Forgive the clickbaity title, but for real though, many of us have friendships that are poisoning our well-being and we may not even know it. One of the inevitabilities of growing older is the gradual realization that some of the friends you made when you were younger may actually be kind of shitty people.
It’s pretty easy to identify the overtly toxic ones; they bring a lot of drama into our lives, demanding our time and emotional support at their convenience. Even when they try to be helpful or supportive, they end up fucking things up because of their tendency to blow things out of proportion, leaving you to clean up their messes.
However, there are equally toxic friends that tend to fly under the radar because they’re not dramatic or overtly malicious.
1. The “I’m just being real with you” friend
I was once shortlisted for a jewellery design competition, and upon hearing the news, a friend told me, “You probably won’t win.” She defended her reaction as being “realistic” but if you want to be both realistic and a friend, you just say, “What can you do to win? Is there anything I can do to help?” Of course, this wasn’t the only occasion that this happened. Any time that I experienced a small triumph, this friend would quickly find a way to turn it into a negative; I mean, there were times she was reaching like Mr. Fantastic, but she would get it done.
Transferring your low self-esteem onto someone else because you hate your life and want everyone else to be miserable so that you’re not alone is not being realistic. It’s being mean and petty, and I don’t think those are traits to be proud of.
2. The financial parasite friend
There was a point in time when I was broke, and I was living off peanut butter, discounted frozen char siu buns, and a giant bag of Lipton 3-in-1 instant milk tea sachets that a magazine offloaded to me because they felt bad about not being able to pay me for an article. My friends all knew that I couldn’t spend any money, so we mostly hung out at my place or theirs.
Except for one friend who also never seemed to have money but never let that get in the way of his spending. He was the kind of person who would arrange to meet you somewhere and then call you to tell you he’s not only late, but he’s hungry and would you mind buying him some McDonald’s? Of course, he didn’t expect to pay. Same thing with taxis that he would insist that you share even if you were planning to walk home.
3. The vanishing friend
This person constantly made plans to meet up but then either canceled on the day of meeting or simply ghosted, only to reappear a few weeks or even months later, acting like nothing happened. “Let’s meet up next week!” she’d say and tell me her schedule again and then complain that I never made time to see her.
I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but there are a lot of people out there who will put in effort to hang out, and that’s what makes them real friends. Irresponsible people who don’t care about your time and constantly break promises are not the kind of people you want to be friends with.
You’ve probably noticed that all of these toxic friends are deeply unhappy, and I’m not saying that you should abandon your friends when they’re sad or in pain, but one thing I have realized: unhappiness is like alcohol. It doesn’t make someone a shitty person, it only makes it easier for shitty persons to express their shittiness.
If this makes you realize that you are probably a toxic friend, I leave you with the words of wisdom a tumblr user called nicolaecuza once wrote: “the first thought that goes through your mind is what you’ve been conditioned to think. What you think next defines who you are.” Perhaps you should consider carefully what your next thought ought to be and act on that.