Go Ahead & Free Yourself: Knowing When To ‘Unfriend’ People from Your Life

Many, if not all, of us have heard the saying “People come into your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime” in some form or another. And I will admit that I have found myself wondering, ‘Why am I even friends with this person?’ or ‘Is this person adding any value to my life?’ If you’ve found yourself asking the same questions, you are in good company.

As we grow spiritually, emotionally, professionally, etc., we begin to question or ponder certain things about our lives. Friendships and relationships are usually at the top of that list. During the past year, I’ve made some very drastic life changes with the help of my life coach, Stephanie Alva of My Life Keys. From those self-discovery sessions, I gained a great deal of insight into who I am and what’s important to me. Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned about myself is that, too often, I judged myself based on the manner in which other people treated me. In other words, I took others’ actions towards me personally. I know you are probably thinking, ‘Why wouldn’t you take the way people treat you personally?’ Let me explain.

Coach Alva required me to read don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. There was a series of events that occurred in both my personal and professional lives that sent me reeling. I was in ‘Screw everybody’ mode. I’d been lied to, taken advantage of, and completely disregarded by people in both circles. And I was very angry. I could not understand why or how people could treat me so badly, when I’d been nothing but kind, helpful, and generous to them. The Four Agreements, specifically, the explanation and acceptance of the Second Agreement (Don't Take Anything Personally), released me:

Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves…Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you…Their point of view comes from all the programming they received during domestication…You eat all their emotional garbage, and now it becomes your garbage. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell. Immunity to poison in the middle of hell is the gift of this agreement. (The Four Agreements, pgs. 48-50)

The Four Agreements made it plain: What other people do is not about you! Sure, they may forget your birthday, habitually cancel plans, fail to keep their word, etc., but dear, it Is.Not.About.You! Talk about a light bulb moment! I had taken everyone’s garbage and made it my own because I did not know that their actions were directly related to their own personal mess. My coach reminded me, that armed with this new knowledge, I could still be authentically me. I now had the power to decide which people would generate from my kindness and generosity.

Armed with this new knowledge, I am now faced with the challenge of determining which people have shown me the lessons (reason) I needed to learn, which friends have over-stayed their welcome (season), and who’s in it for the long-haul (lifetime). I believe that I am and have been a pretty damn good friend to many people. But here’s the million dollar question: When Is It Time to ‘Unfriend’ People from Your Life? How, when, and why do we decide which friendships are worth keeping and which aren’t worth the effort of trying to sustain?

I have been wrestling with this question recently, as I’ve grown personally, entered into a serious relationship, started my own business, and still work this 24/7/365 gig as a single parent. But making the choice to let some friendships fall by the wayside, for my own benefit, is fairly new. And let’s face it: Breaking-up is hard to do, especially when you have to acknowledge and accept that people aren’t who or what you initially thought. 

After some introspection, praying, and just sitting still, I decided that I need the kind of friends who can (at least try) to give back what they get from me. Need guidance in deciding who to 'unfriend'? Well, here's a checklist I am going to use for myself but if you answer 'Yes' to more than one of these questions, then it may be time to make some changes in your ‘friend’ circle.
  • Are you the ‘dependable’ one, always there for friends’ events/emergencies, but no one is available to return the favor?
  • Are the ‘nurturer’ who always checks on friends to make sure they are o.k. (not injured, sick, or God-forbid, dead). If your calls stop, does anyone check on you?
  • Are you the ‘group shrink’ who gets bombarded with calls/texts complaining about excess weight, crazy boss, unfulfilling job, or unsupportive spouse/significant other? The conversation never starts with, ‘Hey girl, how are you?’
  • Are you the one who’s ‘got it all together’ (they assume) so no one bothers to ask you if you need anything?
These behaviors stem from what Ruiz calls domestication. Being selfish, self-centered, a user, or having a low enough self-esteem or image that permits them from recognizing that everyone has problems and needs help at some all fall into that emotional ‘garbage’ category. We all have some, but most of us recognize our garbage and begin working to get rid of it. If you are making a sincere effort to eliminate your own garbage, do not hinder your process by taking on that of others. Ending a friendship is not an easy task, but save yourself first. Why? Because you are worthy of the peace and happiness you desire. You deserve to have people in your life who will add to your peace and happiness, not destroy it. Recognize your worth and release the need to settle for less!

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Monise Seward is a woman, mother, edu-blogger, budding entrepreneur, chief Dessert Designer, and owner of Heaven Must Be Like This, a copy that specializes in naturally-sweetened desserts. She resides in Snellville, GA with her children but dreams of teaching abroad and having lunch with First lady Michelle Obama. If you, too, have delusions of grandeur you can follow Monise on Twitter!

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