If you’ve ever had a toxic friend, you know just how difficult and draining it can be.
There are different kinds of toxicity, from energy vampires all the way to the far end where the abusers, narcissists and sociopaths exist. But every kind of toxic person creates a burden that can be difficult to overcome.
But what about when the problem is not the other person but it’s you?
Sometimes, when toxicity is more subtle, like the overbearing negativity of someone who has recently had their dreams crushed or the miserable loner who takes the anger they feel for their ex out on everyone they meet, it’s hard to notice.
Plus, toxicity is contagious, and when you’re infected, you become toxic yourself.
You may have noticed your friends distancing themselves from you recently, maybe one of them has even called you out directly. Maybe you can recall a few times where you’ve talked down to them out of frustration.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whatever the case, you need to look for the signs that you might, in fact, be the toxic one in the relationship so you can make a change.
1. You only ever want to talk about yourself
What do you talk about when you converse with your friends? Do you know what your friends are up to or do you only ever seem to want to talk about your own business and never ask how they’re doing?
Selfishness is one of the subtlest and hardest forms of toxicity to detect in ourselves because it’s natural for us as human beings to care primarily about ourselves.
However, if all you ever want to talk about is yourself and you never take interest in your friend’s life, you might actually be the toxic one.
2. You keep using your friends to fulfill your own wants and desires
Do you use your friends to experience the things you like and want to do, just so you’ll have someone around to experience it with?
Do you only ever invite your friends when there’s something you want to do or desire to get so that they can all help you have more fun, without ever asking them what they’d like to do?
If that’s you, you’re using those friends to make you feel better about the deep-seated feeling of inadequacy and low self-worth. Everything you do is an attempt to fulfill what you believe is a missing puzzle piece– to go to the bar to meet someone, go on an expensive trip to find yourself, or enjoy something you bought to make you feel good about your “accomplishment.”
But that piece will never be found because nothing was ever missing. Instead, you need to look within yourself to realize your own worth before you push away the very people who are there to support you.
3. You’re always talking about what’s wrong
If all you ever talk about is what’s wrong– with you, with them, or the world– you’re being a negative influence and a toxic friend.
I’ve had friends in the past who only ever wanted to talk about negative things that have happened to them or are happening in the world. They’re not purposely demeaning you or trying to bring you down, they just have a generally negative outlook that permeates everything they do and it will infect you if you let it.
But if you think that might be you then you need to look closely at your life– what you tend to talk and think about– to find out whether you need to fix your perspective and what could be causing it.
4. You discourage them from following their dreams and goals
A lot of us have become discouraged and defeated by life. It’s only natural. Life is tough and it takes a lot of courage to stand up to our challenges and come out the other side standing.
But often, when this happens, it makes us resentful of anyone else who is out to follow their own dreams because we gave up on our own, even going as far as trying to verbally sabotage our friends, telling them that there’s no point trying.
They’ll just fail, after all.
“You might as well just go for that comfortable corner office job in XYZ,” you might say or, “almost no one ever makes it doing that,” you pronounce to their discouragement.
If that’s you, I hate to break it to you, but you’re being a bad friend. You need to first find your own passion for life again, and then work to encourage and motivate your friends to do the same.
Someone close to me has this problem right now. Several of their friends only ever contact them when they have an issue they need to get off of their chest.
These same friends will miss important get-togethers and never call to check up on them at any point. But when they have a problem? They come ringing every time hoping to talk their ear off.
If this sounds like you, you might need to reevaluate your friendship– and your priorities.