It's Complicated: How To Deal With Toxic Friendships That Bring You Down

by Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Before I say anything, I want to say, for the record, that I am not a confrontational person whatsoever.

It is painfully difficult for me to be honest, and if that means hurting someone's feelings, I'd rather lie. I know that makes me a lousy friend, so for my pals reading this, my bad.

Regardless, I have this one friend...

I've known her for quite some time. She is successful, ambitious, driven, logical and to me, slightly intimidating. She's the clear opposite of me.

Her life goals and desires are foreign to my artsy-fartsy, hippy nature, but I respect them, nevertheless.

When we were growing up, her innate leadership took over and I simply fell in line (because I'm kind of a pushover).

We became inseparable because I found a connection in her with which I could feel comfortable, and her down-to-earth nature appealed to me.

At some point amidst the friendship, though, certain characteristics came to light.

I sensed that my spontaneous and sometimes not-so-smart reactions and ideas pissed her off because they didn't align with her logical perspective.

Instead of declining invitations, she made her opinions aggressively known, which made me feel like I just proposed to drive a trunk of heroin across the border, not catch a late show in the city. My ego always took a hit, but I kept quiet. I still do.

Eventually, our connection dwindled. I realized she couldn't be a support in my life if I had to walk on eggshells to make sure she didn't erupt.

Secrets? I didn't feel comfortable sharing them. I was afraid that she'd disentangle them with her logical whip, when all I really wanted was someone to listen, not respond. I wondered if I had done something in our friendship to cause her to treat me like a child, but I refused to blame myself for her ways.

It took a long time for me to detach from wanting to "fix her." As we get older, our circles of friends downsize for a reason. We realize that being widely popular is exhausting and unnecessary. After all, what is the point?

I wanted her to like me so badly that I constantly agreed, followed and approved of everything she did and said. I became a spineless human pet, until I saw her problem.

Some friends will bring us down in order to lift themselves up.

Whether that means speaking negatively about us behind our backs, putting us down in front of others, sarcastically throwing comments on top of our own or mimicking and laughing when not appropriate, they're all tactics, and sad ones, at that.

My blood would boil when she condescendingly countered my every comment. It made me feel like a toddler whose mother was correcting her so that she doesn't embarrass herself.

I wanted nothing more than to rattle off my comebacks — which I had angrily saved up in my mind — to her face, in front of everyone, so I could finally regain some dignity and respect.

I never did, though. I always kept my mouth shut, and to this day, it has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

In my friendship with her, I saw just how much she was willing to do to pick up her self-esteem and feel good about herself. Unfortunately, I had to bear that burden, and I didn't even know it.

My respect toward her was never returned, and when it was, it was a half-ass effort that I didn't deserve. In fact, I felt like I had to work hard to prove myself to this person who was never going to see me as an ally, only an enemy.

When we spend our time trying to prove ourselves to other people, we destroy our own self-worth. I could have spent years trying to prove to her that I was smart, ambitious and driven, just like her.

But why? I am weird, spontaneous and creative.

If she doesn't like that, it's okay, but she does have to respect it. When my anger would subside, I would see this small, sad and lonely girl who wanted nothing more than to like herself.

Every time I get angry with her outbursts or negative language, I remember that lonely girl and I send her love because that's all she needs.

In order to deal with friends who bring us down, we have to deal with our own anger regarding what we expect from them. Today, I don't expect anything. I stay thankful for what I have and I stay true to who I am.

If any friend can't see that, let alone respect it, then let him or her go his or her own way. I have, and I haven't looked back yet.

As for my friend, I wish her nothing but the best. It would be easy for me to get angry at her, but that does nothing for my personal growth as a woman or as a friend.

In our tribulations, I've learned something from her; friends show us our true nature and it's up to us whether we're willing to accept it for what it is.