“I’m addicted to you. Don’t you know that you’re toxic?” When talking about toxic friendships, Britney Spears’ lyrics also ring true; being involved in a toxic friendship feels like a drug that you’re addicted to, taking a toll on your mental health and making you hurt even more each time.
A toxic friendship is defined as a friendship where you feel that the other person isn’t putting as much effort into the relationship as you are. This can occur when boundaries aren’t respected, or when you do nice things for another person and they don’t reciprocate in the same way. If a friendship makes you feel unwanted, unloved or uncomfortable, it is toxic.
When attempting to find the difference between a toxic relationship and one that just needs patching, reflect on how you feel with the person. Do they make you happier, or are you more stressed about passing yourself off as perfect to them? If you feel judged by them or think that you have to keep up an illusion of a different person to be happy with them, it’s time to move on.
But how can you cut off someone who’s been a big part of your life for a long time?
Step one: Realize that your own self-care will always trump anyone else’s feelings. They might be hurt that you’re ending the friendship, so try to cut contact with them as peacefully as you can. Some people might cry or get mad at you, blaming you for the problems in your relationship, but try to keep a cool head and realize that they’re manipulating your sense of kindness and empathy. Think about yourself first and don’t give in.
Step two: Find a new friend, or, if necessary, a whole new group of friends. Of course, if you have a lot of close friends, you can rely on the others for support through this time. However, not everyone is lucky enough to know a lot of people, and it’s always important to have a group of people that you can trust. Finding new friends can be a daunting task at first, but keep at it. Find someone in one of your classes and ask to sit with them at lunch, confide in someone trustworthy and have patience. We’re in a welcoming environment where it won’t be nearly as difficult as you expect. Regardless, it is far better to be lonely for a week or two than to be with people who distort your perception of yourself.
Step three: Work on keeping your current and any future relationships healthy. Understand that you don’t have to be friends with everyone. Learn to be picky with relationships and put yourself first. Surround yourself with people who give off positive vibes, are supportive and have your best interests at heart. Find the kind of people who say, “Great job!” rather than responding to every success in your life with their better grade, score or experience. Friends that truly support you in everything you do and refrain from teasing you too often are the best ones to have.
Learn to love yourself, and others will follow suit. Be willing to go through the cycle of repairing yourself after someone has torn you down to nothing at all. Realize that your light is so bright no one can snuff it out unless you let them, and find people who only ignite it more, not dim it. It might take time, but you will grow and figure out how to be happy.
—Written by Nikki Suzani