Why are you friends with them?

No, really. Think about it. Why are you friends with them?

I’m not sitting here about to tell you to Marie Kondo your friends or anything like that, but you should really and sincerely think about why your friends are your friends.

That Time I Was Bullied

So, I’ll start with my own story. Ever since I was in pre-school (PRE-SCHOOL!), I was bullied. For some reason the other kids didn’t like me, especially girls, and if any girl did like me, the bully would go to them and tell them not to be my friend. I’m not even kidding. This girl in pre-school told me that she would be my friend in secret because the popular girl told her not to be my friend. Awesome. Way to start off my social life, huh?

As I grew and the years went by, I was getting good grades. Then in sixth grade, I was the one that everyone picked on. For some reason, and to this day, I still have no idea why, people just didn’t like me and I didn’t trust anyone for it. I got a note on my birthday in my desk from someone in the other class (we switched classrooms for certain subjects) telling me that no one liked me; no one wanted to be my friend. Mind you, I was active in school, too. This whole situation made me quit the basketball team.

Some others were friends with me, but again, I didn’t trust them. “Are you really my friend?” I’d ask them, which completely turned them off to me. “I wouldn’t be hanging out with you if you weren’t,” and “What do you mean? I guess I’m not if you have to ask.” I lacked confidence in myself, doubted myself and thought everyone was trying to find something out about me so that they could make fun of me more.

The next year, it happened again. Except this time, it was because of my best friend. People wanted to fight me because she was cool and clearly, I was not. Teachers and principals got involved, they made us talk about it, but nothing was really said besides me telling them how much they hurt me.

But honestly, that was the final straw. I didn’t want any friends. I also realized I couldn’t make anyone be my friend, just like I couldn’t change anyone. I became recluse and a writer. Why did I want to be friends with these people? Because they were cool? Because I wanted to belong? I didn’t want to be like them. It was hard, but this is when I learned to be independent and learned I could only depend on myself.

What I Took From It

These are some things that I learned from this situation:

  1. People will do anything to bring you down. Especially if they’re jealous of you.
  2. Don’t ever follow and always question.
  3. Speak up. Talk back if you have to defend yourself. Talk about what’s going on. I remember my seventh grade teacher saying, “Don’t let them get you down. They’re just cruel kids.”

High school was a whirlwind of friendships. People embraced me the way I’ve never been embraced before. They noticed things about me I never noticed, they complimented me about things that I never realized and they actually wanted to be my friend. I should also say that because of the grammar school experience, I became a floater and didn’t stick to one group, although I always had a core group of friends; people that I wanted to be around.

Who I Chose to Have in My Life and How

As an adult, I based a lot of decision-making on who I wanted to surround myself with on what happened to me in grammar school. Since I knew I didn’t really need anyone, I started deciding who I wanted in my life.

I chose to surround myself with smart, educated (in various varieties), encouraging people who didn’t judge me, but accepted me for who I was and who wouldn’t feel inhibited by calling me out when I hurt them or acted differently than my normal self. Let’s just say I’ve had a lot of good friends over the years, who helped me grow some thick skin.

I’ve learned to see the red flags, to understand what people meant when they spoke, and even more, what they meant by their actions. I learned to understand where people were coming from, because most of the time their actions are caused by trauma or bad relationships they’ve experienced, or, for the most part, lack of self love and awareness.

Something to consider is that most of the time, the way people treat you or what they say to you, reflects more on them than it does on you. Good or bad.

There are times when you need to understand that the people who don’t understand you may be toxic; that those who hate instead of challenge, or insult instead of critique or who don’t appreciate you for who you really are, are NOT people you should be friends with– and actually face that fact.

There are times when I try to be so understanding of the other person’s thoughts, experiences and reasons as to why they are the way they are, that I feel like I can salvage a friendship from one side. However, friends and other experiences have taught me that it’s better that I don’t.

Walking away from these toxic relationships doesn’t have to be a big deal, remember that. You don’t have to say goodbye or tell them that you’re taking a break– just do it.

The contrast and the growth taught me a lot. And believe it or not, the way you treat your friendships align greatly with how you treat yourself, and how you treat your romantic relationships.

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