“You cannot change the people around you, but you can change the people you choose to be around.” -Unknown
Human consciousness is shifting. We are splitting in two very different ways as a society. While one group moves closer to chaos, war, violence, and consumerism, the other is shifting more towards spiritual growth, minimalism, and peace. The second group’s awareness is expanding and the shedding of the people, things, or situations that don’t bring positive experiences to our lives is taking priority. Over the past year I have removed myself from a heaping number of these not-so-good situations, which included drastically downsizing my possessions and relationships.
Some of the people I let go were not all that close in the first place or were childhood friends I barely still knew. But there have been a few that were quite close and involved in my life more recently who I finally decided to cut ties with. This was not an easy decision to make or to carry out and there are still some lingering feelings around these decisions. But, I know it was the best thing for my growth and it was time to start putting myself first for a change. The relationship changes I made were still losses and no loss is without some emotional strings attached, but looking back and comparing to the life I have today, the satisfaction, love, and abundance I now experience on a daily basis is beyond measure.
Earlier this year, I let a long term friend go. We had known each other for almost 20 years and looking back over that time, I can remember most of our relationship being in the same state that it was when I cut things off between us. It was and always has been emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. The negativity and hopelessness that seeped from this person had become unbearable to be around. I could no longer function in my own life while trying to help them through their problems. I tried many approaches to cope with her behavior and be the best friend that I could, but in the end, letting her go was the best decision I could make. She may not ever understand that, but you can’t teach an unteachable soul. She wasn’t ready to change or accept real help and instead continued to bring those around her, myself included, down to a level of misery that suited her comfort and consciousness.
The people you choose to spend your time with should lift you up, not repeatedly drag you down. Many toxic friends don’t pull you down intentionally which can make it even harder to let them go. Just as we would hopefully evaluate a romantic partner in this way, we should take a good look at the friendships we spend our energy on. The influence a friendship can have on your life is significant. Toxic friendships can destroy your own wellbeing and quality of life and at that point, really what is the point of remaining friends? Choose who you spend your time with wisely.
WHAT DOES A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP LOOK LIKE
How do you know if the people you spend time with are toxic for your well-being? Here are some traits to look for to identify a toxic relationship.
1. Negativity – They are always complaining and can’t seem to see the bright side of anything. Their posts online or the conversations you have always seem to focus more on the problems and less on the solutions and positive ways of living. If you’re still on a social network with them, take a few minutes to look through the kinds of things they post. This may give you some insight. Even if they don’t spend a lot of time directly complaining, examine the quality of posts they do share. Is it useful and uplifting information or mindless and pointless re-posts, videos, or random garbage from the internet? Look at how they are spending their personal time. With the abundance of social media use, it’s easy to see these patterns out in the open.
2. Indifference – You may feel like you’re always there for them, but you can’t really count on them in your times of need. Whether this comes across as disinterest, or if they constantly redirect your conversations to their own problems and struggles, this isn’t healthy behavior in a relationship and it’s not doing good for either person involved. It is equally important to be listened to and be able to listen.
3. Jealousy – One step further than indifference is jealousy. They may downplay your achievements and successes or brush them off as not important. Toxic people have a hard time being truly happy for others because they are often stuck in a place of not feeling like they have enough. They may show signs of jealousy towards you and the positive things you have in your life instead of being happy for you.
4. Manipulation – They are only nice or available when they need your help. They also know how to easily push the right buttons to get what they want from you. This may include things like guilt tripping you into doing what they want or making excuses that play directly on your empathy.
5. Selfishness – They don’t have much interest in situations or interactions that don’t benefit them in some way. While your intention may be to spend quality time together having fun, they may only be interested in having another person to complain to. This isn’t what friendship is about and it isn’t moving either of you forward.
6. Dishonesty – They are not trustworthy and have proven this again and again. You may have good times with them, but you never feel like you can really count on them. They use dishonesty to manipulate situations and emotions for their personal gain. They also may not be very open to advice from others trying to help point them in a more positive direction in life.
7. Gossip – This goes hand in hand with dishonesty and manipulation. They like to gossip about other people and their attitude often feels catty. Remember, if they talk in a negative way about others behind their backs, chances are, they would do the same to you if the situation was beneficial for them in some way.
8. Insincerity – They may fein support or interest in person, but once you’re not together, that interest fades quickly and they may not even remember things you told them about your life next time you interact. They tend to have a hard time focusing on and retaining information that doesn’t directly involve them.
9. Unavailability – They expect you to be available when they need you, but are rarely available or present when you are the one in need.
10. Disregard – They have little consideration for the inconvenience of their demands. They may also have a hard time showing gratitude for the times you do go out of your way to help them.
11. Influence – Whether directly or indirectly, they encourage you to make bad decisions. This may come directly through peer pressure, or they may influence your choices when you are together in a more subtle way by not being open to healthier suggestions or compromises.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LETTING GO
Some choices have permanent consequences and no matter how sorry a person is or how hard they try to fix things, it just won’t be the same again. And sometimes, a person on the receiving end of the behavior simply decides to let them go. This can be hard to accept for the friend being let go. But there’s a difference between being there for someone in a crisis and being around someone who is ALWAYS in crisis. We are all responsible for our own happiness and a person who takes no responsibility for their own will never be able to grow and have lasting, meaningful relationships.
With the growth I’ve experienced in my spiritual and emotional life over the past year, I just can’t be in relationships like that anymore. It’s not that I suddenly don’t care about my old friend, in fact, letting her go was the most caring thing I could do for both of us. Hopefully, it will force her to take some leaps of faith and forge some paths on her own without being enabled back into old habits and beliefs. I was an enabler for her and I see that now. That’s why I had to let her go. I hope she grows to understand that someday. Loss and pain are parts of life, we will never be without them. The most important lesson is finding acceptance and strength from that pain and using it for creation not destruction.
While the allure of being young, wild, and free with bunches of friends, money, parties and possessions may seem like the best way to find happiness and love, that’s really not the answer at all. But it is what most humans do because that is what society tells us we must do. We are mass consumers and that’s how we’ve been trained to interact with the world. We over consume food, money, possessions, and people and when that doesn’t work to bring us happiness, we over consume medication and other substances, ever searching for an easy fix to our suffering. The only easy fix is acceptance.
Living a minimal and private life has been the best decision I’ve ever made. My personal and professional lives are flourishing and the love I feel and receive has multiplied beyond belief by having LESS people, commitments, and possessions in my life, not more. The past six months since I made these relationship changes have been the most peaceful and happiest of my life. They have not been without pain and uncertainty, but the peace I have inside me on a daily basis is stronger than any suffering that I experience.
If you’re not feeling satisfied with your life, mental health, or happiness, take a good look at your relationships. This is one more area where it may be time for you to take that leap into the unknown. Have faith in the process. Accept what is, accept that there will be pain, and accept that on the other side of that pain may be peace and freedom.