Several months ago, I checked out the independent film Paper Friends movie. It was about some Black college buddies who decided to reunite for a night on the town. The one who played the role of being "the selfish one"? Her name was London (played by Sharon Leal who, interestingly enough, also played a selfish character in the movie, The Last Christmas and, if we're gonna get real, Why Did I Get Married? too). London was pretentious, liked to flaunt money and was extremely self-absorbed. After about halfway into the film, I came to the conclusion that people dealt with her either because she had something they wanted or purely for nostalgia's sake.
Anyway, as the movie credits rolled, I thought about some of the selfish friends I've had in the past. Boy, short of being betrayed by a friend, I don't know if there is anything worse than trying to maintain some type of relationship with an individual who is, well, what a classic definition of selfish is—"concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others". So, why do we put up with it? I think a part of the reason is because we don't know how to handle someone we may like and/or enjoy spending time with who still manages to find a way to make just about everything be about them (or at least they give off the impression that they couldn't care less about you). Ugh. Just ugh.
If you know you've got someone in your life who takes more than gives; never compromises; plays the victim role to avoid responsibility or accountability; has unrealistic expectations (in general); is passive aggressive or even pouts when they don't get their way; is cool ONLY if they are doing better in life than you are; can always dish it out (advice, opinions, etc.) but can't take it to save their life (literally); sucks at listening; doesn't honor your requests or boundaries and/or always expects you to change because, in their eyes, you are the only one who really needs to—I want to dedicate this article to you personally.
Basically, if you're the Issa to a Molly in your life (if you watch Insecure,you get just where I am coming from), here are some tips on how to handle that kind of person while trying to maintain your own sanity in the process.
Ask Yourself: Did I Know They Were Selfish from the Jump?
In relationships, the topic of red flags tends to come up a lot. You know, stuff that you saw, oftentimes at the very beginning that, for whatever reason, you ignored, only for it to take a chunk out of your butt later on. Believe it or not, red flags exist in friendships too. One of the friendships that took me for-e-ver to come to terms with started by seeing them perform. Afterwards, while people were trying to talk to them, they only seemed to give energy to the folks who were basically riding their jock. Like, if someone wanted their autograph or had a compliment, they were all ears. But if someone wanted to share what they had going on in their own world, the person was basically dismissive AF.
Looking back, throughout the years, that's what our friendship looked like, more times than not. So long as it was all about focusing on their life, they had all the time in the world. But if I had a need, it all depended on if they could "fit me in" or not; or worse, if they cared or not. And yes, that is pure Grade A selfishness.
It's also a part of the reason why I wrote the article, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". So, why did I keep this selfish friend around for so long? It's because, while selfish is a trait that they had, there was some good that they also brought to the table. This brings me to my second point.
Jot Down Five of Their Better Qualities
I know everyone is basically coming for Molly's neck these days, but let's not forget that Issa could be pretty selfish too. I mean, was there ever a time when they went out together and Issa covered the tab (or didn't expect Molly to)?! Plus, while Molly has seemed to lack self-awareness and she definitely falls into the "dish it out but can't take it" category, she did drive Issa home to see Lawrence in the middle of the night, only to come back over with some wine to console Issa after Lawrence did Issa dirty (or gave Issa a dish of some karma, based on how you look at it). Molly did offer Issa her crib when Issa moved out of her apartment. People have mixed feelings about Molly not telling Issa that Nathan came by on her 30th birthday, but I can see how Molly thought that she was helping at the time. I could go on and on, but the point is that, if Molly was total trash, I doubt Issa would stick around so long.
That's why, for overall perspective's sake, I think it's a good idea to jot down some of the better qualities that your selfish friend may have. In my case, mine was spiritually supportive. They were intelligent and insightful. We have similar values (other than them being selfish as hell). They could honor confidentiality like nobody's business. And yes, all those things were and are, still very important to me. The reason why it got to the point where their self-absorption outweighed everything else is because, when I would find ways to bring my needs to their attention and they continued to ignore them, their "bad character trait" started to seem more and more like blatant disrespect and who wants to be friends with someone who doesn't respect them? That said, point three.
Ponder How They Are Self-Absorbed and If/How It Is Affecting the Friendship
One of the reasons why a lot of us tend to tolerate a selfish friend far longer than we should is because it's not until we're really in some sort of pinch or bind that we realize, just how much they have a tendency to leave us high and dry. Or, another possibility is that, while they are mad selfish in one way, they might be somewhat accommodating in another. For instance, when it comes to the friend that I've been referring to, something that I recognize is they liked being an emotional caregiver. What I mean by that is, while I was trying to figure out some of my childhood trauma and baggage that resulted in some pretty toxic relationship patterns, they always had a shoulder. But once I got stronger and I was looking for their support when it came to professional achievements, growing platforms and other areas of achievement, somehow, they were always "busy". I started to realize that even their emotional assistance was self-serving; they liked it when they were put in a position of feeling like they could help or "save" me. Soon, I started to realize that it made them feel good when I was feeling bad because then they felt like they had the upper hand.
That's why it's also a good idea to figure out how your friend's self-absorbed ways are directly manifesting in your friendship with them. Are they "mildly" selfish (like maybe they are always late which, yes is also a form of selfishness)? Or are they so selfish that you feel like you are constantly getting the short end of the stick?
The one thing that you should always keep in mind when it comes to your friendships is healthy ones consist of both people meeting each other's needs.
A friend showing up 15 minutes late to a movie sucks, but they did show up. A friend continually not being there for you when you need a favor, you need to talk or you need their help—that is setting you up for being in a dynamic where you are constantly being used and taken for granted, NOT for being in an actual friendship with someone.
Call Them Out from Time to Time
If you just read all of that and now you're heated as all get out, before you go off on your selfish friend, there's an additional point that I must make. Again, selfish people are self-absorbed. This means that they devoted way more of their time into what they want, what they need and how they feel than just about anyone else. This means that sometimes what you desire from them ends up slipping through the cracks. It's not always or necessarily because they don't care about you; it's just that they care about their own selves more. So, if you do feel like there is enough about the friendship that is worth, at least trying to preserve it, it can't hurt to bring up what your feelings and concerns are to them. If they value you, beyond what you can do for them (some of y'all will catch that later), they will take note and try and step outside of their "me bubble". Be patient during this process. Old habits can be hard to break; especially selfish-related ones.
Reciprocity. It's one of my favorite words and I will never apologize for it. Real talk, if it had been a part of my everyday vocabulary in high school, I probably could've avoided a lot of the relational bullshishery that I've experienced over the years. That said, reciprocity is about there being a mutual exchange between two individuals. When you've got a selfish friend in your life, reciprocity is going to come off like a foreign word to them, but you know what they say—"Never apologize for having high standards. People who really want to be in your life will rise up to meet them." Hey, if your selfish friend is so caught up in themselves that their actions give the impression that they could take or leave you, release them. Make room for people who know that reciprocity is a given in healthy relationships. Let the selfish friend be their own friend. Hmph. Wish them luck with that while you're at it too.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Featured image by Giphy