FAMILY & PARENTING

Eliminating Toxic Friends Has Been My Most Consistent Form Of Self-Love

by Angela Andaloro

Loving yourself isn’t an easy task. It takes just about as much time, effort, and thought as any other relationship in your life.

When you’re trying to love yourself and still take care of everyone around you, it can feel exhausting. You may find yourself second-guessing and explaining away things you wouldn’t otherwise tolerate just to make it from one emotionally draining day to the next.

Life has the tendency to feel like it’s completely out of our control. Any given sequence of events can change your life in as little as seconds. It’s hard to feel like you have any agency when life is pushing and pulling you one way or another.

That’s why it’s so important to take control of the areas that you can.

When it comes to the toxicity other people bring to your life, you have options. You can deal with it, and in some situations, that’s truly the best you can do. In others, however, there’s the option to walk away. People don’t look too kindly at this, though. Walking away from a situation or relationship can be perceived as defeat or abandonment. It can be called into question and make you feel like you’re the one with the real problem. It’s for these reasons that cutting toxic people out of your life can feel like such an overwhelming task.

Eliminating toxic friends from your life can seem harsh to others. It’s one of those decisions you can grapple with forever if you let yourself. It’s also one of those decisions that can be lifesaving for a person who struggles with boundaries being trampled constantly. It was for me. As I came to learn about who I am as a person and what I can tolerate, I learned that sometimes cutting all ties with a person is the only way to bring yourself back to your true north. While I didn’t realize that in those moments, I now realize that eliminating toxic friends has been one of my best forms of self-care in my adult life.

Have you ever found out your Myers-Briggs personality type? There are 16 different personality types represented by four-letter acronyms that are supposed to be the guide to learning everything about your personality. I was asked to take one of those quizzes years ago by a prospective employer, and it was pretty fascinating. I didn’t put too much thought into it, so the results of the test shuffled to the back of my brain, only to recently be revealed again.

I’m an INFJ, which stands for Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J). The 16 Personalities website refers to this type as the advocate, which is not exactly a lens I’d ever looked at myself in. In short, this personality type is a creative nurturer rooted in a sense of idealism and morality. Some people that are supposed to embody this type include Martin Luther King Jr., Marie Kondo, Lady Gaga, Morgan Freeman, and Game Of Thrones’ character Jon Snow.

About a year ago, I started seeing a lot of Instagram posts about MBTI types and rooted around in my brain for the right acronym. As I took a deeper dive into INFJs, I realized it was pretty much me to a T.

Initially, I was a little horrified, as I’d like to think of myself as more complex of a person than an online quiz can nail down. Then, I checked myself realizing that if all of the world’s great stories can be boiled down to six different basic plots, I could probably be understood on a deeper level by what’s ultimately a personality assessment.

In embracing my INFJ status, I came across some information about the INFJ door slam. This term refers to the way that INFJ people cut others out of their lives. When hurt deeply enough, advocates will “door slam.” That means a complete and total cutoff where possible. Think unfriending on social media, deleting number, going back to a reality where the cut off person doesn’t exist.

woman depressed

INFJ’s don’t just do this to anyone who has only slightly upset them. They do this after they’ve been deeply hurt and overwhelmed by a person’s constant toxicity. The person who was cut off may not clearly see it, but the INFJ has already offered that person chance after chance to rectify the situation, only to be let down.

If you’re on the wrong side of a door slam, you might see it as a little drastic. How can you care about a relationship (friendly, romantic, or otherwise) so deeply and then just completely cut someone out of your life? The answer, from the INFJ perspective, is that you’ve already caused so much pain that the only way to stop it is to completely eliminate the source of pain.

For a type that’s so capable of being supportive and nurturing, it isn’t uncommon to be taken advantage of. Sometimes, it’s a call you have to make for your own sanity, even if no other people around you understand it. I understand that better than most people, because I unknowingly mastered the art of the INFJ door slam years ago.

woman stop

In the last five years, I’ve slammed the door on four people. The first was definitely the worst. It was a friend of over a decade who had the most ideal life that someone in her circumstances could have, but a penchant for drama that led her to drum up chaos, often for her own entertainment, if nothing else. I remember dealing with a lot. I’d been there for this person through every trial and tribulation, even the ones of her own creation. Other people had tried to point out to me the toxicity of this situation and I shut it down again and again.

The first thing I noticed about her that led to the eventual door slam was how she’d created a power dynamic that didn’t actually exist. She had to be the alpha in all situations, letting everyone else play the role of her minions. To this end, she had an endless phone book of very, very best friends who would do whatever she said at the drop of the hat. Often, they were people younger than her or people she’d helped out of a jam who felt indebted to her.

One day, it dawned on me that we were, at the most basic level, peers. There was no reason for her to wield imaginary power over me other than that she needed it to fuel her self-esteem. When I started to live in that reality and conduct myself and respond to her accordingly, the conflicts became bigger. Suddenly, she needed to take every opportunity to cut me down a notch that she could find. In the months that this dawned on me, I realized this friendship no longer served me. If anything, it was to my detriment. It was something small that I might have brushed off on any other day that led to the door slam. But once I shut that door, I never looked back.

woman thinking

The second was probably a bit hasty on my part. I think a combination of being drunk with power from the results of my first go of it (a peaceful life free of daily dramas) and lack of communicating what my issues really were that led to it. For that, I feel bad. I made myself own it, not trying to mend fences that I broke down myself and causing an unwelcome interference in someone else’s life. Like the first time, I learned from it.

The other two happened simultaneously and too recently for me to assess well. I would like to think I’ve learned from those as well, but time will be the judge of that.

Today, I recognize my door slamming as my highest form of self-love. As an introverted and sensitive person, I’m always second-guessing myself and giving others the benefit of the doubt. I forgive in situations where others can’t fathom it. I am a nurturer who wants to help others, but I’ve learned that I can’t help others to my own detriment.

When I’ve been involved with toxic people, I’ve seen how it can change me. I make decisions I know aren’t right for me because I hate being the one to cause problems or make a fuss. I stress more about the ins and outs of other people’s lives than my own. That makes me a worthy and loyal friend to some, but a doormat to those who are selfish, narcissistic, or just plain toxic.

looking out

Standing up for myself is no easy feat. Putting my needs before the needs of others is such a rarity and takes a certain degree of emotional abuse, anxiety, and disruption before I’ll really say enough is enough. I used to think that my ability to walk away from people for good made me a bad person. I realize now that it’s as natural for my emotional well-being as it would be to grab hold of a life preserver if you were drowning.

I’ve been lucky enough to have better relationships that have shown me the beauty of boundaries. I’ve learned that I have friends who love and respect me for who I am, not the person they need me to be.

I’ve also learned to love myself enough to know when a person or situation is more than I can handle. I can’t and shouldn’t have to be everything for everybody, and that’s a lesson I struggle with every day.

Regardless of your personality type, it may be something you struggle with, too. After doing everything you can to make a relationship or a situation work and finding yourself in over your head, sometimes you have no choice but to head for the door and slam it on your way out.