Often, we don’t discuss the damages that having toxic friends can have. We'll encounter so many different people across the course of our lives: some become our family, but not everyone we meet is meant for us in the long term. Some will be there for part of the journey and help us grow as people. Others will be present to teach us important life lessons. And then we must let them go because of how toxic they were. I have definitely had my fair share of toxic friendships and have some advice to pass on. You can choose to follow any or all my advice: these are just some of the things that I’ve done to be at peace with myself and what happened with former friends.
1) Acknowledge that your friendship was toxic.
One of the hardest things to do ever is to accept and acknowledge the truth. If your friendship was toxic, then it was toxic. Don't beat around the bush like I did—you end up making excuses for the person/ people, allowing them to regain access to you. As harsh as this may sound, don’t be stupid and put yourself in the position to be hurt by the same person again. We all hurt each other in our friendships and relationships. That’s not toxic, that’s human. And we may have toxic behaviours. I, for example, sometimes will overreact to a situation, which whilst my reaction was valid, was not necessary for the situation and thus, me and the person in conflict, don’t get anywhere. I think it’s definitely a characteristic that I need to not do because there’s better ways to get around the situation. But the important thing is that I've acknowledged a toxic mannerism of mine and I am devoted to getting better. That’s an important skill for anyone to have—knowing that you’re not perfect but being committed to being the best person that you can for yourself and for the people around you regardless. Besides, perfection is overrated and unobtainable anyway.
2) Speak to someone you trust.
My first points of call are always my mum and my sister. I get on well with my family and tell them everything and they always know how to help me. I also find that the balance between a more experienced, mature view and a fresh, modern perspective allows me to get a real balance between different perspectives and make my own mind up as to what I'm going to do.
3) If there were any good times, be thankful.
Regardless of the circumstances, there’s always much to be grateful for. People change. The people that became our toxic friends didn't start that way. They were once best friends, siblings, soulmates. We once cared for them. If you’re like me, you still do. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s okay to care for someone, want nothing but the best for them and still acknowledge that they aren’t for you.
4) Remember the lessons learnt.
Toxic friendships teach us lessons, they teach us of the mistakes that we’ve made previously so we know what not to do in the future. Toxic friendships taught me that I always come first. They taught me that the love you give isn’t always reciprocated. They taught me that it’s important to set boundaries. Hold on to the lessons of the past.
5) Drop the bitterness/ pettiness.
If there’s one thing I am, it’s stubborn. If necessary, I can hold a grudge effortlessly. But if there’s one thing that my mum has taught me, it’s that some battles aren’t worth fighting. They may have wronged you, granted, but bottling up anger, frustration, rage: it’s not worth it. Because these emotions hurt you and you alone. Like it or not, they’ll continue living their lives, happily doing their thing. And, over time, you’d grow bitter. Which you don’t deserve. I’ve been petty in the past and it makes you no better than they were. Let it go.
6) Heal within yourself.
No one deserves to be treated badly. No one deserves to be left out, to feel alone, to feel misunderstood. Feeling this way sucks—I would know. And from then until last Christmas, I shut everyone and everything out. I turned people away. I had been rejected, isolated, alone in the past so I turned the tables. I became the one doing the rejecting, turning people away. And not only was that against what my mum had taught me (be kind to all, no matter what), but it was also against what I believe in: treat others as you wish to be treated. I was bitter. I was mean. And I was hurting no-one but myself ultimately. When I had toxic people in my life, I resorted to shutting people out. And if it wasn’t for my head of year at school, I would have continued spiraling into an emotional pit. Don't be like me and shut people out. It's unhealthy and draining. Just because some have hurt you doesn’t mean that all will.
7) Remind yourself of all the reasons why you're amazing.
When we’re treated badly, we often fall into toxic behaviours and begin believing that we’re bad people. Then, subconsciously, we fall into a cycle of going for the people with the same characteristics. I know that my toxic friends had the same characteristics and deep down, I knew it. But I didn’t want to admit it. Because I genuinely thought I deserved it. And the fact is that no one does. We all deserve respect and kindness regardless of circumstances. So when you’re backing out of a friendship, never forget why you’re incredible. You’re unique. You’re beautiful. You’re determined. So believe it and never let anyone make you question that.
8) Build healthy habits so that you're good to other people.
When you’re surrounded by a certain type of person long enough, you subconsciously become like them. The last thing you want is to become a toxic person to the people you’re around. So start communicating, be open and honest with people. And be kind. Everyone deserves some kindness and magic in their lives. Friendship, love, laughter and happiness— they are all magical when you share it with the right people.
9) Make new friends.
It’s difficult to put yourself out there at first and it’s completely understandable if you want to take time to feel like you again, but you can’t hide away from people and shut them out forever—I learnt that the hard way. You’ve got to put yourself out there as difficult as that may seem. Take it slow. Try bonding with new people and finding common ground. And just see where it goes. If it works—great. If it doesn’t, it’s not over. Try again.
10) Let them go.
I believe in forgiveness and letting things go. For one, I think everyone deserves forgiveness. And even if you no longer want association with them, you deserve inner peace. Leave them in the past, wish them well and let them go. And by doing this, you can commence a new chapter of your life welcoming positivity.
I hope that you find some truths within this, hold on to the people that make you better and let unhealthy people go. Life is all about progression, growth, learning lessons, taking risks and getting better. If you don’t have the right people around, you’ll become stagnant. So do what you must for inner peace. For progress. For happiness. Do what you must for you. Be brave and be kind. The best is yet to come. Wishing you all peace and love.