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Mental Health

Prioritizing Yourself in Difficult Social Situations

Getting caught up in drama is always hard. Whether a friend cheated on their significant other (or vice versa), someone is gossiping about someone else, or any of the other million different complications that pop up with social groups, figuring out what you should do is headache-inducing. I’ve been swept up in drama countless times, and the most important thing I’ve learnt is to prioritize my wellbeing.

Adapting this outlook has made making decisions easier, helped strengthen my confidence, and significantly lowered my stress. But how does one prioritize themself in a situation that involves multiple people? 

If your social group is in a tough situation that is heading towards dividing into two separate groups, please do not just follow the crowd. Your moral code should be your compass—stick with your gut, and have pride in it. Sometimes the event that breaks up a group is silly, but you’re pressured to choose sides. In these instances, just do whatever you feel is right for you. Weigh the pros and cons, and reflect on how the members of these groups make you feel.

If it feels right to confront them all and resolve the conflict, do that (and if you need to, enlist some help). If picking one of the two sides feels right, do that. I know that it might seem easier to just stay neutral and keep all your friends, but neutrality can often do more damage than good, and you could end up losing a lot more in the long run.  

In events that are deeper and potentially criminal, always do what feels right (and proceed with caution). These instances can cause your moral compass to rot, and incite incredible regret; this might be immediate, or can be felt years down the line. It may sound harsh, but friends are replaceable. You do not need to surround yourself with people that make you feel unsafe or have done horrible things.

I stayed friends with someone that harmed me despite my better judgment, and years down the line they did something way worse to another close friend. That regret will stay with me forever. In the same situation almost all of my friends decided to remain neutral and spent time with this abuser because they held prejudices about the friend that was harmed, so I ultimately cut them all off.

It was the hardest thing I’d ever done, having been desperate for social validation and with few friends, yet I am so proud of myself for making that decision. Although I missed out socially, I gained so much more: trust and loyalty with the friend that was harmed, confidence in myself, and the ability to assert myself. Most times you’re limited in what you can do, but you always have a choice. Don’t let anyone manipulate or pressure you into thinking otherwise. I’ll say it again: stick with your gut.

Also take the time to think about what is happening in relation to you. Is the drama providing you an opportunity to cut out someone you don’t like very much? Is it a means for you to separate yourself from a toxic social environment? Did it provide you new insights that change the way you perceive certain friends? Do you now have someone you want to apologize to for something that happened in the past? These scenarios will never not suck, but make use of them. 

Prioritizing yourself can lead to heavy criticism. You might find yourself as the brunt of horrible rumors. You might be isolated. You might be seen as shallow or inconsiderate. However, you know your gut, and you know what’s right for you. I’m confident that that knowledge will keep your head above the water during tough times. Remember that once you’ve climbed that first mountain, the rest will be like bumps in the road. Stay safe everyone, and follow that compass!

*Note: If you ever want an outsider’s input on a social difficulty you’re facing, feel free to reach out to me at amy.cooper@hotmail.ca. I’d be happy to offer some advice since I know how much stress can arise from not knowing what to do.*

Amy Cooper

York U '25

I am a third year at York University majoring in Media Arts and minoring in Psychology. I have special interests in fashion, theatre, psychology, and nature :) I hope you like my work!