Minimalism encompasses every part of life, including the people we permit to be a part of our inner circle —the ones we call our friends.
Some friendships are just plain unhealthy. They don’t always start out that way, but in some situations, over time and after too many boundary lines have been crossed, they can turn into something that vexes your soul, robs your peace, and troubles your mind. They can complicate an otherwise simplified life. None of us wish to purposely hurt another human being, but when a relationship brings more heartache than joy, it may be time to gently, but firmly, let go.
One of the best ways to figure out whether a relationship is toxic is to assess the way it makes you feel. Feelings stem from a deep-seated root, and they should be validated and not ignored. Here are ten red flag feelings that signal a relationship may be injecting toxins into your life.
1. You feel anxious.
When knowing you must cross paths with someone fills your heart with dread and causes a panic eruption, or if the mere sound of someone’s voice causes your pulse to quicken —not in a joyful way — there is something wrong. Tension is a great indicator that you are stretching yourself beyond what is healthy and fighting against what is meant to be. Times spent with a friend should be some of your favorite moments of all.
2. You feel drained.
We all want to be known as an authentically caring person who will readily help to share the load of a friend, but If the effort required to be around someone is depleting your energy and zest for life and you leave each encounter in a state of defeat, it may be time to pull away. Trying to absorb the baggage of another person is not only exhausting, it is unreasonable, and each heart bears enough sorrow of its own. Surround yourself with those who refill your cup instead of draining it.
3. You feel inadequate.
There are people in this world who will never be satisfied regardless how much you sacrifice to meet their demands. If someone disrespects you enough to inflict guilt for not being able to appease their expectations, there is a good chance they are self-seeking and unwilling to reciprocate the level of commitment they expect to receive. You, my friend, are enough.
4. You feel responsible
…for having created their problems and/or for coming up with a solution to them. Each one of us is an individual, and as such, we make our own choices and decisions. Unfortunately, there are people who assume no responsibility for their own actions and who try to transfer the blame of their errant repercussions to someone else. We are not capable of being another person’s savior, and to pursue such an undertaking is a lofty, albeit futile endeavor. What a relief to discover and embrace the truth that you are not liable nor accountable for any actions other than your own.
5. You feel used, taken advantage of, and taken for granted.
It’s okay to go over and beyond what is required of a friend, but when this type of effort becomes what is expected and you are made to feel guilty when you can’t keep it up, it is time to shake off the dust and move on. There are people who will be grateful to have you in their life because of the amazing person you are, not because of what you can do for them.
6. You feel guilty…for sharing your own happiness.
A true friend will rejoice in your successes, regardless what they are personally going through. They won’t resent your blessings, even if you are blessed with something they want for themselves. If you are continually feeling like you should attach an apology to your latest good news or make a self-deprecatory remark before mentioning a sweet gesture bestowed upon you, the toxins of jealousy and self-pity are in the atmosphere. Don’t ingest the poison.
7. You feel cheated.
Friendship is a two-way street with equal mutual participation and sharing. Feeling like you are consistently getting the short end of the stick breeds resentment. You deserve a friend who does not think it is okay for you to fill both roles of a two-sided relationship.
8. You feel belittled.
A healthy friendship is a source of encouragement, inspiration, and positive reinforcement. You are not “less than” anyone else. If you are being made to feel that you are, don’t buy into the lie.
9. You feel obligated.
Perhaps you are in a friendship because a parent, another relative, or another friend holds you there against your will. Maybe you are a people-pleaser, and you can’t bear to let anyone down, no matter how much it is costing you. If the only reason you are continuing to befriend someone comes from a place of feeling that you have no choice, that you are obligated for whatever reason, or that you are beholden to them or someone else, stop living a life of bondage and give yourself the advantage for a change. Attempted guilt trips are sure signs of a toxic relationship. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I add to that, no one can send you on a guilt trip if you don’t accept the ticket.
10. You feel abused.
Seriously, when another person’s unfair treatment earns the definition of abuse there is no justification for perpetuating the “friendship.” Blatant abuse manifests in obvious forms, but there are also subtle modes of abuse that are equally as detrimental. Psychological intimidation, manipulation, and demoralization can be extremely damaging to the human spirit. The toxins that inhabit an abusive relationship are too many to count and wondering if you should or should not walk away is a no-brainer.
You are meant for more. May you never settle for less.