By Sierra Aceto
This is Do You Mind?, a series where I ponder and reflect over many mindfulness practices, what they mean and how to apply them. As the self-care and self-love revolution is on the rise, I hope to make you wonder, do you mind?
The arrival of spring does not just promise rain showers and May flowers. It also reminds us all that it’s time for some spring cleaning.
Although it can feel refreshing to open up the windows and deep-clean your living space, there are other parts of our lives that also deserve some restorative cleansing, including our friendships.
As much as that suggestion may take you by surprise, it’s true. Reevaluating the positive or negative influences our friendships have on our well-being and self-esteem is incredibly important in allowing ourselves to move past any toxicity that may be lingering in our lives.
Not all friendships are meant to last. Just like in relationships, there are factors that divide a friendship with no option of going back or starting over.
Toxic friends tear you down without you even noticing. They may completely ignore you and then return with the expectation that you’ll cut off an arm and a leg for them. They want your attention when they want it but make you feel like a burden when you try to come to them with your own problems. They are the silent bully dressed up as your supporter.
As close as you may feel to the friends in your life that may (or may not) match these descriptions, ultimately, all these friends are giving you is stress and probably sadness, too.
It’s common knowledge that when a romantic relationship doesn’t work out, you break up. Whether it’s because one or both partners weren’t getting what they needed or the relationship simply lost its connection and spark, it’s normal to break things off.
For some reason, friend breakups don’t seem to get nearly as much support.
Breaking up with a friend can feel infinitely more crushing than ending a relationship. It can feel like letting go of all your wonderful memories, of all the times they were — or used to be — there for you, of all the things you’ll never be able to look at without remembering “that one time” with them.
Regardless of whether you dove in headfirst from the first time you met or have been friends for a decade, losing someone you care about — even if it’s for your own health — still feels like you’re losing a part of who you are.
But if you’ve been surrounding yourself with toxicity, it will either permeate into your psyche and break you down or fill you with those same unhealthy habits in an attempt to defend yourself against all of that pain.
For some reason, we feel this obligation to stay friends with someone after X amount of time. Just because you were BFFs in high school, or you partied a lot together in college or you worked together for however many years, doesn’t mean you are figuratively betrothed to each other as friends for the rest of time.
Some of your closest lifelong friends you might not meet until you’re well into adulthood. You may not enjoy talking to some of your childhood friends as adults because — and I can’t reiterate this enough — everybody changes, and that’s OK.
Our middle school, high school and college years are all incredibly transformative in their own ways. When I think of who I was a year ago compared to now, even that relatively short time has incited plenty of change.
And let’s just say it. Breakups suck. It hurts to get dropped or broken up with, and it’s hard to face the fact that a longtime friendship just doesn’t work anymore. Friendships can shift, and you can grow closer or farther apart, but what matters most is that the relationship is still positively influencing your life. If a friendship is only leaking negativity, it’s probably time to let it go.
If you’ve decided to sit down with a friend for a breakup conversation, remember this choice is one you’re making for yourself. Don’t blame them or anything they’ve done to you. At the end of the day, none of that anger will bring you any peace.
Stay strong, and don’t let their pleas manipulate you into taking them back. Any kind of unhealthy relationship is inherently cyclical, and anything you’ve already experienced will come back around to hurt you again.
There are more balanced, happier, brighter friendships ahead of you. It doesn’t happen out of the blue, but by inhabiting the spaces you care about and with a little patience — well, a lot of patience — you’ll be able to find meaningful connections that fit who you are today.