Breaking Up With Toxic Friends Won’t Be Easy, But It’s So Necessary

Love & Relationships

Many of us adored Mean Girls the movie and perhaps some of us actually embodied them in our everyday lives growing up.

I'm definitely guilty of being "personally victimized," in addition to doing my fair share of victimizing during my childhood. It was in those moments that we continued to naively fight our way to the top of the cruel food chain known as high school, that we ultimately realized Cady Heron had some major points about high school.

Particularly her parallels to the jungle.

These friendships are naively protected under girl code all throughout our childhood despite how toxic they are. And quiet as it's kept, true mean girls don't grow out of it, they simply become mean bitches. Period. But despite the fact that not all mean girls truly grow up, sometimes you do. Then and only then do you begin to see your "friendships" for what they were and still are if you haven't quite figured out how to let go.

Feeling obligated to uncomfortably grow into a friendship built on old bonds, while maintaining all of the stability of a game of Jenga is a growing pain I've battled with for some time and I'm just now learning how to deal.

The problem is that we've been socialized to normalize and, at times, romanticize toxic friendships and the bullying that sometimes occurs inside of them as if it were some type of prerequisite for life. Although it may not feel good, we tell ourselves that it's in the name of fun or that we're overthinking, ignoring the fact that those little slick comments are at our expense. We ultimately learn to chalk it up to the game from a young age.

But the thing is, there's nothing healthy about tolerating bullies at any age or in any setting.

The truth is, these friends have all of the qualities of that ex they warned you about but because intimacy doesn't occur within the confines of your bedroom, the abuse (yes, abuse!) that occurs within the relationship is difficult to identify. Not to mention, it isn't always as aloof as the "you can't sit with us" rhetoric but sometimes subtle and far more underhanded.

I've come to recognize the signs and acknowledge that their presence is a possibility in any type of relationship -- not remotely exclusive to our romantic lives. I've also come to understand that these types of friends are by far more difficult to quit because, as friends, they have been the necessary cheerleader in the darkest of hours. This makes it difficult to believe that they could possibly contribute to the gut-wrenching anxiety that draws that dark hour out even longer than intended.

These friendships last longer than they should because of the crippling thought of getting through (any and everything) without your girls feels lonely, even as it remains a simple thought. But, I'm living proof that if you can get through without them, without the friends who lift you up just to break you down, you will no doubt be better for it.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is nothing deeply philosophical, but short, direct, and certainly words to live by: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about." And, if your friendships don't meet this most basic standard of respect, then it's high time you throw the whole damn friend away and get you some new ones, because they aren't worth it.

I often found myself wondering why some of my close friendships felt as devastating and heartbreaking as my relationships but with next to none of the fun perks that come with bare minimum fuckboys (that would be good dick and free meals for those of you wondering). It felt unnecessary and it was, but I subjected myself to it because of the aforementioned logic. I was told that I was overreacting despite being the butt of all jokes. All. The. Time. However, I was expected to finetune my telepathy skills so not to piss these very friends off in regards to their sensitivities or else there was hell to pay for me. After spending so much of the friendship walking on eggshells and changing to fit into their world without reciprocation, the friendship stopped being fun. I mean, seriously, if several grown ass women couldn't find any common grounds outside of gossip and playing the dozens to the extent of making one feel expendable.

There was absolutely no growth and as a result, there was no friendship.

This led me to begin to distance myself, but after having my feelings hurt one too many times, I decided to speak up about the situation. Instead of understanding, I was met with hostility, threats, and excuses asserting that I was spreading negative energy in my unwillingness to continuously be demeaned by my own friends.

I was enlightened, baffled, and grateful in the moment that I wholly received the message to let go.

Enlightened because not everyone is aware of others in a way that allows them to genuinely personify kindness. Enlightened in realizing that, even as adults, we haven't mastered some of the most elementary lessons and core values such as think before you speak. I was baffled by the thought that one could be so clueless as to denounce someone's feelings as childish and senseless, in a world where people commit suicide every single day because they simply felt misunderstood or unheard. I felt grateful because although I do suffer from a very mild depression at times, it has never left even a trace of a thought that ended my life would somehow be or feel better than my temporary loneliness.

There will be lonely days, but the more time you have with yourself, the more you realize that you can never feel as lonely as you felt in bad company. And eventually, you will make room for new friends who can meet you where you are and provide a symbiotic positivity that is so necessary if you're to continuously find growth in your personal, professional, and many other elements of your life.

The law of attraction is real.

When I met these girls, I was young and a long way from being my best self, so it wouldn't surprise me if someone said that I had once served up some of their same energy. I'm learning that you can only attract what you are; furthermore, you can only return the same energy that you're met with. We often can't see the similarities that we share with others that force us to gravitate to these particular people, but I'm now convinced that the "birds of a feather" theory was founded on the principles of energy as opposed to hobbies, geography, or style.

But, you know what? There's a reason I outgrew them and I like to believe it has everything to do with my spirit and overall energy shifting as I gain insight into what I am and who it is that I really wish to be.

That said, it's imperative that we fill our circles with a rainbow of energy that is a reflection of the type of love and joy that we seek out in our platonic relationships, as well as what we wish to exude from within.

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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