Social media seems to make it too easy to have a lot of “friends” who aren’t really friends. Oftentimes, for the sake of ease, to not hurt anyone’s feelings, or to feel popular, we keep them as friends just because it keeps our ‘friend count’ higher and therefore somehow boosts our sense of self-importance/self-worth. But is this really the case? Do these empty friendships really make us feel more loved, more powerful, more important somehow? Of course, we have the ability to ‘like’ and ‘love’, ‘laugh’ and ‘cry’ about our friends’ posts; we can follow or unfollow them in our newsfeeds depending on what and how much you want to see. You can block those who you no longer wish to have contact with – and wouldn’t that be nice if we could truly do that in reality; wipe someone unfavorable from our existence with the push of a button that does no harm and the other party might not even be aware. One thing I’ve come to realize recently – sometimes you have to unfollow people in real life.
I recently made the decision to cut a (formerly) close friend out of my life for good. After way too long and giving her too many chances, I realized that I was the only one putting in the effort. That effort was draining me and I was tired of a give and take relationship – the kind where I gave and she took. Speaking with other close friends and family, it seems that this is a struggle that many have – “there’s one in every bunch” kind of mentality, where someone is never there for you when you need them, but at the first sign of real or perceived crisis, you are the first phone call/text/message. It’s draining. It’s unhealthy. Sometimes it’s ok to draw a boundary and say ‘no’! ‘I’m not going to accept this behavior from you anymore’.
Some things to think about when determining if you have dead weight that you are carrying around:
– Are you only contacted when it is beneficial to them?
– Do they ever ask how you’re doing and wait for the answer?
– Are they only around when it fits their needs?
– Would they get offended if you treated them the way they treat you?
I’ve noticed that often, people will only notice when your attitude towards them changes, but won’t notice that it was their behavior that made you change your attitude in the first place. By this point, they’ve already effectively removed themselves from the relationship, often without knowing it. If they are making no effort to be a part of your life, why do we try so hard to continue to be a part of theirs?
With our children, we set limits or boundaries of what we deem to be acceptable behavior, while at the same time, not expecting the same of the other adults in our lives, whether they are family, friends, or acquaintances. Why is it that we so quickly dismiss something so important? Boundaries are a necessary part of any relationship and help us to lay out what treatment you expect from others….and are a good starting point especially for setting limits for yourself. Oftentimes, change is hard, and not just for the friend losing you, but it’s easy to slip back into old patterns of accepting the behavior. Setting limits is often met with resistance (in my case, an argument that I chose not to engage in, resulting in the ‘friend’ saying some reactive and hurtful things). Someone told me once that ‘you don’t have to participate in every argument you’re invited to’ and it has stuck with me – it’s true; no one is forcing me to engage. That’s what my friend wanted and she was angry when I didn’t give it to her – but that was the new limit, the change I made to say ‘I’m more valuable than this’, so my energy could be refocused on those friendships that were worth it. It’s important that you never forget who ignored you when you needed them, and who helped you before you even had to ask.
Sara joined Empathia in 2015 as an EAP Counselor. Sara has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and a master’s degree in Counseling, with a concentration in clinical mental health. Sara enjoys reading, attending kids’ activities, and spending time with family.