Hello boys and girls, I’m back! You may recall me writing about radical self-love in February (if not, you can find the article right here) and this time, although in a slightly more roundabout manner, we will be dealing with much of the same – but don’t run away yet! The theme for the month of April here on GenTwenty is, as you may have gathered from the title of this article, spring cleaning; and today, I’m going to teach you all about doing that in one of the most important parts of your life: in your friendships.
In one of my most popular posts over on Fierce in the City, How to Get Started on Your Self-Love Journey, one of my tips to really get that self-love mojo going, was to get a Positive Posse. If you’re wondering what on Earth I meant by that (I do tend to get a lot of bunch of puzzled gazes these days), well, it couldn’t be simpler: if you’re serious about your happiness, you need to surround yourself with the right people – ideally, a whole bunch of people who give your smile muscles a proper workout, on the daily! Before you accuse me of being corny, hear me out and have some pseudo-science: we are all, apparently, the average of the five people we spend the most time with.
Take a good, long look around you and think about who graces your life with their presence on a daily basis: is it your partner? Your parents and/or siblings? Is it your long-suffering university roommate, or your office colleague? Is it that friend who only ever rings you to moan about how crap their life is, or is it the one who manages to turn your frown upside down in a matter of minutes, no matter what the circumstances (lucky you)? Now that you’ve taken stock of the people who share your days, how do these people make you feel during your interactions? This is where it’s important to be brutally honest with yourself, and stop making excuses for the behaviour of others! Believe it or not, darling, life is far, far too short to waste any time on people who make you feel less than amazing.
Now, I don’t want you thinking that I want you to run around burning bridges with friends and relatives because you had a bit of a falling out; you and I both know that arguing or disagreeing with someone isn’t a bad thing – if anything, sometimes, it’s the only way a relationship will ever grow and improve! What is bad, though, is surrounding yourself with people who nothing but drag you down, instead of lifting you up and encouraging you to be the very best version of you that you can be. You know the ones: I’m talking about the “friend” who is only ever interested in you when they want to borrow money or unload their emotional baggage on you; the relative who constantly puts you down to make themselves feel better about their own lives, and who you only put up with because they’re family; the colleagues who spend their coffee breaks maliciously gossiping about their peers and trying to loop others into their sordid little slander circle; the partner who throws yet another denigrating, backhanded comment about your outfit at you as you walk out the door in the morning.
It doesn’t even have to be as extreme as that; in fact, most of the time, it isn’t! To give you an example, I once had a friend who I loved dearly, but who made me exhausted to the depths of my soul every single time I spent time with him. It was crazy! He had this innate ability to see the negative in every situation, and at least half of the time we spent together was entirely spent on me listening to him complaining about something; he seemed utterly convinced that the world was a shit place and that everything and everyone was out to get him. Now, I’m a pretty chirpy person, but after a while, I felt myself change. That level of negativity has a way of doing that to people. I was lucky that I knew myself well enough to feel the difference in myself and, most importantly, decide that I didn’t like it and something had to be done about it. So, with love in my heart for my friend, but with self-preservation firmly anchored in my mind, I took my distances – and felt my happiness levels rise by around a billion.
I think all of us are burdened with some form of toxic relationship. You may not be aware of it – I certainly wasn’t, in the early days of my friendship with my loveable Negative Norbert up there – but unless you are extremely lucky, chances are that you have someone in your life, whether it be in your circle of friends, at work or at home, who is dragging you down in some way and preventing you from fulfilling your full potential. It’s not easy to deal with, especially if that someone is someone you feel inextricably linked to, like a sibling or a parent. However, like I said, life is too damn short to allow others to suck the joy out of what little time we have on this planet! You deserve to be happy, and part of you knows that if you’ve bothered to read this far into this article; but in order for you to shed the shackles of these toxic bonds, you need to believe in it so hard that you can say it out loud, without fear, to the people who need to hear it.
Some of them will be willing to listen and may even be willing to try and change their behaviour; some of them won’t. And that’s okay. My Mr Negativity wasn’t about to step out of his little cocoon of darkness (I’m not even overstating here, he was that fucking depressing to be around), so I walked away. You may need to walk away, too, no matter how scary it may be. Here’s the good thing, though: rarely are things definitive. You may have to put an end to a friendship in order to move on with your life, but that’s not to say that you’ll never be able to revisit that relationship at a time when you feel that both of you have grown enough, and are in good enough places in your lives to give it another go. Also, it gets better. Having to let go of someone can be soul- destroying; it can feel like your whole world is ending, because in some cases, it is! You may have known this person all your life, so walking away from them will be an End of Days of sorts. But, it gets better.
It’s worth it. The good thing about life is that it has this uncanny way of pushing people together, and when you make place for them, great things will happen. You may feel a little hopeless and a little alone right now, but I guarantee that if you leave yourself open, you’ll meet the most amazing people. Best of all, you won’t have that monkey on your back, weighing you down, and keeping you from going out there. I’m getting very metaphorical here, but I’m sure you catch my drift! By spring cleaning your friendships and on a wider scope your relationships, you’re making space for new and shinier ones! Trust me. It’s worth it.
So, here are some things that you can do to get started on this self-love project.
1) Roll your sleeves up. There’s work to do.
2) Take stock of your current relationships. Be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Are all your relationships where they should be? Where they could be? Make sure you separate the “normal” gripes you may have from the toxic behaviours we’ve identified above.
3) If you’ve found some relationships that you are thoroughly unsatisfied with: pause. Take some time to think of what you really want out of these people. Are these bonds that can be salvaged? Do you value their friendship? Is this a person who will help you grow, and who you will help become the best version of them they can be? If you answered “yes” to these questions, talk to them. Get your point across. Tell them that you love them and you want them in your life. Ask them why they’re doing what they’re doing, and if there’s anything you can do to help them let you of whatever it is that is making them so unhappy. Remember: love begets love.
4) If they won’t listen, take a break. Give them time. Evaluate where you are in your life, and whether you’re okay with letting this go – chances are, you are, and it is what’s best for both of you for now! Remember: doing this doesn’t make you selfish; it simply shows that you want the best for yourself, so that you can give the best of yourself to those you love.
Above all, don’t feel guilty about your decision. People change and drift apart all the time; some of them somehow find their ways back to other again, some don’t, but make their lives richer by meeting other, wonderful people. Spring cleaning your relationships shouldn’t be seen as something negative: it’s a new beginning, so embrace it! 🙂