#AskAlice – I’ve found myself in a toxic friendship. How can I remove myself?

Photo credit: Isabelle Gallino (via Flickr)

Unfortunately, most people will undoubtedly encounter people throughout their lives who make them question their self-worth. When considering a ‘toxic’ friendship, it should be noted that toxicity is a subjective term, personal to each and every individual. What some people may consider toxic, another may believe to be simply frustrating or annoying. Everyone has different thresholds.

It can be very, very hard to remove yourself from the grasps of a toxic friend, especially as quite often they will hold a certain power over you. However, the first step in eradicating these people from your life is identifying them as problematic- which you have done! Good news. Toxic people can present themselves in a number of ways, but ultimately, they have one thing in common: their manipulative tendencies. They can almost subconsciously make you feel as though your opinions and values are worthless. They may mock your interests, or the people you socialise with, and in the worst cases can start to morph you into a similar individual to them. It can take a while for you to recognise these people as toxic, but when you do, you’re already on the way to recovery.

First of all, once you have decided that you wish to remove yourself from their lives, be honest with them. Understand that discussing with them the reasons why your friendship is a problem will typically provoke confusion or anger, but it is still a necessary evil. Being honest and open with your friend may sound like a daunting prospect if you normally avoid confrontation, but the truth is the best way forward.

Put yourself first. This is extremely important for your emotional wellbeing. Toxic friendships can often result in sacrificing integral parts of what make you the person that you are in an attempt to please them. Remember throughout the process that you are doing this for the benefit of you, and you alone. There is no shame in being selfish now and again!

After you’ve been honest about your intentions, it is time to remove yourself from the situation. Often it can help to inform mutual friends that you are spending time away from each other in order to avoid any awkward encounters. You may also need to delete them off social networks if this helps. During this time, resist the urge to fall back into a friendship with the other person. Just like you would in a romantic break-up, the end of a friendship can include heartache. Remind yourself why you wanted to remove yourself from the friendship, so you don’t fall back into old habits. Find alternative ways of making yourself happy, spend time with other friends or look at making new ones. Join a society or chat to the person sat next to you in a seminar. Remember that friends should never make you feel guilty for being yourself, and there are many people out there that will accept you for who you are.

Sometimes, this break of friendship may not be forever. If there is evidence that they have truly changed, then you may wish to reconcile your differences with them. However, make sure you only do this if it is something you desire – do not be guilt tripped by them! The key is removing yourself from the overbearing situation that you are finding yourself in, gaining clarity and getting a fresh perspective. Remember that there are loads of facilities available if you are struggling– search the Cardiff Intranet to find all the options available to you.

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