Can you think of someone close to you who, even though they’re supposed to love and support you unconditionally, periodically put you down?
You could be in a toxic friendship and not even know it.
Friendships, even the best ones, can be difficult and challenging as we weave our way through life’s ups and downs.
However, we all have and need friendships but some of them may give a little less than others.
A toxic friendship is one that is damaging to one, or in some cases, both people involved. Friendships are the building blocks of community, well-being and happiness, but if a friendship is stifled by control, criticism, negativity and jealousy then it is not a healthy place to be.
Changing this situation can be difficult if you wrestle with thoughts of guilt, obligation and the idea of ‘better the devil you know’ but the only way forward in these situations is to cut those ties and move on.
So, how do you tell if it’s a toxic friendship? Check out these six tips below.
Listen to your gut.
Have you ever noticed how your gut feeling in most situations is often the right one? Does your stomach drop with dread when certain names flash up on your cellphone or do you experience waves of anxiety when you meet up? These are the early but subtle and intuitive signs that this is not a healthy friendship.
Identify your body language around this person.
Listen to your own body. Do your shoulders drop forward and you slouch in your seat, posture collapsing to make yourself smaller around this person? If after speaking you feel overwhelmed, drained, resentful and negative in body and mind then this friendship is adding nothing to your life. In the wise words of Princess Elsa, you’ve got to ‘let it go’.
You give so much more than you get.
Friendships are a two-way street. There will be highs and lows on everyone’s journey but if you’re always feeling that you give 110% and get nothing in return then it is time to reconsider what’s in it for you. This is not selfish, just common sense. Constant giving and striving to please is exhausting when you get nothing in return.
One of the only things you have in common is the fact that you’ve been friends for a very long time.
It’s normal for people to grow, change and find other interests. As a result, people tend to grow apart. Are you the same exact person you were 10 years ago? Do you want to be? Just because you’ve been friends with someone for a long time doesn’t mean automatic friendship renewal – your relationships are not a subscription. Be especially aware if they criticize your new interests, friends and hobbies — your friendships should lift you up and empower you, not hold you back.
Do you feel yourself turning into someone you neither recognize or like?
Quite often as you try to accommodate the needs of another person you can’t be yourself and will certainly never be your best self. Toxic friendships will stifle and lay blame forcing you to be the person you don’t necessarily want to be.
Be honest with yourself.
Remember, that it takes two to tango. Step back and consider whether it is you who is reinforcing the toxicity through complaint, blame and fear of the change that would come from ending the friendship. You may be mirroring each other’s negativity, which is not healthy for either party.
Take into consideration the wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as you assess your friendship. Consider ahimsa (non harming) and satya (truth). Be honest with yourself and question whether the friendship is a damaging one for you and then allow yourself to move on.