As part of our growing up, we must find our group. Our ‘ride or dies’ yet in many cases friendships fall apart, it’s natural as you grow, you change. With that change comes new people, experiences and thoughts. I have seen so many groups evolve, with either new members joining or members leaving and the great thing about these groups is not only that they change but that every group is different. The dynamics are always diversifying, some friends don’t talk for months yet snap back at it in a day whilst others require constant communication. But what I have picked up on as a pattern is that the dialogue within each group is somewhat similar, and that dialogue can be harmful.
Now from the title, you see the word ‘toxic’. Before it became a twitter trend and it was severely diluted; it alluded to a person or a thing in your life that is causing harm and stunting your self-growth. So, how can the way we talk to our friends be harmful? Simple, we mould and influence our friends through our words, and if we become careless and unaware of what we say and the implications behind that our dialogue and interactions can become toxic despite having the friendship flourish.
Us women, we love supporting each other – which is good – but the way we give support is not always as empowering as we think, and can often be rather detrimental. Every time our best friend brings up insecurity and compares herself to another girl, we downplay the other girl to satisfy our best friend. Stating things like: “don’t worry you are much hotter”, or pointing out another flaw this girl has. This does not empower your best friend or make her feel better. It gives her a fleeting moment of validation, but it also implies that it is alright to compare yourself to other women and even shame them to make one another (or ourselves) feel better. The normalization of this interaction will ensure it will happen over and over, and so, it spreads. Bashing each other to make ourselves or our circle feel better, give them/ourselves social validation by tearing another woman down.
As friends, we need to empower our peers by talking through their insecurity and mentioning how comparing yourself to others does nothing. As someone who was so hellbent on competing with other girls to gain some validation, I soon realized that the validation never lasts and I was constantly comparing myself to others mainly because my friends were accepting of this behavior. How did I change this? Simple. I self-reflected on everything that I was doing that made me feel more insecure, I recognized my triggers and soon enough they diminished. I realized that my competitive behavior to one-up every woman I deemed as ‘competition’ was really bad for my self-image and more importantly it was rubbing off on my friends. I saw my friends turn more superficial, send me snap stories with ‘ugh I wish I was like her’ or ‘I am gonna post this pic to show everyone I’m hot’ rather than ‘she looks so good in this’ and ‘I’m gonna post this photo because I think I look good’.
I vividly remember getting sent this snap video of this girl looking hot and I simply replied with ‘eh I don’t care, she looks good’. That little change surprised my friend who was so ready to hype me up and make me feel as if I was better than her, ever since that moment the dialogue between us changed. The constant comparison stopped, the bashing and demeaning women stopped. We both realized what we were doing was both harmful to us and is the prime reason why other girls feel insecure or rather have guy friends because they are ‘less drama’. There is a lack of support amongst girls and this lack of support enables us to create weak superficial friendships that aren’t based on self-growth and empowerment but the exact opposite.
The new ‘pick me girl’ trend that has been going around brings a serious issue to light. Girls are now agreeing and compromising their own thoughts in hopes of validation of another. Not only is this very wrong but rather than actually being blunt and changing this dynamic by branding them ‘pick me girls’ it further demeans them and makes them feel worse. If they weren’t confident to state their opinion now, by calling them ‘pick me girls’ will that really help? Or will it just force them into silence? Instead, we should communicate better, tell our friends that it’s alright to state what they think and who cares if the guy they like doesn’t think the same way.
There is a mass dependency on male opinions and that is enabled by our friends. When we see our friends going for a cute guy we emphasize how cute the guy is and this is natural but the effect it has on women and our friends can be very alarming. Girls feel trapped to pursue this guy that may be bad for them all because he is so ‘cute’ and being with him becomes an ego boost. This dependency can be stopped however, we have the power to shift it into something more beneficial. Rather than rave on about this guy’s looks, ask about his personality and how they work as a collective. Are they compatible? Do they have similar interests? Or is he just nice eye candy? I will divert a bit here but trust me it’s all related. We have all been in that situation where our friends have broken up with someone or have just gotten with someone and the man has either an ex or a new girl, rather than let our friend grieve and try to show them healthier ways to move on. We end up looking at this girl and then stating the man has ‘downgraded’- don’t get me wrong this does help the heartbroken person but in the wrong ways.
Not only is the cycle of comparing and degrading beginning but this girl that has no affiliation with your heartbroken friend is now getting slandered. She is neither a downgrade nor an upgrade, she is a person. As comforting as it is to boost someone’s ego, putting someone else’s down is just not it. Why let this man still control how we see and treat others? If your heartbroken friend is hurt she is vulnerable and what you end up saying to her will stick and will become her method of helping another through a breakup. Empower your friends by showing them their worth, and that worth is not based on a guy or this girl it’s based on them. If they learn through your words how to love themselves and feel confident within them then they will teach others the same.
In my experience in friendship, what I found works the most is being blunt. Girls, stop being ‘yes mans’ it does so much harm. By sugarcoating your words and trying to keep everything sweet you are lying to your friends if they do not look good- tell them, but be mindful of your words, don’t straight up tell them they look ugly but offer alternative options that might suit them better. Keep in mind though that everyone is different and what you may like, may not be the same as they like. Give your thoughts when asked but regardless of their decision support them. Being blunt and straight up allows for stronger bonds of trust to occur, your friends won’t misinterpret your words but may internalize them better. If that man is mistreating your friend, bring it up. It doesn’t hurt to inform your friends of things they can’t see. Yes, it may hurt them and knock their ego down a bit but trust me they will appreciate you for your honesty, they will always come to you for problems because they know you will not lie to them. It creates security within the friendship as by criticizing each other’s faults and giving them solutions, they will grow and gain insight on how they can be better for others.
Now by saying this I do not mean shout abuse at them; you can be blunt and honest and not be harsh. It’s called effective communication, make it clear that you are not attacking them and this is just something you’ve noticed that you feel is important for them to hear. At the end of the day if your friendship is made to last, then hearing words about your own manners will not come as an attack but will be taken as something to learn from. I have been told I argue like a toddler (an articulate one but still), I have been told that I victimize myself a lot and I constantly feel like things are an attack, these things come from the people closest to me; and although I felt exposed and I hated it, I chose to take that advice and work on myself. I recently told one of my best friends that I was disappointed in her- harsh I know- but our friendship is full of love to the point where she understood why I said that and made the necessary changes that were good for her. I saw her finally stand up for herself and realize she needed time alone to reflect and I am proud of her for making that decision.
As friends, you will never be able to choose for your friends or make them do what you know is best for them, but by telling them not only do you give them a new perspective but you help. You allow them to recognize what they need to do and how they do it.
The friends are great. I have nothing else to add to that, but they are. I am forever grateful for my friends and everything they have done for me and not many people are as lucky as me. But with that, you can change that and create lifelong friendships and that starts with recognizing the dialogue within your groups and the harm that does to others. Every time you become blunt and honest and you call your friends out on their deprecating behavior you change the dialogue; you slowly empower your friends to empower others and to start allowing them to detach themselves to the bigger society.
In the world we live in right now, we need better female friends, the fight for equality starts within. Every woman is valid and no one deserves to be put down but rather encouraged and appreciated- we all know that words can hurt and that they can leave a massive impact so why are we so careless with ours? Especially to the people, we care about the most? So, think about that, reflect on your mannerisms, open yourself up for criticisms because that’s how we grow as people. Friendships should bring us up and should be built on solid foundations, so make sure yours isn’t based on superficiality and hatred because trust me empowering others feels much better.