Mental Health Blog

Stay true to yourself and understand toxic Friendships

Reflect on your relationships and friendships

“You have a small group of true friends who get the good, bad, and other emotional parts of you. (And like, a million social media friends who only get the best of you).”

Friendship isn’t the big things, it’s the million little things.

What kind of friendships do you have? Healthy, progressive, toxic?

Having friends is great! You don’t have to have a lot of friends. Keeping a small group will have the same effect on how friends will impact your life. 

The definition of a friend is: 

“a person who you know well and who you like a lot, but who is usually not a member of your family.” (Cambridge Dictionary). 

To make friends, you have to put yourself out there and be open, honest, and eventually vulnerable. One must earn trust and respect to be able to open up and be vulnerable to you and vice versa. This can be applied to both physical relationships and virtual relationships. 

* Throughout this blog I will be using friendship and relationships interchangeably.* 

At the beginning of friendships, the conversations may be surface leveled and are mostly dependent on commonalities between both parties and how the conversation “flows” in the sense of reciprocation, time, and effort put into it.

Over time, how one reacts to your vulnerability is impactful to you because your friendship is a relationship that you have invested yourself in. One’s reactions to your openness in sharing moments in your life can determine the quality of your relationship: who your friends are, who your acquaintances are, or who is not what you look for in a friend. 

In any relationship, you should not have to significantly change the way you look, act, talk, etc just so the other person likes you more. You are a unique person that can experiment with styles, but that decision has to come from your inner self. 

You may have heard that “people are willing to change for the betterment of the relationship”, that is not entirely true – compromise and acceptance are what progress relationships. 

Change has to be because you agree with it too, going hand in hand with self-improvement. Improvement of not only the friendship at hand but any relationship. 

If there are too many things that need to change for the relationship to work, the relationship will become stagnant or in metaphorical terms “one step forwards and two steps back”,  but there will still be a lot of change to oneself that may not reflect in the relationship at hand. This may not be worth your time to pursue a relationship that’s not reciprocated. Time is valuable. That is not to say that you can’t still stay in touch and be acquaintances that occasionally check-in on each other and someone about life, but they may not be the best person to listen and help you through situations.  It is important to maintain healthy and open conversations at all times not only for yourself but for others too.

Friends could be an outlet for one’s stress, they could be your support system, but they should never be someone you vent to every day even though your friend may offer and be accepting to help you. When people are friends, they commit to the relationship, so a small part of them become selfless, knowing that it will be reciprocated when the time comes. But the constancy of venting could also affect the bigger picture of your relationship. When you vent: does your friend also have an outlet? Is what you’re venting about making the other person anxious? Is what you’re venting about a close or open-ended issue that can be discussed with your friend to make you feel better? Is this something directed for your friend to help you work through, or is this something you can and should solve by yourself? There is a fine line between friendship, being reliant, it is up to your interpretation and the dynamics of one’s relationship. 

Instead, you could shift to a more self-reliant perspective of yourself. Sit with your thoughts, talk to yourself in the mirror, write out all your emotions, gather your thoughts. Respond rather than instantly reacting. 

It is similar to getting into arguments. You can walk away from a situation to not say anything that you can’t take back. But don’t ignore those feelings. Be the one to come back to the situation with a more conscious and open-minded mindset. 

In our generation, we are constantly involved with the internet to some extent, worldwide (while being wary of cyber safety rules). Specifically, with Facebook and Instagram, they are international platforms, some guiding principles that I follow: 

Small Friend Group 

  • Have a small group of true friends who get the good, bad, and other emotional parts of you. (vs. the million social media friends who only get the best of you) 

You Online vs. You Offline 

  • We tend to have 2 separate identities and persona online and offline. So do not let your friendships on social media be a determinant of who your true friends are. Your self-esteem comes from within, your confidence, and being in tune with yourself. If you depend on your pseudo-self to connect with the media, then it may be time to step away from the media and detox.

Social Media Detox

  • This is an important step that people should keep themselves in check for, as sometimes we are so dependent and addicted to media, that the dopamine that our brains release for this media time inadvertently may be a “temporary cure” to loneliness. But the constant cycle of depending on media for that cure is the same effect as any drug, eventually, it will stop working, and you will have to truly face the issues that one may have been neglecting for so long, and it may get worse without ascertaining to the issues at hand with your mental health. 

What worth is it to get so many likes if you don’t even know those people well enough?

Similar to how we view relationships, we look forward to our friends to comment on our pictures or like them. Other people’s likes may boost your confidence or ego but the value of your relationships is the most important. 

Online anonymity gives people a sense of safety and belonging. But if one reveals one’s anonymity, then those strong and true relationships should still last. The commonality in conversations is a great foundation for relationships. But if those people don’t support you and judge you for your choices that you made wholeheartedly with justifiable reason or just simply revealing yourself, then those friends aren’t very supportive, those are just people who may be seeing things from a one-sided perspective, and jumping to conclusions, they may not be your true friends. 

Having virtual friends is a great way to network. Take precautions for your privacy, but also make that time with the other party to have “face time” virtually, on zoom, on facetime, on Skype, etc. to establish and put more meaning into the relationship.

Signs of a Toxic Friendship: 

  • Getting very attached very quickly 
  • The conversation seems to be one-sided
  • You feel pressured to forgive them 
  • Canceling plans or saying “no” becomes a huge problem 
  • Boundaries are not respected 
  • You feel like you’re always competing against one another
  • Support and pushing are two different things 
  • People’s pessimistic attitudes affect you too often 
  • People who use you in an awkward situation for their benefits 

Friends that you can depend on: 

  • Friends with the same goals as you (financially, career-oriented, etc.)
  • People who don’t bring you down a lot
  • Friends should not cause you anxiety 
  • They listen to you 
  • They respect you 
  • They support you in a positive way other than pushing you
  • They help keep you accountable
  • They keep you sane

Currently, in the world, activism for all causes has been on a rise and has been brought to light through this pandemic, breaking down the institutionalized powers and enlightening our flawed systems, etc. This is real life, no system is perfect, neither is anyone in this world perfect. 

You can still be friends with those who have different political opinions than you:

We are not promoting the use of underage alcohol or to use alcohol to mediate pain, please drink responsibly. 

Friends aren’t defined by one’s political opinions as those will always be controversial, it is solely about one’s relationship, the development between the two in terms of other lay termed conversations.

Friendship isn’t the big things, it’s the million little things.

“FRIEND: Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” FRIEND | Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, 

Heineken Worlds Apart, 2017, 

Note: The Free Your Mind Mental Health Society is an independent youth-led organization. The contents of this blog are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In the event of a medical emergency, please call your doctor or 911 or other local emergency numbers immediately.