Some decisions in life are hard to make. Even if you know something is not right, it is difficult to take the first step in having the courage in yourself to change your life. The same goes for cutting people off who are a negative influence in your life.
I used to have this close friend who would discuss every minuscule detail about her family with me. At first, of course, I didn’t mind it: she was my friend, she had a problem, I was there. She would call me up on early Saturday mornings to complain about what was wrong with her husband, her son, in-laws, home, her finances and so on. This would lead to long conversations with me advising little things that I felt she could do to change things and take charge. My suggestions always resulted in evasive responses like “I know, you are a strong woman” but “My situation is different” or “My family won’t like it”, etc, etc.
I pressed on, committed to her growth, but in vain.
Realising that I wasn’t able to any value, I encouraged her to seek professional help and even offered to pay half of the amount. There had to be some stake from her side because ultimately, she was responsible for her own life. But I soon realised that she wasn’t willing to take any action whatsoever and over a period of 3 years, I had been reduced to a mere shoulder to cry on – and I don’t mind it, as long as I see progress.
The impact it had on my life was enormous. Despite having a happy life myself, I was under constant mood swings as her calls weren’t just limited to Saturdays, and her conversations were always limited to problems. For me, there was that feeling of not being able to do anything to resolve her situation… I felt badly stuck.
Eventually, it was my husband who made me see that my friend was unknowingly spreading her negativity to my life by her constant criticisms of people who I didn’t even know. I will always remember his words “the only role you are playing in her life is that of someone to share her pains with – there is no output, no gains, no changes. There has to be forward movement in every relationship. Where is yours?”
This wasn’t the only example. In wanting to help people, I allowed many other friends to rub their negative state of mind on me. A lot of people would hold on to their unpleasant experiences by insisting that “Your life is perfect” or “You are too strong” or “your husband is very supportive” and that their situation was different and could not be changed whatsoever. If a person was looking to seek support to get out of an unpleasant situation or willing to make changes to pull themselves out, I was more than happy to contribute.
But on one of those Saturdays, after spending hours into a phone call, I realised that I was powerless to do anything in this situation and what it was doing to me. It was then that I said to myself, “I am done with it”.
I still remember the courage I had to gather all night to take the first right step.
I called up my friend the next morning and told her that I would not be able to continue the conversations and that I have decided not to go on with that senseless criticism any more. I politely but assertively told her not to contact me anymore until she was ready to take responsibility and change things. I still remember the deep hurt in her voice; remember the sense of guilt that I couldn’t help feeling, but I needed to do justice to myself, and that was long overdue.
It’s been 12 years since and she has never called me after that. However, I have never once regretted my decision. I will not exchange pains with people without progression.
This episode brought massive changes in my life, weeding out negative conversations, mindless criticisms and discussions from which there were no learnings, no feeling of contribution and no forward movement.
Over the years I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to fire all the toxic people from my life. Have I lost good people along the way? Unfortunately, I’d be lying if I said no. But those good people were not doing any good to me or me to them.
My life is now enriched with positivity, being surrounded by friends who have a growth mindset and who believe in mutual growth and abundance thinking. Are these people perfect or without problems? No. They have issues like any of us, but we learn and build on top of each other’s experiences. Weekends are more fulfilling as we spend time in constructive talks, amidst joyful laughter and much satisfying happiness.
As Robert Tew says, “Don’t let negative and toxic people rent space in your head. Raise the rent and kick them out.”
The friends who surround you reflect who you are and where you want to be in life. Choose them wisely!