Our friends can be the people that keep you afloat. They can be our entire world; they are people that help you stay on your feet even when you feel like you are collapsing. They would never show hesitation to act like maniacs with you in front of random strangers, peppering your life with the most absurd yet cherished memories. All of this is gift-wrapped and handed to you on a silver platter when you’re with the right people. Having your perfect friend group gives you a new home, someplace where you can always be yourself.
But what if you start to feel like the intruder? You’ve stuck with them for a long time but you feel uncomfortable in their company at times, and thoughts along the lines of, ‘I don’t belong here’, pop up. At times you may feel underappreciated and belittled. You don’t feel like you could share your world with any member of the group and hanging out with them turns into some sort of obligation. Now, situations like these can pop up in any friendship. People drift away from each other all the time. If the work is put in, you could eventually get back to how things were. But even after you try to make things better and try to get back into the swing of things, if you still feel unaccepted and unwelcome, what do you do?
A few years ago I had joined a new school. I didn’t have friends for a while, so when this one girl decided to talk to me, I jumped at the opportunity to gain a friend. This led to me eventually hanging out with that girl’s friend group, and for a long time I just stuck with them. I’d go to whatever place they all went to and did whatever they wanted to do. Whenever I tried to do something I wanted to with them, it never really happened, and the atmosphere turned into one that was condescending and patronizing. They made me feel small, weak, and that I was an idiot to even mention it. At times they’d all even ditch me and go do something else together, and that was what hurt the most. It was like I was just there existing and they’d come and go as they pleased, but I stayed with them because I feared the aftermath. I knew that if I left, I’d go back to square one, the loner. I also didn’t want me leaving the group to be followed up by rumors of how insensitive I was or how I was selfish because I wasn’t happy with being in their company. So, I stayed; I kept my mouth shut and I told myself that I should be grateful that I even have someone speaking to me.
I let myself be unnecessarily unhappy for a long time, but after a year, one of the group members changed schools and that caused the group to fall apart. I was relieved that it happened. I wasn’t sure I would have been able to keep up the act of me wanting to stay with them.
Now, a few years later, I have a family of friends that are the stuff of dreams; people I know that would take the blame if I accidentally break a couple of lightbulbs in class by throwing around a ball of glass. I’ve learnt that there’s no point in being in the company of people that don’t respect you or understand you for who you really are. It’s better to not have them at all.
I understand that if you are in this situation, you might be scared of the fallout of leaving a group, just like I was, but making yourself unhappy is never justified. Being among people that don’t respect you, can bring down your idea of your self-worth and confidence. It can turn toxic very fast. Leaving a toxic group of people can only bring good in the long run. It is most definitely more appealing to be alone for a while than to have your self-worth attacked. If you leave, your new time can give you the valuable opportunity to focus on yourself for a bit. Do those things that you wanted to do. Build up your self-confidence and worth. I know for a while, being alone does hurt sometimes, but compare it to how you felt when you were with your “friends”, and most of the time being away from them is much sweeter. Trust me, it’s all worth it in the end. You needn’t be worried about the fact that you don’t have as many friends because on this planet with billions of people, a new friend could walk right by you every second. I know that after leaving a group it could be hard to put yourself out there and make new friends, which is why taking out that time to let yourself be alone is so important. Coming back with renewed self-assurance makes that process of starting over much easier.
Being in a toxic friend group, I know the level of confidence needed to break free of them. I didn’t have it, so I never did, but I want to tell you that no matter how daunting it is to stand up for yourself at times, getting away from toxicity is always for the best.
I know that it may be hard for a while, but as all things do, they change And they do it for the better.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.