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

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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