Story time.  The year is 2010 and I was in my final year of secondary school. I had ended a friendship after I found out that a friend had been talking about me behind my back. What made it worse was the fact that this person was talking about me, to my best friend. After a while, the things this person said spread and I began to hear the same horrid things from other people. It broke my heart because I thought this person was my friend. At that point in my life, I was someone who was very trusting and always saw the best in people, no matter what anyone else said. I didn’t think that anyone would go out of their way to hurt someone’s feelings. That betrayal had hurt me a lot, but it also made me a lot wiser when it comes to dealing with friendships. Looking back now, that was a very naïve perception of the world.

Fast forward to 2013. I was 19 years old. Just like the incident in 2010, someone whom I thought was one of my really good friends turned out to be spreading lies about me behind my back. The only difference was the way in which I was manipulated. I was made to feel like I was the “bestest best friend” while everyone else was a “nobody”. This person would often criticise her good friends and disclose their secrets to me. I was constantly lied to and had my kindness taken advantage of as well. Our friendship would leave me feeling really anxious. We would make plans to meet but I would often be left hanging as this person would cancel plans really last minute, or just not turn up. I don’t know why I didn’t call out this behaviour, or just cut ties with this person. As I reflect on those incidents now, I realized that I have a very bad habit of making excuses for someone’s horrid behaviour. If a friend cancels last minute, I would just brush it off as him/her being busy, or perhaps something cropped up. I never credited their actions to them being toxic friends.

Back to the present. It’s 2016 and 22 year old me is so grateful to have cultivated strong friendships with a good bunch of people.  We often reminisce on our schooling days, and sometimes our conversations veer towards this topic. Each of us has had our own experiences with this and while it did hurt us, it also made us wiser. You learn to recognize signs that your past self might not have noticed.  It’s the subtle jab at your latest accomplishment, a pay raise, a new job. It’s the constant stream of negativity that radiates from their being. It’s the inconsistency in your friendship. It’s the constant gossip about other people; what they’re wearing, who they’re dating, what they’re working as. If you experience this, I believe it’s high time to evaluate where you stand with that person.

The best thing that I did for myself in these situations was to cut these people out of my life. Removing toxic people from your life may not be easy for some, but it is definitely a breath of fresh air. For me, this was a process. I stopped all forms of communication with these people. There were times when I felt guilty for abandoning those friendships, but after a while I began to see things clearer. When they were no longer involved in my life, I began to notice that I wasn’t so anxious anymore. Friendships shouldn’t make you feel anxious. They shouldn’t leave you second guessing yourself and wondering if you’re good enough or whatsoever. Friends should lift you up, not tear you down.

The most challenging part of this entire process was forgiveness. Sure, there were moments when I was livid. Enraged at the fact that I was hurt by people I thought were my really good friends. How could they do that? Then they were times when I felt absolutely dismal. Why would they do that when I treated them like a genuine friend? However, I learned that holding onto any form of negative emotion poisoned my happiness. I learned that we are all suffering in our own ways, some express it differently. Most often than not, if people treat you horribly, it stems from issues within, not without. It has nothing to do with you, which is a good thing to remember. Forgiveness puts an end to that painful chapter of your life. It leads you to your next one, where you won’t constantly revisit the past and feel the pain, or amplify it.

Sometimes I catch my mind drifting to these people and despite what has happened, I hope that wherever they are, they’re happy. Life is too short to surround yourself with toxic people. You are only as good as the company you surround yourself with, so pick your friends wisely. Don’t let these people dull your shine.

Cheers,

Marianne