Friendships help define us and shape our lives. Good friends help us feel accepted, supported, and free to explore and be ourselves. They’re a source of entertainment and enjoyment. Through hangout sessions, activities, and real talk, we can also discover new interests and ideas.
Our friendships in middle school, high school, and throughout our lives are especially important. As Dr. Darlene Mininni, author of The Emotional Toolkit says, “Women and girls do create their identities (in great part) through their relationships more so than men.”
Distancing from or “breaking up with” a toxic friend, so that you have more time to spend on positive interactions, can do wonders for your happiness and wellbeing. Letting go of toxic friends can be tough, and things can get awkward, but you’ll thank yourself in the long term.
When to back away from a friendship:
Dr. Mininni suggests recognizing a pattern – do you feel depressed or unhappy when you are with them but not during other parts of your life?
“It’s not always overt,” Dr. Mininni said. “Sometimes, it is very subtle – a little dig here, a little comment there. It goes past your radar, and you don’t notice it until you get home and feel bad about it. Those cues are signs that you should back out of a friendship.”
How to do it:
There are a couple of ways to remove yourself from a toxic friendship: one of which is what Dr. Mininni calls the “subtle fizzle way.” With this method, you don’t text the toxic friend as much and aren’t as available to do things as you were before. With hope, you’re friend will get the hint.
Or you could say something.
“It’s best to frame it around yourself and not about them,” Dr. Mininni says. “Simply say, ‘I need a little bit of space,’ and back it up a little bit. Frame it around how you feel and what you need.”
If you’re feeling nervous about speaking up, try practicing in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend.
If the situation escalates, Dr. Mininni recommends calling for help – don’t be afraid to turn to a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor.