We become what we surround ourselves with. The people we keep close company with have a tremendous amount of influence on us, so it would be a good idea to consider strongly who we’re friends with.
A good friend has the power to make you into a better person by freely sharing what’s best about themselves with you. Good friends grow together, but a bad friendship can not only hold us back but encourage the worst in us.
How Do You Know Which Friendships Aren’t Good for You?
When we’re surrounded by honorable people it becomes easier to be honorable; likewise, when we’re surrounded by bad people it’s all the easier to be bad. Sometimes we hang on to bad friendships because we grew up with the person and our love for them is tied to the sentimentality of our youths.
I’m not encouraging you to cut ties with people who simply have faults or have occasional rough patches, which we’re all guilty of. Nor am I saying we can’t be friends with people with whom we have differences. I’m encouraging you to evaluate what your friendships are nurturing within you. Are they a source of strength, love, companionship, and nourishment? Or are they draining you of emotional stability and happiness?
When I spend time with my friends these days, I don’t have to be careful about what I say or how I say it. I’m free to be fully myself in a way that’s energizing and life-affirming. This is because I have removed all people from my social network that I have to modify myself around for their benefit. I want my relationships to allow me to be spontaneous and genuine, and this is only possible when I allow people in my life who deserve to be there.
It wasn’t always like this for me though. There are several types of friends I have encountered in my life who have taken much more than they have given, and I would like to warn you about them. If you find yourself in one of these vampiric friendships, it may be worth your while to cut them loose.
1. The Clinger
This friend is codependent, insecure, and always dealing with some kind of personal drama or melt-down situation. These friends are huge time wasters and only bring chaos into your life. They’re forever comparing themselves to others and feeling down about themselves, fishing for compliments, and engaging in various forms of self-sabotage in pursuit of attention or sympathy from you.
It has been said that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and how true! A friend who is deeply unhappy with themselves is bound to have that unhappiness infiltrate their relationships with others. This is something that at times you can help friends through, but only if they’re willing to help themselves.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Sometimes our friends go through rough patches and need your support and encouragement. There’s nothing wrong with uplifting a friend who is in need. But when someone lacks self-esteem to such a degree that they’re in a perpetual state of crisis, then you may actually be enabling them to continue such behavior by always coming to their aid when they cry wolf.
Also, the clinger friend tends to be extremely needy. They can even treat the friendship like a romantic relationship insofar as they expect to be in constant contact with you and to have your attention whenever they desire it. This is exhausting and detrimental because they’re using the friendship in the same way a codependent person would treat a boyfriend or a girlfriend. This is unmanageable from a friendship perspective, and you will never be able to satisfy this person’s need for attention because ultimately they lack an inner confidence that can only come from themselves.
When you have friends who are confident in who they are, they bring so much life-giving energy to the table. They share themselves and their skills with you because they’re stable and they have developed enough of themselves to share. When a friend is confident in themselves, they only ask for help when it’s necessary and they don’t seek constant approval or attention from you to feel that the friendship is being maintained.
Seek friends who know who they are and who love themselves. This type of person is far more likely to provide you with a solid friendship than anyone else because they aren’t looking for anything from you. They want to give as much as they receive.
2. The Mirror
The mirror friend mimics and copies you to appear like they have things in common with you when they’re really just using your identity as a surrogate for their own. When people fail to develop themselves into functioning adults they, at times, lack a genuine personality. These types often heavily rely on pop-culture to seem relatable. Mirror friends don’t normally bring much to the relationship aside from flattery and insincere compliments. This isn’t a person who wants to really be friends with you, they want to be you.
Agreeableness is a very desirable quality in a friend, but the mirror friend is so agreeable they will often say yes when they mean no. They will go with the flow at the expense of asserting their own will in any given situation. This is a recipe for disaster because when people consistently undermine their own inner voice to appear cooperative they inevitably build up resentment. Not necessarily towards you, but in general. This resentment can explode without warning, causing much grief and stress.
The mirror copies you to appear like you have things in common when they’re really just using your identity as a surrogate.
