We’ve all met that person who seems to bring the negativity, the drama everywhere they go. The person who spreads hurtful gossip or thinks nothing of screwing over a co-worker in the pursuit of a promotion. The person who makes us groan inwardly when they walk into the room because, usually, it means they will stomp on someone’s feelings with zero apologies. The person who delights in stirring the pot, who seems to enjoy creating situations that make others uncomfortable. Basically, we all know someone who is toxic.
Toxic people are exhausting.
I’ve met toxic people over the years, and they all seem to follow the same pattern. Toxic people are narcissistic, hurtful, and leave a wake of drama behind them that is often damaging personally and professionally. Because toxic people are masters at bending the truth and gaslighting, it’s impossible to know the extent of their toxicity until you really get to know them. Only when you are deeper into the friendship does it become apparent that the relationship is no longer healthy for your psyche. And it can be hard to face the truth, to admit to yourself that someone you chose as a friend is actually toxic AF and needs to go.
How can you tell if your friend is toxic? Ask yourself these five questions:
1. When you see her, do you roll your eyes and make a beeline for the other room, or does your face light up with a smile?
As I’ve tried to help my kids recognize differentiate good friends from not-so-good friends, I’ve often reverted to the “How do they make you feel when you are with them?” litmus test. Toxic people make you feel tense in their presence because you are always on guard. Further, they take more than they give, constantly demand attention, and are almost never able to remove the focus of conversations from themselves. If you have a friend who makes you feel exhausted at just the thought of hanging out with them, it’s time to kick them to the curb.
2. Has your reputation been damaged because your toxic friend drags you into drama?
It is often said that you are judged by the company you keep, and with a few exceptions, toxic people tend to have a less than stellar reputation. That toxic friend may be sweet as pie to you, and you might never have been on the receiving end of her wrath, but that’s no excuse to hang onto a friend who treats other people like shit. Being associated with someone who regularly treats people poorly makes you look like an asshole. Lose the toxic friend because no one wants to be seen hanging out with the mean girls — and because it’s only a matter of time before you’re their target.
3. Are you fucking exhausted by your friendship with this person?
Toxic friends are just plain exhausting, and frankly, no one has time to keep up with the drama every damned day. Toxic women stir the pot no matter where they go. If you are honest with yourself, you are probably dealing with more texts, emails, IMs, and phone calls than you have time for when it comes to your toxic friendship. Deleting her number from your phone and unfollowing her on social media will cause you to realize just how much time you have been wasting on her perpetual dramatic situations.
4. Has your toxic friend crossed so far over one of your moral boundaries that you just can’t even?
Often, we are willing to tolerate toxic behavior because the person has been a part of our lives for a long time. We explain away their actions as inappropriate and tell ourselves, “She wasn’t always this way,” or “She can be nice when she wants to be.” But there comes a time when a toxic person steps so far over the line that their behavior can no longer be tolerated or explained. Has the toxic person in your life gone too far politically? Have they said something that disparages your kids? Once a toxic person crosses your line of appropriate behavior, it’s time to reevaluate why they are still in your life.
5. What is that little voice of reason in your head saying?
I had to sever ties with a toxic friend a few years ago, and it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Facing the fact that the person was mean, manipulative, and hell-bent on making my life miserable was no easy task. But with every public slight, with every cruel word, I slowly started to listen to the voice in my head that told me that I deserved better in a friendship. After one particularly damaging incident, I finally stopped to listen to what my gut had been saying for months. It was time to cut her loose. I dropped her like a hot potato and never looked back.
Life is too short to be spending it with people who make us feel uneasy, who cross our personal boundaries, and who are constantly enshrouding us in their negativity. You might have good memories together and a long history, so “breaking up” can be hard to do, but saying goodbye to a toxic friend means saving space for healthy friendships. And that’s refreshing AF.