For many of us, our friends are the biggest emotional and social support. If you think of it, making social connections is not just about having fun and emotional bonding, but is actually a matter of life and death. As per a research published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, there is a direct correlation between social relationship patterns with health and longevity across the human life span.
While it is truly a matter of good fortune to have supportive friends, there could also be cases of you experiencing toxic friendship. Such friendships are bound to drain you mentally, adversely impact your self-esteem, and bring your morale down.
To lead mentally healthier lives, it is important to reduce contact and eventually cut off relations with toxic friends.
Be on a lookout for the following signs to identify toxic friendships:
1. Disrespectful nature: Toxic friends tend to ‘punch down’ when teasing or making fun of you. Although light-hearted banter and inside jokes are beautiful aspects of any friendship, you can recognize a toxic person if they are laughing more at you, rather than with you. Such people are also more prone to share their private conversations with other people, or gossip about you. These are classic red flags, reeking of a person with a disrespectful nature.
2. Defensive attitude: Certain people find it difficult to accept their fault, and apologize to you, without as much as introspecting on their own actions. Usually, such people add a ‘but…’ after apologizing, as they fail to take responsibility. This reflects a defensive attitude and could be toxic to your mental wellbeing.
3. Selfishness: Toxic friends think only about themselves, and may leave you feeling isolated and lonely. They do not acknowledge your needs and focus more on their own wishes. This can range from choosing which movie to watch, to the subject matter of conversations. Toxic people prioritize themselves over their friends.
Toxic friends can adversely impact your emotional and physical health:
i) Rise in stress levels: Toxic behaviour can make you feel anxious and stressed, as lack of support and constant disrespect can increase the release of stress hormones.
ii) Diminished self-esteem and confidence: When someone keeps making fun of you and pulls you down, you could start, at some point stop expecting anything better. This could take a mohair toll on your self-esteem and confidence.
iii) Health problems: A study conducted by UCLA found that “stressful friendships lead to significantly high levels of a protein that causes inflammation in the body. Over time that can cause serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.”
While there is no straight jacket approach to end a toxic friendship, the following steps could help you take the necessary action:
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Step 1: Acknowledge the toxic friendship
It all starts with recognizing the toxic behaviour and acknowledging that a problem exists. You need to understand how toxic friendships can impact your emotional and physical health in the long run, and make peace with the fact that such a friendship has to be ended.
Step 2: Reduce and eventually end all conversations
Toxic people are not authentic when they talk to someone, making it a futile pursuit to convey your true emotions on how their behaviour is hurting you. They will probably only end up invalidating your feelings, making you vulnerable and emotionally hurt. So, it is prudent to reduce communication, in that process convey directly how you wish to stop talking, and eventually stop communicating altogether.
Step 3: Forgiveness
For your closure and emotional health, forgiving the toxic friend is important. The first two steps will help you understand how having such a person in your life was not bringing social and emotional rewards for you. The idea is to move on from the negativity that such people instil in your life, and forgiving them, and letting them go, will help achieve that.
So, identify signs of a toxic friendship, and take necessary steps to end such a relationship, for the betterment of your health.