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When it comes to self-care, surrounding yourself with people that support you and build you up is essential. Unfortunately, that means having to cut out certain people from your life, which can be an extremely difficult thing to do. We often hear a lot about red flags in romantic relationships, but it isn’t as common to talk about the signs of toxic friendships. Depending on how long that relationship has lasted, ending a friendship can be more difficult and more heartbreaking than ending a romantic relationship. So how do we know when to bite the bullet and move on?


First, consider how one-sided the relationship is. Are you always the one reaching out and making plans? Do they ever make an effort to see you or check up on you? If you answered yes and no to those questions, respectively, chances are that friendship isn’t mutual. Relationships are a two-way street, and if you are not ever getting back the amount you pour into someone, it isn’t really worth your time. 


There is a small caveat to this. We all go through periods in our lives where we are simply not in a place to be able to reach out. Those are times that we may need a friend the most, so putting in the effort to check in on someone isn’t bad. It only becomes bad when the relationship is consistently one-sided. This includes the reasons for a friend reaching out to you. Are they reaching out to truly check on you, or do they only reach out when they need something? If they only reach out when they need something, it might be time to say goodbye.


Another major sign of a toxic friendship is when the friend starts making up lies. Sometimes, this can come in the form of setting you up for failure. This means they may publicly shame you, making it seem like whatever happened was your fault. For example, they may say you bailed on them at the movies after saying you would go, when in reality, that conversation never actually happened. They may feel the need to put you in your place to make themselves feel better. 


This characteristic also applies to keeping secrets. Good friends are good at keeping secrets because they respect you. You know a friend may not be worth keeping around if they are constantly telling other people things that you asked them not to tell. This is a small form of betrayal, and after multiple occurrences, you probably won’t be able to trust them at all. And if you can’t trust them, then toss them (not literally of course).


Lastly, perhaps the most important sign is that the friend makes you feel worse when you’re around them rather than better. This could be because they constantly put you down, are pessimistic, or act passive aggressively when you disagree with them. You don’t deserve any of that! You deserve someone who will empathize with you and help you feel better, not worse. This may also end up creating a buildup of stress in your body, which then can lead to all the negative effects of stress.


Though saying goodbye to friends isn’t easy, recognizing the signs may make it easier to realize how necessary it is for your own health to do so. To be at your best, you need to surround yourself with people that bring out your best. They should challenge you but in a healthy, encouraging way. If they don’t, make plans with those who do, and eventually the toxic friend will fall away, seeking someone who does give them the attention they crave.

Abigail Shepard is a junior at Central Michigan University studying music and psychology. She is the alto saxophone player in Kefi Quartet and the lead alto of CMU's Jazz Lab. She is also treasurer of To Write Love On Her Arms, a mental health advocacy group on campus, and an undergraduate researcher in the Psychology Department. Outside of school, Abigail loves drinking tea, petting cats, and exploring nature.
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