Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Sometimes, it’s really difficult to admit that a person we love may not be the best person to keep in our lives. It can be a best friend who pressures us into doing things we’re uncomfortable with, or a significant other who makes us feel inadequate. Whichever the case, unhealthy relationships have the unfortunate power to negatively influence our lives, and and their effects are often more serious that we think.

The difference between a healthy relationship and a toxic one has an enormous impact on the way we perceive ourselves. A healthy relationship is one based on mutual support and compassion. An unhealthy one makes one or more participants feel insecure, afraid, or unhappy.

One of the main reasons people have difficulties cutting ties with unhealthy relationships is that humans inherently fear loneliness. This definitely does not apply to everyone, but even on a biological level, humans are a sociable species who highly value relationships. Companionship is found through these relationships and it provides support during the good times and the bad. So, it’s not a completely unreasonable desire to want to maintain relationships and try to make it work even when it’s hurting us, because sometimes it may seem that any relationship is better than the alternative feeling of loneliness. But that’s not true. Loneliness can be a positive catalyst for self-reflection and it will prompt you to consider the influences of others and whether or not you’re better off with or without them. You could be surprised with how much fulfillment you can find in simple solitude.

Friendship does not necessitate obligation. You are not obligated to stay with somebody or associate with them because of a shared past. Because it’s exactly that—the past. It is neither the present nor the future, and it definitely does not dictate either. Change is always possible, and there are ways you can bring it about.

Accept the reality of the situation. If deep down you know that this person is hurting you, it might be time to cut ties. It can be in subtle ways, in small barbed comments or inconsiderate actions. If they demean you or trivialize you in any way, if they pressure you into doing things that you’re not comfortable with, or if they make you feel anything less than who you are, it’s time to re-evaluate. Ending a relationship, romantic or otherwise, doesn’t always result in drama. You can walk away without burning bridges, and even if a bridge is burned in the process, maybe it’s better so that you never have to go down that road again.

Most importantly, stop making excuses for other people. Don’t let things slide by continuously justifying hurtful or harmful actions. “They’re just looking out for me” or the classic, “it’s not them, it’s me” excuse is only going to allow these actions to continue.

Because it’s so ingrained in our societal values that selfishness is an undesirable quality (which is totally true in most cases), many of us don’t realize we can love ourselves without becoming egotistical. Loving ourselves does not mean putting ourselves before others at all times—it just means taking care of ourselves.

An old Buddhist saying goes, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

Because every time we acquiesce to another’s will, compromise our values or our happiness, and settle for less than what we deserve, we lose a little bit more of ourselves. And nothing, nothing, is worth that.

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the author

Jilliann Pak hails from the suburbs of SoCal but is currently attending school across the coast at Johns Hopkins University. When she’s not complaining about the cold weather or sleeping in the library, she’s probably eating, cuddled up into a blanket burrito, or watching Parks and Recreation, preferably all at once.

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  1. Marianne on November 1, 2016

    Thank you and again thank you for this great article. I have been struggling and feeling a great deal of guilt after I had no other choice but to sever ties with a family member. The part about the fear of loneliness rang so true. In my case, cutting ties with that person naturally led me to also cut ties with the people closely related to her. The prospect of excluding myself from family holidays and other events is uncomfortable to me to this day and I often find myself wondering if I made the right decision. In the end this was the only choice I was left with. I might sometimes feel lonely but it is a tiny price to pay for my peace of mind. What helps me a great deal is reminding myself that no one has the right to bully me, talk down to me and make me feel any less than my wonderful self.

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