Do you feel lonely while being with your friends? Or have you experienced discomfort when interacting with them? Friendship is an incredible and enriching bond which influences us in lots of ways. After we reach the stage of adolescence, it is a common phenomenon that friends might take precedence over family members. Friends may bring out the best in us. They are there in times of celebrations and when we seek solace but not all bonds are based on love and mutual understanding. There can be some friendships that are built on foundations of ego and manipulation which end up doing more harm than good.
WHEN DOES FRIENDSHIP BECOME TOXIC?
Dominating/Ridiculing – When friends bully us into following their path without any consideration to our happiness or convenience, that’s clear indication that there’s trouble brewing. It’s either their way or no way. If our opinions, values, and ideas are not considered and accorded with respect then the friendship needs to be re-evaluated. Arguments or disagreements occur in any relationship and are healthy up to a certain extent but if there are only issues and fights which inhibit the communication process then it should be taken as a red flag.
Demotivating / Unsupportive– Our friends push us to achieve our goals and tell us when they feel we have unrealistic expectations but they support us through our difficult times whereas toxic friends are quick to focus on our flaws and criticize us unrelentingly. When they constantly engage in negativity or critiquing your ambitions then we need to assess the strength of those bonds
.Manipulation– In the case of toxic friends everything is well and good as long as they receive constant attention and appreciation from us but they make us feel stupid when we question them. They are happy as long as things are going according to their plans. They might jeopardize our success or get jealous of our achievements.
Unhealthy Competition– Competition amongst friends is common and healthy as long as it motivates us to work harder, put in more efforts and become better but it becomes unhealthy and damaging when gaining an upper hand becomes more crucial and it starts disrupting the relationship
Opportunistic- The best thing about going through a bad time is that we get to know the true colors of others around us. The motive for sustaining the toxic friendship is to fuel their ego. The foundation of toxic friendships is laid on the shaky grounds of convenience, money, appearance and popularity.
Unreliable– They might be nice to us on our face but might spread gossip about us behind our backs or disclose personal issues shared with them. We can’t trust them as they are always reaching out when they need help but do not lend the same support when we are in need of a crying shoulder.
The Pressure of being “Cool”– Some of our friends drag us into their faulty habits and lifestyle and if they are not adhered to, it might be taken as a jab to their ego. When the strength of the friendships is based on conformity to such habits then it is a red flag.
HOW TO DRAW THE LINE?
What can we do if our friendship with our childhood friend or a colleague has started becoming draining and negative but we can’t avoid them due to proximity, past history or other factors?
Be Assertive– The only way to counter the tyranny of a bullying friend is to be firm with them. We don’t necessarily have to settle things with an argument but assertively put forth our points that bring clarity to the relationship as to what all behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable by us.
Do not get involved in their social drama– The best way to starve any form of emotional drama in friendships is by simply choosing to not get involved in the negativity and manipulation. When we stop paying attention to their rants, they will stop seeking it
Surround yourself with positive people– If we have toxic friends in our social circle with whom we have daily interactions or can’t ignore then it becomes difficult to stay positive and upbeat. Hence it becomes all the more crucial to ensure that we surround ourselves with people who appreciate us and genuinely care for us.
Friendships shouldn’t be emotionally and mentally exhausting. They shouldn’t stifle us but in fact, should help us to grow and motivate us to strive to become better versions of ourselves. Our individuality shouldn’t be lost in the maintenance of the bond.
We shouldn’t feel guilty for putting ourselves first especially if the friendship doesn’t make us happy anymore or allow our uniqueness to shine.
Ending friendships isn’t an easy task but what one needs to remember is friendships are voluntary relationships and that some people are blessings while others are lessons. Not all who have been with us on our journey of life were meant to remain with us till the finish line.
When holding on becomes more painful than letting go that’s when it becomes clear and crucial that it’s time to draw the line.