Have you ever had a friend who’s more like a warden? Maybe an ex-lover or a wicked stepmother? I have dealt with my fair share of people who take their anger out on their friends, sucking the life out of others with their nasty attitudes. These people are toxic to all those around them! If any of this rings a bell, there’s a good chance you have a friend who is the BP oil spill of your social life.
Now take that person who sent those bells ringing and first ask yourself, “How does this person make me feel?” If your answer strays far from “awesome,” then your friendship needs to be evaluated. Friends should leave you feeling good about yourself, inspired, and joyful. These are the people who are supposed to help you relax, have fun, and deal with the challenges of life. If your friend stresses you out, makes you feel like less of a person, or exhausts you, then the relationship is not a healthy one.
If that isn’t enough to tell you your friend isn’t an uplifting and healthy presence, here are five huge red flags:
Toxic friends …
Are consistently negative
There is always something wrong in this person’s life, and there is always something to complain about. And when it’s not their car/job/ex-boyfriend ruining their life, then they try to point out what they think is wrong in your life. Toxic friends will go out of their way to either boo-hoo or bring down, whether it’s saying how they’ll never find a job in this economy or reminding you of all the taxes that come with your new raise.
Have no respect
Toxic friends don’t give a hoot about your boundaries, your needs, or anything, for that matter. All they know is what they need from you and that they expect to get it. “No” is never an acceptable answer from you, even if you’re blowing off your day at the beach together to go spend time with your father who has to undergo surgery for cancer. This would seem logical to any normal empathetic person, but toxic friends are not empathetic; they are selfish. If you ever feel that you can’t say no to them, even for a completely valid and fair reason, then it’s time to start planning your escape route.
Are your worst critic
We’re hard enough on ourselves, we don’t need help from anyone else! But toxic friends get off on this sort of thing. They love scoffing at every out-of-place hair, putting down your significant other, or attacking your latest attempt at a Blue Period. You see, real friends don’t care if your hair is messy. They respect your relationships, and, get this, they support your ambitions. Staying in a “friendship” with someone who is constantly making you feel bad about yourself is destructive to every part of your life, even if it just affects your confidence in getting out on the dance floor. But when you have to take that big career risk, don’t you want a friend who’s there saying, “You can do it”?
Have a tragedy every day
Toxic people turn normal, everyday problems into national disasters. There is always a pending crisis in these people’s lives, even if it’s just a roommate forgetting to put their sheets in the dryer. Things like hitting red lights all the way home, which to most of us is just a part of five o’clock traffic, can ruin their entire evening. Their negativity spawns from the smallest thing and spreads from there.
Are always the victim
In your friendship, does everything seem to be your fault, even if it defies all basic logic? Well, toxic friends have a way of never being guilty and never admitting to even the smallest of infractions. There is nothing they can do wrong, and any problems they face were obviously caused by someone else. Toxic people can’t take responsibility for their own actions and manipulate situations and people so they can pawn the blame onto someone else.
If any of these traits remind you of one of your “friends,” chances are you are suffering from an unhealthy friendship. But you probably already knew that on the inside. You know when you are being treated badly; it’s just about recognizing friends’ habits that hurt you and having the conviction to stand up for yourself. Finding your voice and putting your foot down is the hard part. Most of these toxic friends find ways to be controlling, manipulative, and downright scary, making them a challenge even when you know you’re in the right.
So, you realize you have to get out of the friendship, but how? Here are some tips on safely getting out:
Don’t cut them off all of a sudden
This will probably just enrage them and end up in a huge blowout that may also involve their trash-talking you from here to Taiwan, making your life a general hell. It will only exacerbate the situation.
Don’t try to fix them
This is a lost cause that will just leave you exhausted from going in circles. As we already discussed, toxic people are never at fault. They will find a way to be the victim again and manipulate their way back into the control of the relationship. These people will never change until they decide to change.
Stick up for yourself
This is easy once you start setting boundaries and being honest, which isn’t easy if you’ve been Drama Queen’s doormat for years; still, it’s what must be done. If your toxic friend invites you out, and you want to stay in tonight and read, tell them that. Tell them you’ve set aside this time for your new book, a trip to the gym, or a nice relaxing soak in the tub after a hard week and stick to it, no matter what! You’re allowed to live your life on your accord, and any friend should remember that you’ve had a terrible time dealing with layoffs at the office or whatever and say, “Enjoy yourself!”
Also, let these people know when you are not comfortable with the way they are acting. The more you speak up about how it bothers you when they say terrible things about your mutual friend or derogatory things about your family, or when they negatively impact you in any way, the more strength you give to yourself.
Spend less time with them
Get busy. Focus more on school, work, or making plans with some of your friends whom you have fun with—anything that makes you happy! The more time you spend doing things you enjoy or hanging out with people who make you laugh your butt off, the easier it will be to say no to your toxic friend; you will know how easy it is to be happy and have a good time. The less time you spend with them, the less control they have over you.
You are now more than aware of this person’s true colors, and you are becoming stronger every day. It will now be easier to detach yourself from the situation and your friend’s negative energy. If you realize that such friends are just unhappy people, their put-downs and actions will not have the power they once did. You will be brave enough to walk away and let go, which is exactly what you need to do.
From this point on, only seek out people who make you feel loved and inspired and all the happiness in the world will be yours! Surround yourself with positivity and life will be positively fabulous!
Originally published on Intent