to those that are laying on the ground decaying. Nevertheless, looks can be deceiving, so you must take caution of heart-shaped friendship bracelets and false pinky promises.
Most of our newfound buddies have our best interests in mind, but some just utterly don’t. They’re either your lifeguard on duty or watching you sink like Jack on the Titanic— and it can feel like there’s no in-between. Oftentimes, we become blindsided by a bright smile or even a mere compliment, which subjects us to an automatic and welcoming friendship. Though we must not confuse positive affirmations with deception. While someone may seem harmless, they still somehow manage to stand there with a face masked with lies and malicious intentions.
Remember: Anyone can play nice; it’s no different than a skillful actor playing a role. One way or another, they’ll eventually break character.
Signs of a toxic friendship
A tainted friendship can come in various shapes and forms. Sometimes we can’t even discern the fact that we’re involved in one, however other times we are well aware. Quite frequently, we adhere to the notion that if we love someone, then there is absolutely no need to confront the situation. Or that since we have a long-term history with them that’s an effective substitute for not wanting to throw away such adorable polaroids and late-night phone conversations.
Here are some identifying factors of a toxic friendship:
- Putting you down
If you ever come across a friend who’s continuously shaming the entire friendship, chances are they’re not good for you. Don’t get me wrong, we all crack a harmless joke every now and then, but there is a sheer difference between teasing and belittling. Imagine having a serious problem only for someone to say, “You’re so stupid for allowing this happen” or even being emotionally nonchalant. It’s quite unfortunate that your so-called friend does a better job at criticizing you rather than consoling you. Shall that ever be the case, then you should probably call the friendship quits.
- Having a one-way friendship
Since we’re already on the topic of consolation, then why not discuss the difficulties of having a one-way friendship? We all know how important it is to be supportive of friends, especially when the going gets tough. However, in a toxic friendship that comfort might not be reciprocated. In other words, they may not be as emotionally compatible when it comes to being there for you as a friend.
This is most definitely a department that I know too well. Coming from personal experience, I believe that guilt-tripping is by far the lowest of the low. For instance, a manipulative person might say something like, “If you were my friend then you would do this for me.” Perhaps they might even go as far as giving you ultimatums, which would only coerce you to stay in that toxic friendship with them. If you began to notice small signs such as those, then I recommend that you sail away and never return to the island of manipulation.
If it’s one thing that I can’t absolutely stand, it’s a two-faced friend. There’s nothing more disappointing than the realization that a so-called friend has been talking negatively about you behind your back, or that they’re falsely creating your character. Having harsh words be unknowingly spoken by the person you assumed you could trust the most is painful to say the least. You can only allow a backspace for so long before realizing that something need to be erased out of your life completely.
How to detach yourself from a toxic friendship
Dumping a friend may be easier said than done, trust me, I know. However, there are many ways to unfriend a person, and luckily I have three up my sleeve.
- Clean out things that relate to them
This is moreso pertaining to physical things that were either given to you, or things that simply remind you of that particular person. As long as we have these ideas in our possession, then it will be nearly impossible to move on. If an old friend bought you a certain shirt that you liked, donate it to your local Goodwill. If the two of you heard a song and declared it as your official ‘friendship tune,’ then try to refrain from listening to it; I can assure you that Spotify has a long list of sad songs that you can jam to before you’re finally able to overcome your loss of a friend.
- Block them on social media
Let’s face it. I know that we’ve all blocked someone at least once before unblocking them all over again. Nevertheless, we must let bygones be bygones. After you’ve blocked them, let it be! It may not be the cure to a broken heart, but it is most certainly a start.
- Focus on yourself
What better way to forget about an old pal than to focus on yourself? Oftentimes, we get too wrapped up in what the other person’s doing, that we completely end up losing ourselves along the way. But to avoid that, simply occupy yourself by guiding your mind in a more positive direction. This can be from journal writing, to exercising; only you have the power to change your thoughts, but how you change them can affect your future relationships.
Toxicity within yourself
There are a many toxic people in the world, however what happens when you’re being the toxic friend? In this situation, you definitely want to recognize and ultimately reassess your behavior. It’s not easy to take responsibility for our own mistakes, but it makes you more mature in the end. By owning up to the toxicity, you’re creating a new window for a second chance at the friendship. From there, you and your buddy can communicate amongst each other in order to figure out the root of your problems. Anything can be saved, you just have to be willing to bring it back to life.
If you’ve made it this far, then you’re practically an expert at identifying and surviving toxic friendships. It’s okay to hold onto people, just know when to let them go too.
Graphic by Autumn Rendall via Canva