Live Through This

Kick ’Em to the Curb

Getting rid of toxic friends.

Collage by Emma D

Collage by Emma D.

Once upon a time, I had a friend. I had read her blog for years, and she read mine. She lived in the city I was moving to for school, and we were excited to meet and finally be IRL pals. But the more I hung out with this person, the more wary I became. I started to notice some troubling patterns: Sometimes I would try to tell her something I thought she’d think was funny, and she’d cut me off midsentence to tell me how stupid it was. She rarely asked me to hang out, and when I asked her, she often flaked on me or wouldn’t answer my texts. On top of all that, she would legit insult me on a regular basis. She’d make digs at me for being uncool (because I had so few friends and rarely went out) or for writing for Rookie, which she liked making fun of. She even started subtweeting disparaging things that were obviously about me.

If we’d been closer, I would have confronted her about these things and tried to save the friendship, but things being as tentative as they were, I decided instead to cut my losses. I stopped trying to contact her, and, unsurprisingly, she never picked up the slack. Luckily, this was right around the time she left New York City for a while, so I didn’t have to run into her at any of the hangout spots we both frequented.

he was always questioning my personal choices (like where I go to school) and actions (like my writing). One day I couldn’t take it anymore. He was on and on about something—I think he was saying mean things about my then-boyfriend—and I was like “fuck this” and told him to never contact me again. He has respected that request. It seemed like the only way to avoid being talked to that way.

Yeah, so maybe I’m a li’l dramatic, but I live by the great Amy Poehler philosophy of “anybody who doesn’t make you feel good, kick them to the curb.” It seems so simple, right? Don’t be friends with jerks. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fangirled over some cool person who I was dying to be friends with, then when I met and actually hung out with them, I realized they were not the nicest person—and yet it took me forever to cut them out of my life. Like the young writer whose work I really admired but who, upon meeting me (several times!), wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence when I tried to make conversation.

I wish I were the kind of person who doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of her, but I cannot deny that if someone I think is awesome tells me I’m totally uncool for liking Grimes or caring about school or not knowing a certain artist or anything, it makes me wonder if they’re right and I’m actually really stupid and horrible. Even worse, I start changing my opinions to match theirs, which is a pretty terrible way to be. When you’re surrounded by people who dismiss you for being you, you’re going to start to dismiss yourself.

I’m not talking about constructive criticism. Friends call out friends. Friends can also get into arguments. But when someone is being malicious, that’s not friendship. A friend saying, “Hey, please don’t be so hard on yourself about your weight” is completely different from someone saying, “Stop talking about how fat you are—nobody wants to hear about it.” When a so-called friend makes you feel bad, it’s hard to stop holding out hope that one day, this person will be nicer to me. Nobody likes feeling insecure. Nobody wants to be made fun of. Sometimes, we don’t want to admit that someone’s laughing at us and not with us, so we laugh too and try shrug it off.

I spent most of my teen years accepting this kind of garbage behavior from “friends.” People would insult my intelligence, my introverted nature, my clothes, whatever—and I would just keep hanging out with them! In my tiny high school, I had a limited choice as to whom I could even hang out with, and I figured if I wanted to be “normal” I needed to have friends, even if they weren’t actually right for me. I was also worried about being “mean” to people who were hurting my feelings. I mean, what? They sure weren’t worried about that vis-à-vis my feelings, and anyway, there’s nothing mean about protecting yourself.

Once I’d reached a point in my life when I’d found what I call “true friends”—people who, like my fellow Rookie writers and some of of my college classmates, value my opinions and respect me—I learned that I’d rather not waste my time hanging out with underminers, snootypantses, and saboteurs. Those are the people who may seem like friends on the surface, but who get angry at you for being successful, happy, or confident. That’s called jealousy, which may have been what some of my ex-friends felt about me. Or maybe they just hated me for random reasons. The point is, I’m no longer interested in sticking around to figure out why. It finally dawned on me that this is my life, and I get to choose who gets to be part of it. It seems obvious, but it’s so easy to forget.

I’m lucky that I learned to avoid toxic people at a relatively young age, but I wish I had learned it at, like, age two. So let me bonk you on the head now: THIS IS YOUR LIFE, AND YOU GET TO CHOOSE WHO GETS TO BE PART OF IT. You will never stop running into people who are jealous and insecure and who thrive on pulling other people down to their level. But you don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to pay any attention to them whatsoever.

