Studies show that having quality relationships is a key to happiness and longevity. Blue Zone research illustrates that spending time with people who build us up and support us is not only enjoyable in the moment, but also has long lasting, positive overall health benefits. The people you surround yourself with have an all-encompassing effect on your life. The circle of friends you build around you impact our relationships, careers, and our health.
This is because when you’re happy and supported, you make choices that correspond with those feelings, and when you’re drained of energy and undermined, you make choices that reflect those negative feelings. Typically, it’s easy to tell who is good for us and who is a constant burden or distraction in our lives. But there may be times when we really click with someone in a fun and exciting way which makes it difficult to recognize that this friendship may not be healthy. Your family recognizes that it’s toxic, your friends can see it, and we’re going to help you see it, too.
1. Constant Criticism
If you have a friend who’s always criticizing you by constantly bringing up past decisions you’ve made or interjecting with their negative opinion when they haven’t been asked, that's toxic. Sure, we all need that friend who ‘keeps it real’ with us when we need it, but that person should have earned that right and should have a tactful approach with your best interests in mind and offering positive guidance.
A toxic friend is going to give constant jabs that may be outright and obvious, or they may be more subtle in nature, which can allow you to brush them off in jest. It is important to have a healthy amount of self worth and set a standard for what you expect from a relationship - namely, how you want to be treated. Call out the subtle, potentially benign comments that have you feeling upset or uncomfortable. A good friend is going to apologize and try not to repeat the offence while a toxic friend is going to tell you you’re being too sensitive or the classic response: “it was just a joke.” Jokes amongst friends are fun when they’re mutual and sparing, but they should never have you questioning your own self worth.
2. Energy Zapping
Friendships should be about mutual respect and balance. Sometimes you need emotional support, and your friend is there for you. Sometimes it’s the opposite way around. If you feel like you’re constantly giving all your energy to this person and you’re never getting anything in return, they’re probably taking advantage of you - albeit perhaps unintentionally. An energy zapping friend may be excessively negative or unsupportive and they are reliant on you to build them up on every occasion. Being around your friends should lift you up and make you feel happy, but if you’re constantly feeling like you’re emotionally depleted after every hangout, you should probably get out of there.
A toxic friend doesn’t know how to be happy for you, whether it’s about a big promotion, new romantic relationship, or other friendships that do not involve them. Friendships should be about celebrating life’s wins and mourning the losses together. A toxic friend doesn’t know how to be excited for you when you have good news and will try to divert the conversation to themselves and how your news affects them. A common manifestation of toxic jealousy is dragging you away from your other social interactions so that you spend all your time with them. This is a form of grooming that is often hard to notice happening from a first-hand perspective, so listen to your other friends and family if they express concern.
4. Constant Taking
You want to help your friends when they’re in need. Whether they need help moving, a shoulder to cry on, or relationship advice - and a good friend wants to do the same for you. A toxic friend is someone who continues to take from you, without compromise, but is nowhere to be found when it’s time to return the favor. This could be frequently asking to borrow money or demanding your time and making you feel bad when you’re unable to commit to them. We should feel comfortable saying “no'' when we can’t do something without feeling like we are going to be guilt-tripped or retaliated against for saying it.
Many of us enjoy helping people and it makes us feel happy, so we don’t see this as something toxic, but the constant pressure of feeling like we need to put someone else’s needs before our own is not only limiting to our personal growth, but puts us under a tremendous amount of stress. A constant taker is not helping you to grow in any way, in fact, they’re stifling your growth.