Furthermore, one of the greatest gifts a friend can give you is their honest brutal opinion. A mirror friend will never be able to give you advice or guidance that’s hard to hear because they will feel too uncomfortable telling you the truth. I don’t want friends who tell me pretty lies to spare my feelings. I want friends who love me enough to tell me the truth even if it may sting at first. This is the difference between being nice and being kind. Kindness sometimes means offering tough love.
Having a friend who you know what you see is what you get is absolutely invaluable. I no longer entertain friends who are unwilling to respectfully disagree with me, tell me when my outfit is unflattering, or give me constructive criticism. This is because I want my friends to make me better and do for them this same thing in return. This is impossible when you have a person who is merely catering to your ego by trying to be “nice” rather than being kind.
3. The Frienemy
This friend secretly wishes the worst for you and is incapable of celebrating your victories with you. They’re in silent competition with you and seldom think about your best interests. These friends are often narcissists and only ever see you in relation to themselves.
Oftentimes, these friends will let it slip how they really feel about your victories with their tone while giving half-hearted congratulations. They can’t help but convey a little disappointment or apathy over your successes. Even if you feel warmly towards them and wish them only the best, they can’t seem to get over their need to be passive-aggressive toward you.
When identifying a person who is more of an enemy than a friend it will be helpful to observe their actions over their words. Do they often make plans and cancel at the last minute? Do they show disregard for your feelings and time? Has it gotten back to you that they have been gossiping behind your back? Though it can be awkward and painful to cut loose people in your life even if they aren’t kind to you, it’s worth it because people such as this only serve to make life more complicated and difficult.
Frienemies tend to be a bad influence and can undermine your goals by encouraging “fun” self-sabotage.
Frienemies also tend to be a bad influence on you and can undermine your goals by encouraging “fun” self-sabotage. This includes things like tempting you to let loose and have a piece of cake even if you’re trying to cut out sugar. Or peer-pressuring you into doing drugs, alcohol, and partying when you’re attempting to reform your behavior.
They can even, at times, try to convince you to damage your beauty, like telling you “You would be so pretty with short hair,” even though they’re really jealous of how long and healthy your hair is. This kind of friend can do untold damage to your life because they’re constantly undermining your goodness.
A person who is your real friend will never encourage you to break your commitment to your goals. A real friend is one who keeps you accountable and tries to help you achieve your goals. People who are genuine and who love you do so with an open heart rather than feel jealous of you. They’re proud to be friends with you because they don’t see themselves as your competition; they see you as their teammate.
4. The Activist
The activist is a friend who can’t separate the personal from the political. A single ideological disagreement is enough for them to wage all-out war on you. Expect disavowals, ghosting, and guilt trips if you dare stand up for something you believe in that departs from their worldview.
The problem with this type of friend is not so much that they’re activists or that they’re passionate about social issues in general. It’s that this type of person is often in constant search of opportunities to signal their moral superiority over others. Their lack of curiosity is staggering. They don’t often care to see things from another point of view because it’s incomprehensible to them that they may not be absolutely correct in everything they believe.
If you find yourself concealing or hiding opinions from a friend because you’re worried about the inevitable diatribe of lecturing that will follow, then you’ll probably be better off without them. With friends who place political ideology above all else, you’re only one mildly controversial opinion away from being disavowed and uninvited from the annual BBQ.
You find yourself hiding more and more, to the point where you’re no longer yourself in their presence.
Your ability to be your genuine self should be a top priority when trying to determine whether or not a particular friendship is a net positive or negative. There have been times when I have conceded very small things like not saying a particular word around a friend because it offends them. It seems harmless enough, we agree on everything else, so what harm does not saying this politically incorrect word around this one person do?
But it’s never just one word. Eventually, it turns out to be whole ideas and concepts that become too taboo to mention. You find yourself hiding more and more, to the point where you’re no longer yourself in their presence. This is unacceptable and should be your first red flag about a person. Find friends who can agree to disagree, or better yet, who are fully on your wavelength. These kinds of relationships are ones that truly stand the test of time regardless of how culture and politics shift.
The heartache I have felt in losing old friends due to all or combinations of the above reasons is not to be underestimated. It hurts deeply to lose a friend you have loved. In some ways, it never stops hurting, but what you gain in exchange for the pain of letting go is the freedom to not only be who you are with your friends but also the ability to grow alongside them unencumbered.
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