In seventh grade, I told my first crush Mary how my best friends were always assholes to me. She then asked, “why do you still hang out with them?” I had no clue. Sadly, I never figured it out as I continued to stack buddies who blatantly took advantage of me. From stealing my money to using me as a scapegoat. I held onto them for dear life— out of desperateness, I guess.
We all have some fairweather pals lying around. Although not as bad as mine, they tend to harm us more than we realize.
You don’t know their intentions
In this modern age of “what I can do for you” and “what you can do for me.” Many friendships are built on some level of mutual benefit. At times, it’s hard to tell whether someone is genuinely interested in you or simply eying the things you can offer them.
Often, these two feelings overlap. Your ‘friend’ enjoys partying with you. But only on the condition that you’ll drive him back home afterward. Or they might do you a favor in exchange for another.
These types of companions put you in a precarious position because you’re unsure whether to keep the relationship strictly transactional or treat them as one of your own. You have to continually recalibrate your distance from them, making a beautiful interaction more complicated than it needs to be.
Saying ‘no’ to someone you dislike is easy. But setting clear boundaries against people who dangle in between a friend and an enemy can become confusing. Although you’re reluctant to accept their lunch invitation, you feel inclined to keep the relationship afloat. For support. For network connection. For future favors. And for validation.
They leave you feeling empty
College campus life was a huge social struggle for me. I stuck around people that I never truly clicked with. It was better than sitting in my dorm alone while everyone was out partying, I thought. But you know what? Forcing myself to hang around unfamiliar faces left me more depressed. There’s something fundamentally wrong with thinking that you need to cling to whoever is available to hang out with.
One, misfitting friends make you feel awkward. You put in so much effort just to keep a conversation going that you start to compromise your sense of self. You overreach to impress. At the same time, faking your interest in them and listening to their stories that you don’t give a rat’s ass about. But, all of that pretending is more exhausting than the anxiety of loniness.
Two, holding tightly to people you don’t enjoy being around implies that you have a scarcity mindset. You don’t believe that there are plenty of ‘right’ friends for you out there who you feel instant closeness — who you don’t have to try hard with.
Quality over quantity
I’m not asking you to cut off all of your acquaintances. But, if you were to transfer the energy you spend on ambivalent friends to finding and cultivating relationships with people with who you naturally vibe with, you’ll end up much more fulfilled and at ease.
How to spot foes in disguise
Although fake friendships are more prevalent among women, we all have those frenemies, as Vanessa Van Edwards would call them.
A frenemy is someone who you are friendly with, despite a fundamental dislike or rivalry. Frenemies might want you to do good on the surface, but behind your back they will gossip about you and may even be jealous of your accomplishments and successes.
-Vanessa Van Edwards
Sometimes it’s difficult to separate the friend from the foe. Anyone can act nice for short spurts. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Are they genuinely happy for your success?
- Do they ask a lot more from you than they give?
- Do they undermine you or underappreciated you?
- Do they tell you the hard truth or give you the diplomatic answer?
- Do you ever feel the need to be guarded or cautious around them?
Subpar friendships occupy unnecessary space
I’ve somewhat outgrown my scarcity mindset. And I’ve moved on from many people. I understand that to create the time and energy for people who truly matter, I first need to let go of the people who don’t bring much value to my life.
If you have mixed feelings about someone, think about why you have allowed them to remain in your life. Maybe they make you laugh. Perhaps you guys go way back. But do the cons of their presence outweigh the pros? If the answer is yes, it could be time to reevaluate where you should stand with them.
Again, I’m not advocating that you delete all your drinking buddies off your phone. Breaking up with someone isn’t easy. But if a certain relationship isn’t satisfying or meeting your standards. You can drop them down to the bottom of your priority list to focus on people who truly love you.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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