If you’re looking to end a toxic friendship in your own life, Amy Rose’s article about platonic breakups has helpful pointers on doing just that. I will only add that you are 100 percent entitled to kick anyone out of your life that you want to, for any reason! It’s not elitist, stuck-up, or “too picky” to weed out the people who BRING YOU DOWN. You don’t owe anyone your time and friendship, especially if they’re not making you happy. Seriously, some people are just mean, and “I don’t like her/him” is a good enough reason to cut ties with a person.

Not to sound like a L’Oreal commercial, but you deserve great friends because you’re worth it. If someone insults you on the internet, feel free to block them. Is someone starting shit in the comments under one of your status updates? Unfriend them. It’s not ridiculous or an overreaction, it’s being true to what’s comfortable for you, which is all that counts, because you are you! And can I say? It’s totally satisfying! Seriously, it is the best thing. It feels like self-care, because it is. Life is too short to waste your time on people who bring bad vibes into your life. Let’s all pull a Poehler and kick ’em to the curb for good. ♦

37 Comments

  • Julianne March 24th, 2014 3:21 PM

    i can’t believe anyone would dis you like that, you are one of the coolest people i know on this earth. anyway, this is GREAT ADVICE. GOOD JOB.

  • Gabby March 24th, 2014 3:46 PM

    YESSSSSSSS

    I will never kick you to the curb fyi <3

  • thebrownette March 24th, 2014 3:47 PM

    This is VERY important. Some people are toxic.

  • vintagebarbie March 24th, 2014 4:12 PM

    I am going through a friend breakup with one of my closest friends for she was making fun of my anxiety and the music I listened to (she was also talking behind my back) and this post really helped!
    http://howfittingblog.blogspot.com

  • Mimi7 March 24th, 2014 4:25 PM

    Thanks Hazel, you’re so cool and have great advice. I’ve had friends who’ve been mean, but I’ve kept thinking that they would get better or change back to how they used to be. They usually don’t and it just makes it harder. I just wish for some of my friends, I would have talked to them about what was going before we stopped being friends.

  • rookielaura March 24th, 2014 5:10 PM

    THANK YOU for this. I really needed it.
    There is this girl at school who I used to think was really cool, so I tried really hard to be her friend. But, now that we actually are pretty close friends, I find myself questioning why I remain her friend… because after I hang out with her I feel like shit about myself. BUT I forget this fact and try really hard to hang out with her again! It’s also kind of a complex problem because I have a huge crush on her… so at the same time I want her to fall in love with me. Now maybe I’ll have the strength to quit my desire to be with her, because it just brings me down.

  • Arabelle March 24th, 2014 5:45 PM

    i love you haze master

  • Felitea March 24th, 2014 5:48 PM

    Really needed this!

  • hemngway March 24th, 2014 5:48 PM

    Really important article thank you for making people aware of it! I also cant understand why some people were so mean to you, you’re like the coolest person ever, I bet they were only jealous …

  • spudzine March 24th, 2014 5:59 PM

    I’ve been in so many toxic friendships that I could probably win a medal just for the sheer amount of “friends” that made my life more miserable than it needed to be. When I was younger, I used to be a lot more confident with my friend-dumping abilities. I mean, what’s the point of staying friends with someone if they’re making you feel horrible? A “friend” once told me that I can’t stop being friends with someone just because they say something mean to me. That one statement stayed with me for years after that, and I continued to put up with people who didn’t even care about my own feelings. It took a lot of effort, but I decided to put my feelings and self first. Before I become friends with someone, I am a friend to myself. And even if you don’t want friends, then don’t have them. Trust me, knowing that’ll save you a lot of anguish. It’s better to be alone and happy than to surround yourself with people who make you feel like crap.

    http://spudzine.tumblr.com/
    http://emotwins.tumblr.com/
    http://rockogirl.tumblr.com/

  • Maradoll Mynx March 24th, 2014 5:59 PM

    Truer words were never spoken!!!

    ALSO:
    I’m so glad you are no longer hanging out with individuals who are SO FAR BENEATH YOU. :)
    xo

  • Marykate March 24th, 2014 6:27 PM

    This is a great article, and trust me, life gets so much better when you let go of toxic relationships

  • samieh_m March 24th, 2014 8:37 PM

    I just needed to read this thing :) Thankss

  • emseely March 24th, 2014 8:59 PM

    THANK YOU HAZEL so done with people putting up with gross/insulting crap from others (especially sexual harassment at my school) and having to deal with “friends” defending THE OTHER PERSON because “that’s just their sense of humor, you’re overreacting.” um, no, they’re being awful. argh everyone if you got a friend like that leave em pls

  • brontosaurus March 24th, 2014 9:07 PM

    How could anyone think you’re uncool for liking Grimes???

