I got fed up with having people around me who were constantly abusing my kindness, so I started trimming my social circle down. I only have time for my real BFFs nowadays, and you know what? I’m not even sorry.
There are downsides to being a caring person. I’m always ready to listen and help out a friend. BFFs do that for each other all the time, right? But being that person who’s always helping out can also mean you attract people who are only interested in what you can give them. If you’re also a caring person, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean: people who only ever call when they need something from you. Forget so-called fair weather friends who only want to be around you when you’re happy. These people don’t care about your emotional state at all. All they care about is what they’re going through right now.
I’m not a therapist. Only ever calling or meeting someone to discuss your problems and nothing else is the sort of relationship you’d have with your therapist. Thing is, therapists usually get a lot of money for their trouble, plus it’s their job to listen to people’s issues all day long. I, on the other hand, don’t get paid to listen to other people’s problems all day. I get that sometimes people go through bad patches and need more support than usual – I know I do! But sometimes I feel like I’m basically substituting for someone’s paid therapy services.
Friendship is supposed to be a two-way street. My real BFFs and I are always there for each other. Sometimes it’s me who’s in need of support, sometimes it’s someone else. I don’t stand there calculating the amount of time each of us has spent talking about herself; I’m not a freak. But with real friendship, you don’t have to, because it’s obvious it’s not one-sided. My BFFs look after me just like I look after them. We’re basically a team.
Some people are always busy when I’m the one having a tough time. Having such good friends is what made it possible for me to notice when other people were being selfish. When they’re down, they’re more than keen to talk to me every single day, sometimes even every few hours. Phone calls, texts, Messenger, you name it – they’re always available to ask for help. But when I’m the one having a bad time? Tumbleweed. In fact, they’ll ignore the state I’m in and keep asking for help when it suits them, expecting me to just carry on with my “job”.
Sometimes they just change the subject back to themselves. Want to see if your friend is interested in you, rather than your free therapy services? Talk about yourself for a while. See how fast they change the subject to the day they’ve had. Conversations can get real boring real quick if all you’re doing is talking about someone else’s problems all the time.
What you put up with, you end up with. No more BS. Even the most caring person has her limits. I realized that by always being available to listen to these people’s issues while letting them get away with dismissing mine, I was enabling their behavior. As I find this sort of behavior unacceptable, I figured it might be time to stop putting up with it.
Slowly but surely, I found that I was losing interest. There’s only so much of your time and energy you can pour into a black hole. If someone’s going through an actual crisis, you do your best to help them out of it and encourage them to get professional help. These toxic people in my life, though, weren’t going through anything major. They basically just needed someone to bitch to beyond their official therapy times. But once I realized this is all they wanted from me, I basically stopped caring about their problems. I care about my BFFs and they care about me. That’s friendship. These people, though? They obviously didn’t care about me at all, so why should I care about them?
My time is valuable. We all have busy lives and I’d rather spend mine with people who are actually my friends. Rather than spend my time getting my energy sucked out of me by people who offer nothing in return and disappear as soon as they feel better, I choose to spend it with people who actually like me. Sure, I’m a good listener, but I do other things as well. Let’s go catch a show or go dancing or something.
I’ve stopped making myself available. I’ve ended a few “friendships” with people who were blatantly using me. Some of them I ended by saying I was too busy with my own issues to deal with anyone else’s. Others I just let die out by never initiating contact and simply not being available when they contacted me. Some of these people I’ve known for years, so I thought I’d be sad, but I found that I wasn’t bothered at all. It actually felt like a weight had been lifted. I realized our interactions were more of a chore than anything else. I felt relieved not having to speak to these people anymore.
I’m happy with a smaller social circle if that means it’s real. I don’t need a huge social circle if it means having lots of people around who are not really my friends. Ultimately, you have to value yourself and your time enough to expect a certain level of interaction from those you consider close to you. I want people around me who actually see me; people who care about my moods too and want to hear about how my day went every once in a while. I want BFFs, not projects.
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