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About Toxic Friends

By Alex James

When I first came to Joburg years ago, I found myself immersed in one wopper of a wild crowd. At the time I was too naïve to see that most of my so called friends were toxic.

New in town I wanted to be liked and, of course I was too eager to find a new life. I was just a boy and had no one to tell me otherwise.

We all must learn the lessons of life ourselves with minimal help, but sometimes we need a little nudge in the right direction. As someone who’s learned the hard way, I want to share my experiences, but before listing the bad types of friends, I ought to discuss the good ones first.

What do you think about when you think of friendship?
Personally, I envision a person who loves me not despite my flaws but BECAUSE of them. A person who defends me when I’m not present, someone I can trust with my dogs, someone I know won’t judge me when I confess a secret, someone I know has my back and tries to see me through the dark times so that I may come out the other end stronger. A friendship like that though only exists in Hollywood movies and is rarely seen in the world. If you have even one of these kinds of friends in your entire life, trust me, you’re very lucky.

A universal rule is we are what we surround ourselves with. Good friends are something everyone deserves to have. They’re an asset. Without them, we might be left bobbing along the stream with no sense of direction. But in order to find them, you must first know what not to look for.

Here are few friend types you should stay away from:

The Shame-Throwing Friend
How many times have you confessed a concern to your friend, whether it was about a guy you’ve met, an STD-scare, or something you felt guilty about doing, and they’ve responded with confirmation on how ashamed you ought to feel?

Nothing is worse than a friend who makes you feel more ashamed about a situation, especially when you’re the one spilling your guts. It’s nearly always followed by awkward silence and uncomfortable judgment. This doesn’t mean they don’t have your best interests at heart, but instead of helping you through it, they choose to pour salt on the wound to feed their own comfort level. Too much of it can end up creating an imbalance of power.

The Overly Sympathetic Friend
No one wants sympathy from someone because it creates a sense of submission, guilt, weakness, and pity. This has the power to make you feel worthless, even crazy and paranoid. The last thing anyone wants is to be pitied, but rather heard, understood, and inspired.

The Friend Who Lives Vicariously Through You
Whenever your friend starts to use words like “we” when referring to (eg) a situation involving only you and another man, perhaps it’s because they feel your life is more interesting than their own. But the thing is, it’s YOUR life – not theirs. Too many invitations inside your life can spawn opportunities for manipulation, mimicking, cock-blocking, even sabotage.

The Passive Aggressive
No one likes a passive aggressive person, much less in a best friend. There’s a sense of entitlement attached to it, and more often than not they enjoy spinning it around to make you think it’s YOU with the issue. When he/she starts to resist the demands of others and avoids direct confrontation, and instead choices to express their feelings through procrastination, pouting, or failing to tell you important details about something major, it’s clear this person has an issue with trust. And if they can’t trust you, what makes you think they deserve your trust?

The Friend Who Tries to Fix You
You’re supposed to be a friend, not a science project. No one should feel obligated to try and “fix” you, especially when it’s not warranted. There’s a difference between someone who’s concerned for your well-being and someone who literally tries to change everything about you because it’s unsuitable for them. More often than not, they blame you for letting them down – that’s no place you want to be because you’re never going to satisfy them.

The Friend Who Blames You
A person who consistently blames you for everything that happens clearly has no idea how life works. Sometimes shyte happens and it’s not our fault, but this kind of “know-it-all” always seems to have the right answer and, most likely, never finds themselves at fault for anything. Rather than supporting you through it, they blame you and try to figure out what you did wrong.

The Inconsiderate Friend
This person refuses to acknowledge your feelings on most things, even the smallest of circumstances. On the same coin, they also refuse to look at situations as “bad,” but rather “not that bad.” This can be a good and toxic thing. On one hand, it might ease your stress for the time being, but it will also hold you back for a long time; and this person will rarely pick you up after you fall. They’re much more comfortable denying the fact that you fell in the first place.

The Friend Who’s Too Competitive
It’s exhausting being friends with someone who constantly tries to one-up you, whether it’s gaining the attention of men, a crowd, or a simple conversation. Clearly they feel like you’re a threat. He/she feels the need to prove their worth all the time, even when it’s unnecessary. Most of the time they embarrass themselves in the process, but no one seems to notice except you (it seems). Competition is only meant for sports, not for friends. As soon as it enters this level, it becomes less about friendship and more an unconscious game of putting each other down.
No one wins.

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