We often hear the words “friends are the family we choose ourselves”, but how often do we sit down and reflect about whether we are making the right choices?
Friendships are an essential part of our lives. From our childhood years full of laughter, to our rebellious teenage years and right through the daunting phases that come along with adulthood, our friends are the ones who shape us. Just as intimate relationships can become toxic, so can friendships, and we owe it to ourselves to develop and maintain healthy friendships throughout our life.
According to Dr.Kelly Campbell, “A toxic friendship is one that violates the norms and expectations of friendship.” Campbell goes on to explain that true friends are the ones who have your best interest at heart, treat you with respect, keep your secrets, stand up for you whether you are present or not, are supportive and are happy for your successes.
Most friendships tend to start on the right foot, with endless amounts of memories and laughter, but how do we know whether these friendships are built to last? There are some things to be aware of when it comes to deciding whether you should hold on to the right friends or steer yourself away and let go of toxic friendships.
- Having things in common might make things easier at first but it does not guarantee a strong, long lasting friendship. Focus on the friends who listen to your opinion and value it. Don’t surround yourself by people who put you down or ignore you for having different views. The key to a strong friendship does not always lie in having the same hobbies.
- As you grow older, your lifestyle might change, and therefore your priorities may change aswell. Find people who do not make you feel guilty for growing but instead support your vision, even if it takes you in a different direction than theirs.
- Stay away from those who pressure you to constantly do what they like. Communicate with your friends and let them know if you need some time for yourself or that you would like to try out new things.
- While honesty and communication are essential, make sure these are done in a kind manner. Nobody wants to be around someone who passes nasty comments on a regular basis so ask yourself, are my friends being honest or mean? And are their comments really an accurate description of you or could they more possibly be projections of their own self?
- Friends who tend to constantly complain about your imperfections or criticise you might not be the type of friends you want to keep around for too long. Focus on the friends who motivate you and help you increase your self-esteem not diminish it.
Keep in mind that surrounding yourself with toxic people may have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing. Accepting poor treatment from someone may be a sign of not valuing yourself enough or having low levels of self-esteem but keeping such people in your life will only result in further decreasing your sense of self.
We’ve all experienced moments in life where we said ‘I should have stood up for myself’ or ‘I should have known better’. If you feel that you are on the wrong end of a toxic friendship, start communicating with your friends about these issues, or try and break away and branch out to new friendships. Making self-care a priority is one of the best things to do as it will strengthen your self-esteem and you will start seeing that the treatment you have been accepting is no longer in line with how you view yourself. And if you find yourself reading these and realising that some toxic traits relate more to you than to your friends then take some time to reflect, reach out, apologise and try to use the feedback to change for the better.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She currently works with children and adolescents within the social sector and aims to pursue a Masters in Counselling Psychology over the coming years