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/DreamerGear

  • e1znekcaM March 24th, 2014 9:57 PM

    First off, if someone ever makes fun of you for liking Grimes there is no place for them in your life. Secondly, this article is very relatable. I have been getting rid of toxic friends for the past two years and my life has just been getting better. It’s so relieving. Great piece!

  • Khristine March 24th, 2014 10:16 PM

    i love this so much i’m going to cry. thank you

  • ASpoonfulOfSugar March 24th, 2014 11:10 PM

    How does Rookie always know exactly what’s going on in my life? :) Hazel, awesome article! I just ‘broke up’ with my (ex) best friend of about… 8 years? (Not exactly sure.) We had plenty of good (and great) times, but she had always been manipulative, and it was getting worse. Giving me the silent treatment when we went to the mall for no reason. Throwing tantrums about everything from the pizza we ordered to the movies we watched to me swearing occasionally (she thought it was ‘immoral’). Another friend that also knew her well and I just eventually got sick of the circus. We still go to the same high school *awks* but I tried to just drift away from her as naturally as possible. She refuses to make eye contact with me in the hallway now (or acknowledge that I exist at all), which is pretty ridiculous, but I feel so much freer and happier. And thank you for telling me that it’s ok to cut ties with the person who’s weighing you down <333 I hate the idea that even if it's unpleasant for you, you have a duty in a friendship to stick it out till the bitter end or you're 'fake' and 'selfish.' Ain't NOBODY got time for that:)

  • ScarlettRed March 24th, 2014 11:18 PM

    This is exactly what I needed. Thank you Hazel :) x

  • vianeigh March 24th, 2014 11:25 PM

    I absolutely love this!
    I recently have had to face ending close ties with poisonous people. I’m glad to know that someone shares my emotions and clears up concerns for others. Thank you, Hazel! Everyone needs to read this!

  • Amy Rose March 24th, 2014 11:50 PM

    Hazel “Cyber” Cills, the champagne of people. Also, if I may, I’d like to add just one more nugget of wisdom to the brilliance put forth here: http://docsorrow.tumblr.com/post/75434619205/this-wolfpupy-inspired-plaque-from-gabby-was-one

  • honorarygilmoregal March 24th, 2014 11:58 PM

    It feels so good to remove toxic friends from your life! Don’t keep anyone around who just makes you feel bad about yourself.

    http://perkstobeinginfinite.tumblr.com

  • etchysketch March 25th, 2014 3:50 AM

    I love!!! I thought at 35 I had this all figured out, but sometimes good friends go a bit funny and you need to re-evaluate whether they still fit in your life which is going on with me right now. I wish so much I had had a magazine like this when I was younger, could have saved a lot more heartache than reading the poo poo like YM.

  • Obstinate March 25th, 2014 10:11 AM

    I feel like the one aspect of this issue that constantly gets ignored is the prospect of complete friendlessness. Like, I’ve always had very few friends, and roughly half of the ones I’ve had have treated me badly. At this point in time, none of the “friends” I have make me feel good about myself, but if I cut those ties my life would just be completely empty. I feel like, until I meet new people, I actually can’t afford to kick these people to the curb, and it all just leaves me in the shittiest situation.

  • gideonfrog March 25th, 2014 10:21 AM

    I’ve always called it “trimming the friendship tree.” Trimming a tree back is good for it–keeps it healthy, keeps its energy focused in the right places. Sometimes it’s not just jerks, but people whose friendship is very draining and who don’t make you or your life better.

  • corinne r March 25th, 2014 12:43 PM

    It’s better to have a few friends rather than a lot of fake ones.

  • FatedToPretend March 25th, 2014 2:18 PM

    Loving this article– I’ve had quite a few toxic friends in my life, and I’m struggling with ridding myself of one right now.

  • pubertyblues March 25th, 2014 6:37 PM

    this is super true and also really hard ahaah.Thanks for this Hazel. i wish all of you the best in your friend break-ups. message me on tumblr if any of you need advice, as ive been through this before.

    http://pvbertyblues.tumblr.com

  • drama-queen March 26th, 2014 9:50 AM

    Thank you for this article. Amy Rose’s article reeally helped me to break up with a very toxic “friend,” and I’m glad that something like this exists for other people who haven’t figured it out yet.

