Improve Your Life By Mary Jaksch An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind. ~ Buddha A guest post by Aileen Mahoney of Kaizen Vision There is a post-it-note on my bathroom mirror it’s 6 years old and the ink is fading, it reads: Does this friendship strengthen me or weaken me? Is my day brighter, my life brighter and better because of your presence? If you strengthen me, support my best self, bring the best out of me, then you are a friend. I clearly remember the day I wrote this. It was in the month of May 2004. I was deeply heartbroken by a great friend. I felt betrayed, stabbed in the back, and I was shocked, hurt and astounded. I really shouldn’t have been so surprised. If I had thought about all the times I felt little ouches when I was with her, how insecure I would feel at times and how careful I was at other times, then I would have known this wasn’t a true friend. Instead I focused on the fun factor of our friendship and I didn’t give the quality of our friendship enough attention. Looking back at it, all the signs were there. Starting at the earliest age, we desire the feeling of being accepted, loved and appreciated. We enjoy the adventure, the comfort and the companionship that friendship offers. With true friends we grow and blossom, we are encouraged to show up as our best selves as we enrich each others lives. With toxic friends we wither, sometimes knowingly other times unknowingly, but regardless the deteriorating effect is still the same. Do you recognize any of these? 7 Types of Toxic Friends 1. The Manipulator is often stealthy. We don’t tend to see it right away until smack it happens again. They have countless tactics too many to mention, the best way to recognize them is when you feel yourself coerced into responding in away that just doesn’t feel right. 2. The Judger just can’t help but judge and criticize us. “You would look great with an age appropriate hairstyle don’t you think?” “I love your home, there so much potential here I know exactly how I would decorate it.” These guys can find fault in anything you do. It’s as though you just can’t do anything right. When it’s done in a joking tone it may be a bit harder to identify. 3. The Competitor will compete with you even when you’re not competing. If you decide to run a 5k they can’t wait to tell you about how they signed up for a marathon. When you mention you’re your weekend getaway they tell you about their plan for a two week vacation in Tahiti in their beautiful over-water bungalow with panoramic views and fresh exotic fruits. 4. The Opportunist is “take, take, take.” There is no reciprocity in this relationship. They tend to call you when they need or want something. They’ll go to your party if there isn’t a “better” event happening that night. It’s all about what’s in it for them. 5. The Energy Vampire is self-absorbed and zaps our energy as they go on-and-on endlessly about themselves. When you leave them you feel exhausted. 6.The Gossiper is more malicious than the average person who periodically finds them self in a bit of gossip. Gossip appears to be the only thing they are interested in and they enjoy exaggeration and little lies to liven up the drama. This can be a disastrous recipe. The Gossiper can destroy relationships, and even compromise your job and reputation. Stay clear of this one because remember, one who always gossips to you about others will gossip to others about you and you won’t know what exaggerations or lies are being added. 7. Negative Nelly is a downer, all is wrong in their world. They are pessimistic and resistant. They only want to hear what’s wrong in your life and they tend to get bored or change the subject when you mention your successes or happiness. SUBTLETIES Not all toxic friends will fit into a category, often there is a wide array of combinations and variations in their actions and it may be quite subtle. At first glance it may seem innocent, but after deeper consideration we realize something’s not quite right, we might feel like we’ve been hit by something but we’re not sure what. We don’t know specifically what they did or said but we feel it. Ultimately the best way to know if a friend is true or toxic is how you feel when you are with them. Think of your individual relationships. Ask you self these questions allow yourself both a gut response and deeper response. • Is this person there for you when you are in need? Can you count on this person? Would they go the distance for you if needed? • Do you feel appreciated, celebrated and respected? • Do you feel free to speak freely and be yourself without hesitating and self-editing? • Is there room for both of you in this friendship? Is there a real shared give and take? • Do you feel good with the person? WHY IT MATTERS Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Tennessee Williams When we are busy with toxic friends, it’s harder to make time for the true ones. We have the opportunity to fill our life with great friends and great experiences. Do you really want give the best of yourself away to someone who takes what they can as they poison you? There are wonderful friendships to be cultivated, shared and celebrated right now and you have the power to choose who you invite into and who you keep in your life. What about your friendships? Anything about them feel unhealthy? What is it about your favorite friends that you cherish? Aileen is a lover of dance and the performing arts. She writes about cultivating mind, body and spirit through continuous small improvements on her blog, Kaizen Vision.