Friendships can be quirky, complex, and sometimes downright perplexing. Forged over shared jokes, selfies, and unforgettable conversations about anything and everything, friendships play an influential role in shaping who we are.
From boosting our self-esteem to being a support system during life's tumultuous roller coaster rides, friends are like the sidekicks in our personal storylines.
They persuade us to go after our passions, hold our hand through heartbreaks, and sprinkle stardust on our otherwise mundane existence.
But friendships can also be toxic. You know the ones I'm talking about – the so-called “friends” who drain your energy.
Toxic Friendships and Breaking the Cycle: When Your Sidekick Turns Villainous
Toxic friendships are like that sneaky monster hiding under your bed — they appear friendly on the surface, but they're secretly plotting to steal your joy and replace it with drama, jealousy, and self-doubt.
Breaking free from the clutches of toxic friendships requires strength, self-awareness, and a dash of Gandalf-level wisdom.
The first step to emancipation, of course, is recognising the signs of a toxic friendship, for instance:
And it’s extremely important to set boundaries in friendships, more so, when it comes to a person’s mental health and well-being. A 2018 study, titled Social Relations and Life Satisfaction: The Role of Friends, says:
"Friendships, considered as voluntary relationships that involve a variety of activities, may contribute significantly to the overall subjective well-being."
The Role of Boundaries in Friendship: Building the Great Wall of 'No Drama Allowed'
Okay, now that you’ve acknowledged and accepted that a certain friendship of yours is toxic, what’s the next step?
Enter boundaries – the guardians of your emotional realm.
Setting boundaries in friendships is not about being a buzz kill or creating an impenetrable fortress. It's about nurturing the delicate balance between sharing and preserving your own well-being.
Have you ever felt like your friend is treating you like a 24/7 helpline for their emotional baggage? That's a boundary breach, my friend.
Communicate openly and kindly about your needs, and encourage your friend to do the same. Remember, it's a two-way street paved with respect and understanding.
And while it’s important to draw boundaries in toxic friendships, it’s just as important to work to keep your positive friendships the way they are.
Friends support your dreams, lift you up when you’re feeling down, and help you trust your instincts.
Positive friendships are about showing up, being present, and embracing the delightful quirks that make your friend, well, your friend!
A Beginner's Guide To Setting Boundaries
Setting boundaries in friendships can be tough. A 2005 study, titled Boundaries of Friendship, said,
“For most people, the boundaries between family and friendship remain relatively well-defined and continue to be important. Friendships are different from family relationships, especially since the solidarities are different. Friendships have boundaries that are fluid and more easily broken.”
But here’s how you can start practising it:
Say no if/when you’re uncomfortable with something
Don’t push your limits to please your friends
Be direct and consistent
Step away when someone is disrespecting your boundaries over and over again
But also remember that boundaries and respect go both ways in a friendship.
(Rita Mendonca is a clinical psychologist with over five years of experience. She specialises in child counselling and guidance, CBT, REBT, aversion and desensitisation techniques. You can find her on Instagram at @mymindgains. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)