Here’s How to Say Goodbye to Toxic Friendships
Friendship is a satisfying relationship an individual usually experiences and develops.
Friends add immense value to our lives, help us cope with challenges, promote well-being and aid us in being happier. Friends also provide a solid social support system which helps us in battling tough situations or loneliness. After all, we all love a person we can open our hearts out to without the fear of judgment.
A recent study by Harvard, concluded that having solid friendships in one’s life helps in promoting brain health and improving cognitive performance. Friends help us handle stress, make better lifestyle choices, and allow us to rebound from health issues and disease more quickly. Friendship is also important to our mental health.
But while enjoying healthy friendships makes life more enriching and impacts us positively, an unhealthy friendship can do the opposite by turning toxic, stressful and doing more harm than good.
What is a toxic friendship?
Toxic friendships can take different forms, but they generally drain you mentally.
A toxic relationship can often involve more giving than receiving. It is when you do not find the support and compassion that is usually present in a healthy friendship. A relationship lacking respect, understanding, and harmony can be regarded as a toxic friendship.
Such a relationship involves manipulation, lies, and disrespect.
Clinical psychologists say that such a relationship can harm an individual instead of emotionally healing them.
Identifying a toxic friendship
To understand toxicity in friendships, it is important for us to be able to identify and differentiate an unhealthy friendship from a healthy one.
Some signs to watch out for could include:
- Being emotionally unavailable: This is the biggest sign of a toxic friend. Not being present for your friend once or twice because of genuine reasons is understandable — but when it becomes an everyday scenario, things could get murky. If a friend constantly puts you off and is nowhere to be found when you really need them for help in stress management — then it’s about time you give your friendship a second thought.
- Constantly putting you down: Friends are known to pull your leg and crack jokes, but true friends respect you and know their limits. When a friend is constantly making you question your self- worth, insulting you or making offensive jokes, the friendship could turn sour.
- Being unsupportive: True friendship requires supporting your friend through thick and thin. However, when you find them minimizing or brushing off your problems and not taking a stand for you, toxicity can set in.
- Disrespecting boundaries: Boundaries are essential for any relationship to be successful and long lasting. It is vital for individuals involved in a relationship to respect each other’s boundaries. Toxic friends can step over these boundaries by exploiting or manipulating you. They could also force you to do things outside of your comfort zone. Such people can come across as being bullheaded, forceful, and sly.
- Not owning up to their mistakes: As humans, we are prone to making mistakes; it is inevitable. We could unintentionally end up hurting a friend, but what is more crucial is how we make up afterwards. Admitting your fault and sincerely apologizing is the right way to mend things with your friends. These rifts, once fixed, can even bring two people closer. The kind of friends who shun your feelings and never say a simple ‘sorry’ are the people you don’t need in your life.
- Being self-centered: The biggest component to a happy relationship is equality. A healthy relationship is one where both individuals can share their concerns freely and openly without judgement. Toxic friends, on the other hand, make everything all about them and pay less heed to issues concerning you.
Stepping out of a toxic friendship
Ending a relationship is never easy and requires a conscious effort and choice. However, when you know the decision you are making will protect your mental health, it becomes a tad easier.
You can begin by:
- Establishing boundaries: When you feel like your friend is being manipulative and taking undue advantage of you, it is time to set some clear boundaries. You could state such boundaries clearly to your friend. For instance, if you don’t wish to be called after a certain time, tell them.
- Limiting your contact: Abruptly cutting off a friendship can be difficult and could come across as rude and hurtful. In such a case, it is best to begin by slowly limiting contact with the person. You could reduce the amount of time you spend with them and eventually remove them from your social media.
- Finding new ways to fill the void: This is especially important because losing a friend can bring in loneliness and sadness — even if your friendship was toxic. Toxic individuals often take up a lot of your energy and time, so they can make their absence easily felt. Therefore, it is of prime importance that you find interesting ways to keep yourself busier and happier. This could include developing a new hobby, spending time with loved ones and forming new friendships.
Nurturing healthy friendships
Just the way you invest in your health for a better life, it is essential that you invest in the right people, too. Therefore, for your sake, do not tolerate toxic friendships.
True friends can help you weather the storms of life. They don’t completely get rid of the pain, but having a shoulder to lean on can make the toughest of experiences easier.
Numerous research studies have emphasized the importance of a solid social support system in decreasing one’s stress levels, and anxiety.
So, let’s be more mindful about the quality of our circle, and make an effort to be more loving, accepting and giving.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.