Michelle* was one of the most demanding people in my life. She was also my "best friend." She called every day for minimum one-hour chats, expected me to plan parties for any and every occasion and frowned upon my decision to have a steady boyfriend. In essence, Michelle wanted me at her beck and call. And for many years, I thought that being a friend meant you had to do what the other person wanted. That somehow sacrifice of self showed just how much you loved and valued them. This type of out-of-balance thinking caused me to attract "friends" who would play this belief out with me time and again.
Early on, the friendship was a fit and we were a match on many levels. But then, as I began my self-development journey, it became more and more clear that my friendship with Michelle was actually causing me more stress than joy.
It was clear to me that we needed to break up. Michelle wasn't interested in doing her spiritual work and she certainly wasn't interested in changing our relationship dynamic. Whenever I made adjustments (like finally getting a boyfriend or no longer planning her parties), a drama would ensue. When I tried to talk to her about my needs in the friendship, she stared at me blankly.
But letting go of someone who has been a prominent fixture in your life is often no easy undertaking. As I continue to grow and flourish on my path, I have faced this challenge many times and now regard it as an important part of my self-care practice. I love having people in my life that are true partners with me on this wonderful journey.
So, how do you know if someone in your life is like my experience with Michelle and no longer serves your highest good? Here's a checklist to get you started:
• How do you feel -- the majority of the time -- after you interact with this person? Anxious, irritated and low energy? Or inspired, joyful and excited about life?
• What do you usually focus on when you spend time with this person? Is the conversation more centered on what's happening in their life and what they need? Or do you feel heard and supported?
• Is there a natural flow to your time together? Or is it difficult to find time to connect, and when you do is it usually based on what the other person wants?
Our body is always letting us know if a person/place/thing is in alignment for us. And how we feel after and during our time with someone is a really good indicator of whether or not they are serving our highest good.
No doubt in the case of my "friend" Michelle, she felt great leaving our interactions. It's important that both parties feel nourished, supported and loved in the friendship (or whatever it is that you need to feel with the people in your life). If that's not happening, having a conversation about this and asking for your needs to be met is vital. See The Center for Nonviolent Communication as an excellent tool for these conversations.
If attempts to bring healing to the relationship fail, try the following:
• The slow fade out. Some friendships can dissipate with the slow fade. This means only attending meetups or events when it feels really good to you or in alignment for you -- if it does at all. No more attending or doing anything "out of obligation" (ever, for any friendship!).
• If a friendship has been in your life for a while, or like Michelle gets very triggered when action is taken to shift the dynamic, try this approach via email:
Dear (name of person no longer serving your highest good),
As I've shared with you previously, things have changed for me in our friendship. I'm not feeling supported or nourished (or whatever adjective works for you) anymore. I really feel like we are in different places in our life and it feels better to me if we take a timeout from one another. I love you, but I really need to take care of me right now.
In truth, we can't be anyone's friend if we aren't taking care of ourselves first and foremost. And having people and relationships in our life that deplete us is the opposite of self-care.
It's important that when we choose to release people from our lives that we are also doing our self-work so we can see why we attracted these people and what we can do to attract individuals who inspire, support and nourish us in the future.
Do you have experience in letting go of people who no longer serve your highest good? Tell us your story in the comments below -- how did you release them?
*Not her real name.
For more by Heather Strang, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.