“You can’t fly with the eagles if you continue to scratch with the turkeys.” — Zig Ziglar
Human connection is vital for a healthy, fulfilling life. But, sometimes, quality really is better than quantity. If you have friends that tend to make you feel tired, depressed, angry, or guilty, it may be time to take an inventory of your "friends" and decide whether or not they are toxic.
Toxic friends are people that bring you down in some way rather than support and enhance your life. They tend to zap your energy while denying responsibility for their own actions. Without realizing it, we begin to be influenced by our friends (for better or worse). We begin to adapt to their ideas, behaviors, and attitudes. As humans, our desire for love and acceptance is hard-wired in our brains. We will subconsciously conform to some extent in order to fit in with our friends. It is hard to spend a lot of time with someone and not accidentally seek their approval.
Some signs that your friends are a negative influence include the following: they complain constantly, they blame everything on you, they overreact, they tell lies, they drain your energy, they expect you to be someone you are not, they are highly critical, and they do not reciprocate favors. You may, also, examine your own behavior to gauge the impact your friends are having on your life. Do you find that you are gossiping more? Are you thinking or behaving in darker ways than you normally would? Are you moving away from your goals? How do you feel before and after meeting your friend(s)?
Consider this: your life habits will be tied to some extent to those of your five closest peers. Your financial success, marital satisfaction, bodyweight, drinking habits, and smoking habits will be similar to those of your peers. Is this good news? Are your friends exhibiting behaviors and lifestyles that you wish to emulate?
"Toxic" friends come in various forms. For instance, some people are "Volcanoes" with lots of anger just waiting to erupt. Others are narcissists, drama queens, cynics, complainers, or gossipers. The important thing to remember is that certain types of people will create conflict and turmoil. It is important to learn how to spot these individuals and avoid them in the future. They will only waste your time and energy.
If you do an analysis of your current friendships and find that you are less than satisfied, it may be time to gradually decrease your time with a toxic friend. Learn to tune things out and set firm boundaries. Set rules for what you consider acceptable behavior. Toxic people are good at making others feel guilty when they don't get what they want. Learn to get over your guilt and maintain your boundaries. Don't defend yourself - you will not get anywhere. Doing so will only keep an immature conversation going!
You might also decide that it is time to "break-up" with your toxic friend. State directly that you no longer wish to continue the friendship. If you choose this course of action, take the blame on yourself. And, before doing so, consider the impact on the other person. Is s/he stable enough for such a direct approach? If you cannot physically walk away, learn to detach and mentally "walk away". Develop the mental skill of letting go and learning not to care. Realize that when a person is toxic, it is because of his or her own issues. It is not a personal reflection on you.
For your own sense of well-being, you need to take back your power by controlling your own actions and reactions. Develop a peer group filled with people who exhibit the same values you have. Find a coach to push you out of your comfort zone. Look for forums online. Read books and articles that exemplify the life you want to lead.
Coach Jenn A. Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT is a life & wellness coach, personal fitness trainer, and psychotherapist. Contact her to find out how coaching can help you cultivate the mindset and the habits that lead to a happier, richer life! Please contact Jenna at 732-842-3515 or visit www.FormulaForExcellence.com for a consultation. For a free report on resiliency, click here.