I wanted to write this blog on October 6, but I wasn’t able to get inspired until I started reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Then I had an epiphany. What’s so special about October 6? Well, that’s the anniversary of the day I officially unfriended the most toxic friend to ever come into my life to date.
When my toxic friend came into my life, I was going through an emotional and lonely time. I had worked with her for a couple of years but we had never been friends. I never really thought of her as a potential friend. If we were in high school, she would’ve been the popular chick and I had never been one for the “in” crowd. There were a couple red flags I noticed in the beginning. She was a bit flaky and snobbish but she seemed genuinely interested in being friends. So I put the red flags aside. We all have personal issues and I thought she may turn out to be a good friend in spite of them. At the time, I was in the worst shape of my life and struggling a lot with body issues. My friend liked to shop in designer boutiques. Places that don’t make clothes in my size. It was a constant reminder of my body issues and a very painful experience but I didn’t want my body issues to get in the way of a budding friendship so I used a lot of self-talk and I pushed through. Over time, I was surprised that my confidence in my appearance started to improve. I decided that even though I was overweight I was still attractive and I starting dressing the best as I could. I also started committing myself to exercising and getting into shape. I started feeling attractive again and, even though I wanted to lose weight, I accepted myself where I was at. My friend wasn’t skinny herself. She was curvy but dressed confidently. I didn’t see her as better looking than me. I saw us as equals but different. We are all attractive in our own way.
Our friendship grew slowly. The deeper in I got in; the more I realized she may have serious personal flaws. Her snobbiness turned into her being difficult to get along with. Whenever I tried to make new acquaintances, she was often rude and abrasive. Then she would often bash the people I was becoming friends with. It made it difficult for me to make new friends at work. I chose to ignore her behavior as I figured she was just insecure and didn’t want to lose me as a friend. However, I was going to be friends with others whether she liked it or not. So I just wouldn’t bring her along when I am hanging out with them. I can have many friends and they don’t have to like each other. As long as they like me and can respect my choices, that’s all that matters to me. Then her flakiness became intolerable. She was extremely unreliable and would flake-out on important occasions despite being given lots of opportunity to make plans. There would be crazy circumstances that would come up at the last minute where it was out of her control so it would be wrong to get mad at her. For example, in December 2013 I planned a Christmas supper with a few friends. I put a lot of effort into the planning. Gave her advance warning and made sure she would be available. The weekend before the supper my friend decided to take a last-minute girls trip to Las Vegas with a friend and got stuck in the airport on the way back. She had decided to fly standby during thanksgiving week. One of the busiest flying times of the year! It was one of those situations where if I got mad at her I would look like the asshole. Still, I was pissed. She had done this kind of thing before, but this one was the worst. I ended up cancelling the supper as others also flaked out, but if my friend had shown up I wouldn’t have cancelled. So her flake-out was a big deal.
This was the inspiration for my life-changing decision. Deep down I knew that the person who was living that life was not the real me. She was the persona I adopted as I thought it would get me the kind of life I wanted. But it was an empty life with empty high-maintenance friendships and it made me fat because I was unhappy. It was at that point I decided I was tired of my bullshit life and I would rather have no friends than a life full of bullshit friends.
Despite my decision, I was afraid that my friend may be worse than a bullshit friend. She may be a toxic friend. What’s the difference? A bullshit friend is someone who is indifferent to you as a friend. They will be your friend as long as you do all the work. As soon as you stop doing all the work, they disappear from your life. So ending it is fairly easy. A toxic friend is someone who has incepted your life to bring you down and feed off your energy. They suck the life out of you. But how do you figure out whether someone is a toxic friend? This is tricky because often their behavior is insidious and the harder it is to see the more they’ve enmeshed themselves in your life. My friend worked with me so she was privy to: all my rants about coworkers; all my weak spots; and my budding relationship with the male coworker I talked about in my last blog (Cages and Jungles). So the damage she could do to my life was substantial. My plan was simple: distance myself to gain clarity and hopefully find a distance where I could maintain a friendship/acquaintance with her that wouldn’t feel toxic to me. Hopefully I could disentangle myself from her without her noticing and maintain a civil work acquaintance with her. Unfortunately, the more I distanced myself; the more she tried to suck me back in. She first started with emotional manipulation tactics. In fact, I have since realized the Vegas incident was just that. She was mad because I was supposed to go to Vegas with her but I couldn’t. So she made a new best friend and went with her. I think the airport thing was probably an accident but if my supper was important to her she would’ve made sure she would be there. And it was a convenient excuse so officially she wasn’t being a bad friend. Toxic people have an uncanny way of causing you pain and making it your fault when you get mad. When that didn’t work she started causing trouble with other people in my life. I had started to build a friendship with another girl at work. One day, my toxic friend and this new girl became inseparable. Luckily, my friendship with this new girl wasn’t working out as I identified her as a bullshit friend so I didn’t care. I was glad to get rid of her. Then I became friends with a girl at work who my toxic friend had a strife with. One shift I was planning to go on break with the new girl and not my friend. At first, I was going to be covert about it but then I decided it would be giving my toxic friend control so I was upfront about it. Like a bandaid! My toxic friends tactics became more obvious yet she did it in a way that if I confronted her she could explain it or turn it against me. The worst and final straw was she tried to create problems between me and the male coworker. One day she started openly flirting with him in front of my face and it was obvious she was doing it just to make me mad. It was a bad time in my relationship with him as we hadn’t figured out what we were and whether what we were doing was wrong. Plus we were trying to be discreet so even if our coworkers saw us being friendly there was nothing they could say. It created a problem for me because I couldn’t call her out on her behavior or I would be openly admitting that there was something going on. But I knew she knew exactly what she was doing but her behavior was so egregious I was having trouble processing it. While I was still processing it, she continued to retaliate by causing trouble with my friendships at work. I decided I needed to cut her out of life as much as possible in order to clear my head. On October 6, 2014, I told her in no uncertain terms I wanted space. Over the following year she continued to retaliate. It was difficult but it reinforced that I made the right decision in ending it. And despite the pain it brought into my life, I was free which made it worth it. If I had known how I would feel after I would’ve done it sooner and faster.
It was a tough life lesson to learn and it took me a long time to process it. I was ashamed about my lack of judgement with her. How could I allow someone who is that toxic so far into my life before seeing it. Also, she didn’t think I was attractive at all. She took me in those boutiques on purpose to fat-shame me and manipulate me. Was I fooling myself with my newfound self-confidence? And lastly, she was the catalyst for my life-changing decision. And that decision brought my friendship with the male coworker into my life. How can someone as toxic as her be responsible for bringing someone so awesome into my life? Upon reading The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, I had an epiphany: I actually showed great personal courage, self-love, and strength throughout my relationship with her. Giving her the benefit of the doubt was a strength on my part. It was a decision that came out of love and compassion. When I realized she was truly toxic, I ended it despite the pain it brought into my life. Secondly, her fat-shaming efforts didn’t work because I decided my worth is not determined by the number on the scale. When faced with someone who was trying to devalue me, I showed self-love and rejected it. Lastly, I was the one who show my strength when I decided to fight for myself. I decided I wanted to be myself in the world even if it meant I could lose the life I had worked so hard for. I learned that my personal value is to be myself in this life good and bad whatever that entails.