  • farawayfaerie March 26th, 2014 11:27 AM

    SHE TEASED YOU FOR WRITING FOR ROOKIE! ABSURD! KICK ‘ER TO THE CURB!

  • eva-stark March 26th, 2014 3:00 PM

    i can relate so much to this. I’ve had ”friends” who ignored me, didn’t listen to me when I talked, or made no effort to spend time with me. Unfortunately I still do. I hate it but I’m so scared of being alone so I just accept it and pretend like I don’t care. Like just last week one of my dear ”friends” said she doesn’t have any time to hang out with me because she’s too busy being with her other friends.

    I wish I had good friends who at least acknowledged my existence :/

  • Hailey March 26th, 2014 9:41 PM

    I really needed this! I’ve realized I have been letting shitty people come into my life and push me around.I’m going to take your advice and kick ‘em to the curb. I’ve been hesitant to do so before because I would be friendless but I’d rather that then being treated like nothing.

  • Isil March 27th, 2014 8:08 AM

    How can someone make fun of with their friends because they write for ROOKIE for god’s sake! It’s like a huuuuuge dream for me to write for Rookie. I’m so annoyed.

    I’ve recently kicked someone to the curb, I haven’t kicked her completely because we see each other everyday but we definitely stopped being in each others life that much. And it really helped me. My agression towards her and sometimes when we are together in a group of friends become less. Everyone should do that for themselves because those people just giving negative energy to you, and that is the last thing you want from your friends.

    and also, I love Poehler <3 GIRL CRUSH. also hazel, too.

  • Jelly Sandals March 27th, 2014 5:31 PM

    Thank you for this. I have been struggling horribly with this subject lately since I have been trying to cut my best friend out and gave up because honestly… I missed her. I’m gonna stick to my guns though and make sure she stays in line, I’m not going to let her make me hate my weight or my personality again.

  • Rue March 29th, 2014 6:58 PM

    I love this. I agree with a lot of your points.
    Sometimes when I try to be friends with people because I admire them, it doesn’t really work out, and I end up respecting them, but not talking much.
    But this is just usually due to us just not having much in common.
    Right now, I have a slightly unfortunate friend. She’s nice, and is one of my closest friends, but she’s just irresponsible and reckless and unreliable. She’s talked about plans with other friends of ours right in front of me, which I don’t mind much, but has also had the nerve to be insulted because I hung out with a good mutual friend without her. On several occasions we’ve made plans and she just hasn’t shown up or bailed last minute, which was both hurtful, embarrassing, and angering. She’s always had excuses, and they’re relatively understandable, but I just don’t really want her in my life much because she makes me feel conscious about myself – in a bad way.
    But, she’s also sweet and we have the silliest inside jokes. I know she’s not the best influence, but we sit together on the bus and are in classes together, so I’m waiting out the year until we are going to different schools to distance myself gradually.
    This just pushed me to do it faster. Thank you for this empowering speech.

  • lastmay March 31st, 2014 5:16 AM

    okay, can I get some feedback: I can’t tell if this girl is a genuine negative presence in my life, or if I’m just jealous.
    she’s 24. I’m 19. She was super intimidating/cool when i first met her last year in college. she’s a good artist, tours with her band all over the country (popular enough not to name) vegan, lived at a bike co-op, has camped in every natl park, the list goes on. I thought she was really rad! so last year I tried really hard to become her friend but always felt really self-conscious. this year she started out the year with a text that said “sorry if i’ve been a dick to you. i dunno. you’ve changed.” and I was really offended. I hadn’t changed at all. whaaaat is going on

  • Selwyn June 1st, 2014 5:57 PM

    Hi Hazel.

    I’m a guy, and I’m considering what you’ve mentioned. I’ve been friends with my friends for the best part of a decade. It’s only in the last couple of months that I’ve realised that I’m actually just an emotional punching bag, and apart from that I don’t really bring much to the table.
    Everything you’ve mentioned: Low self-esteem, not standing up for yourself, low confidence, doubting your own intelligence and outward personality changes to self-deprecation are traits that now define me.
    I don’t know if guys really think about it as much as girls do, and maybe some just go through it thinking they’re a cameo in someone else’s world? That’s how I feel a lot of the time.

    Anyway, after being yelled at and laughed at for sitting quietly, talking and sipping my drink, I’ve realised that I get older, these are people that I do not want to relax with.

    These are people I’m scared of.