I was reading yet another thought-provoking article from Tiny Buddha the other day and one of the things the author mentioned was “getting rid of the bad people in your life”. That rang a bell. Then John Kovalic went and drew this Dork Tower strip and I knew I had to write something…
As the Tiny Buddha guest author mentions in her article, those “bad people” may not actually be bad as such, they’re just bad for you, at that moment in time.
Although until recently I hadn’t really put it into actual words, I have come across that kind of person oh so many times, and I’ve seen other people struggle with the exact same unpleasantness, sometimes for years.
Sometimes it’s clear almost immediately: I know that being around a particular person makes me feel bad – annoyed, sad, frustrated,
murderous, angry, all sorts of negative emotions. In most cases, unless they were part of a work environment, keeping my distance from them was relatively straightforward. At the very least I recognised them as such and knew to keep as far away as I could.
And then there are the others. The ones who make it so incredibly difficult. Sometimes they have been friends or spouses of people I care about. Sometimes they are themselves friends – even close friends – of mine. People I have a deep affection for, with whom I have many happy memories, friends in common, and so-on. And yet they can be just as toxic, if not more so, than the people I just don’t like.
So how do you recognise a toxic friend? They’re not just someone you argue with, arguing can be perfectly healthy in a friendship. Being annoyed or angry with a friend can be perfectly normal. My own personal trigger alert is when they make me feel bad about myself, especially if it occurs on a regular basis. That’s my batsignal that something is wrong.
Taking a good hard look at your friendship with someone can be rough but in this case it’s necessary. You’re taking it away from the soft candlelight and into the harsh light of day, looking at it, wrinkles, warts and all.
What to do about it once you’ve done that self-diagnosis is even tougher. There’s no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes you can cut it off, go cold turkey. Sometimes you know you’re going to have to continue seeing that person on a regular basis. Either way you will want to go back, you’ll miss them, or at least the fantasy version of them made up from your good memories.
That’s when it’s important to remember those wrinkles and warts (the metaphorical ones on your friendship, not any real physical blemishes your friend may have, let’s not be petty…). Remember that trigger moment, remember how you felt because of them and the reasons why you’re doing this. Self preservation is tough and unpleasant but it’s good for you in the long run. You’re on a life-saving diet and they are your chocolate. You want them, but they’re not good for you and you know it.
Do I still love my “toxic friends”? Yes, undoubtedly. Do I still miss them, months or years later? Hell yeah. Do I feel better with the distance between us? Yes. Oh yes. A thousand times yes!
Good luck to you all and happy Severtember!