Friend culling: why should we embrace it?

Beth Robson writes about the difficulties and benefits of ending toxic friendships.

Beth Robson
14th October 2019
Image- Pixabay
We’re very quick to unfollow someone online, or ignore someone in the street, who shouts abuse or posts things that make us feel uncomfortable. It’s easy because we don’t know them! But unlike with random strangers, we have deep connections with our friends; the good AND the bad! So should we do the same? If a friend is negatively affecting our lives and mental health, should we cull the friendship the same way we’d unfollow a celebrity promoting detox tea? I would argue yes.

Toxic friendships come in all shapes and sizes; some easier to identify than others. Too often we think of abuse being exclusive to relationships, but the reality is that our friends can do just as many manipulative and hurtful things as our romantic partners can, and too often we let it slide. Friends can be brutally honest (and we definitely need a friend to tell stuff how it is!), but they’re also supposed to love and support you, especially when you’re down or having a tough time. Friendship is a two-way relationship built on a mutual trust, care, and respect for each other, and if they aren’t pulling their weight or they’re taking advantage of you, maybe it’s time to cull the friendship. It is, of course, easier said than done, and when it comes to culling friendships the best thing to do is to be honest with yourself; remember, nobody is worth sacrificing your self-worth or wellbeing for!

The truth is, we all change lots as we embark on adulthood (or at least attempt at it!). Our likes, dislikes, and beliefs evolve as we meet new people and try new things; the best friends you had at secondary school might become a distant memory, or a message out of the blue three months after graduation. Whilst we’ll all make mistakes and say things that are stupid and hurtful, it’s important to be able to identify when a friendship is no longer about ‘banter’ and is instead causing hurt and self-doubt.

"Embracing the idea that some “friendships” are toxic and not worth the hurt of staying in will initially be a hard pill to swallow but will eventually bring you a lot more peace and a lot less heartache."

So, ask yourself this: Does this person make you happy? Do you feel like you can be yourself around them? Can you rely on them to be there for you? If the answer to these questions are “no” then you’re probably in a toxic friendship. Embracing the idea that some “friendships” are toxic and not worth the hurt of staying in will initially be a hard pill to swallow but will eventually bring you a lot more peace and a lot less heartache. When we acknowledge that someone is bad for us or our mental health, and we choose to cut them from our lives we acknowledge that we are worth more.

Culling your friendships, online and in real-life, can feel both sad and cathartic. Maybe you’ll mourn the loss of a friendship, the memories, and the things you shared together much like the ending of a relationship. As much as we harp on about “deleting toxic people from our lives” and “loving yourself enough to drop toxic friends”, the reality of culling that friendship can lead to a period of real sadness. In the aftermath of World Mental Health Week activities across campus, I urge you to give yourself time to mourn. You’ve got this, and you’re worth so much more!

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