[author title=”Alice Goodwin” author_id=”Alice Goodwin”]
What is a harmful or toxic friendship?
We’ve probably all had some form of experience of harmful friendships at some point in our lifetime, but how exactly can we identify a toxic friend?
- Someone who perhaps brings you down, belittles you or expects a lot from you but isn’t there in return.
- Perhaps a toxic friendship includes those who do not look out for you, or those that allow your unhealthy or harmful thoughts and behaviours.
- A friend who overlooks or ignores your needs. The other person is still happy with the friendship as their needs are being met and that’s all that matters.
It may be easy for you to fall into this type of friendship, especially if you are not well or happy in yourself. You may think that surely having a toxic friend is better then not having anyone? Or is it?
Why do we hold onto these friendships?
Unlike a romantic relationship, we often don’t ‘break-up’ with a friend if we are unhappy or feel as if our needs aren’t being met. But why is this?
- If you are suffering from an eating disorder you possibly have low self esteem and self belief which can sometimes allow negative friendships into your life.
- Perhaps the friendship is based on history; you’ve known them a long time so they are your friend no matter what.
- You might be struggling to understand what you need and therefore turning and concentrating on someone else’s needs might seem easier to you.
- You may not be ready to allow positive friendships into your life or perhaps you have not experienced them.
- Sometimes the unwell can attract the unwell, so you might not be able to first recognise how much this friendship is affecting you or holding you back.
- Maybe the fear of being alone or being the ‘bad guy’ by confronting this person is too much to bear. The easiest answer would therefore be to then avoid any problems altogether and just put up with the friendship.
Putting our needs first
You are the most important person to you. Why allow someone to hold you back, put you down or keep you in a position where you cannot grow? Remind yourself that their needs and wants aren’t always paramount.
[pullquote cite=”Lucius Annaeus Seneca” type=”right”]One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.[/pullquote]The fear of being alone should not stop you from allowing yourself to be the best you can be. As you become healthier and happier, you will start to attract positive friendships into your life as well as being more comfortable in your own skin to actually enjoy your own company.
We understand that this can take time. Remember it’s better than being in a friendship that is, at best making you occasionally unhappy and at worst, keeping you unwell. In the view of having an eating disorder, negative friendships could potentially play havoc with your recovery.
So how do we remove these friendships?
Extracting yourself can be extremely daunting and perhaps a confrontation or discussion won’t make it better. Additionally, if you simply remove yourself from this person, this may leave you with unresolved feelings. [pullquote cite=”” type=”left”]Remember you have choices; you need to think what’s best for you.[/pullquote]Start by setting firm unbreakable boundaries with this person. When they do their usual behaviours to try and get your attention, start by saying no, whether verbally or with action.
The more you do this the more you are taking responsibility for yourself in this toxic dynamic. You are respecting yourself enough to say that you won’t be treated in a certain way. They then have to accept that they can change and see things from your perspective too or they can also move on.
It isn’t easy and with all endings of any relationship good or toxic, there are feelings or loss and regret, but remember this is a harmful friendship you are saying goodbye too and its for your own good.
What you will gain
- You will be free to gain confidence in the knowledge you won’t be treated badly by anyone let alone someone who is supposed to be your ‘friend’.
- You can know you have the skills to set good boundaries and well as have the compassion to let go and move one.
- You will go on to attract more similar minded people. The well attract the well and you can have more of a sense of freedom knowing you can chose who to be friends with.
- You will gain a sense of peace that toxic people don’t have to be your enemies or cause you problems. It is simply that you don’t need them in your life.
- You can be free of your eating disorder as well as the toxicity and allow yourself to grow! You may see your eating disorder as a ‘friend’ as it’s something that you may feel helps you and keeps you safe. Being able to let go of toxic friendships will instil in you the ability to let go of something that seems helpful but really isn’t.
I wish you luck in finding friends that can encourage and support your wellness and be there in the bad and tough times too.
Allow yourself compassion and love and real friendships and see how much better things can be.