Are Your Friends Good For You?

Toxic friendships are hard to spot, because it is often difficult to be able to take a step back and realize that the relationship you have with someone is being mentally harmful to you. So, how are you supposed to decide when friendships are toxic? 

Friends, they come in different shapes, sizes– and dynamics.

We all have friends. But, not every friendship is the same. There are the friendships where your counterpart knows every secret that you own, and then there are the ones where you never delve far beneath the surface of formalities. And one of these types of friendships aren’t necessarily superior to the other, because we all need different types of friendships at different times in our lives. But, there is a type of friendship that you should try to avoid at all costs: and that is a toxic friendship.

And toxic friendships are hard to spot, because it is often difficult to be able to take a step back and realize that the relationship you have with someone is being mentally harmful to you. So, how are you supposed to decide when friendships are toxic?

First off, you can decide if a friendship is good for you or not by thinking about how you feel after spending time with them. If a being around a certain friend consistently makes you feel anxious or upset with yourself, then they’re probably not a good friend. If your friend is mentally tearing you down or treats you in a certain way that makes you feel less confident in yourself, then that is just simply someone you should not keep around in your life if you have the option. Life is a short adventure, so don’t waste your time on someone that will make you stop appreciating the beauty of it. If you can’t make yourself enjoy the time you spend a friend, then why continue to spend time with them?

Another sign that a friendship might be toxic is if you have an intense amount of competition with them. A bit of friendly competition is okay, seeing as it can push you to expand your limits and work to become a better version of yourself. But, when the friendship becomes entirely centered on besting them and always trying to be one step ahead of your friend, then it is no longer healthy. It’s not really a friendship if the only time you put energy into the relationship is to try to be better than the other. Especially because if you let this become a full-blown rivalry but you end up needing a shoulder to lean on, the chance of that friend taking anything you confide to them to use against you is extremely likely.

Speaking of a friendship that is bordering on becoming frenemies, you should also think about being careful befriending someone that you feel resentment towards. If you find yourself being close with someone that you want to talk badly about after they leave the room– don’t. Don’t be that friend who is slightly two-faced because if you want to gossip harshly about your supposed friend, then the people who witness you act that way will not want to trust you as a friend either. Anyways, if you don’t genuinely enjoy being friends with someone, then don’t be. You know that you don’t want to have a toxic friendship in your life, so you should also make the effort to not be the toxic friend either.

Overall, friendships should be something that have a positive impact in your life. The friendship does not have to be deep and soul-bearing, and you don’t even have to love the unconditionally. But you should want to smile when you think of your friend. A good friend doesn’t tear you down, and you shouldn’t want to tear that friend down either. Life can be crazy and unpredictable, and you want to have a good friendship that you can rely on. They might not be perfect, but if a friendship makes you happy then it is most definitely worth it. Just make sure that the friendship is actually good for you.

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Woes of a Child Prodigy

They told me I was smart, they told me that I was destined for greatness. All because I bubbled in correct answers on a standardized test. I understand that she said those things to motivate me, to push me onto the correct path. But all she really did was put an obscene amount of stress on a child’s shoulders. My teachers, family, and classmates looked at me like I was ‘advanced,’ and I believed it. I took every word that she said to heart and tried to be the prodigy that she painted me out to be.

But what she forgot to forewarn me of is that every human inevitably has to fail.

When I was six years old, I was pulled out of my math class and was told that I was ‘special.’

They talked about my subpar test scores, and for the first time in my life I had the mentality that I was supposed to be perfect drilled in my head. My teacher spoke to me in words that were too large for my young self to fully understand, but I walked out of her small office with an entirely new outlook on life.

They told me I was smart, they told me that I was destined for greatness. All because I bubbled in correct answers on a standardized test. I understand that she said those things to motivate me, to push me onto the correct path. But all she really did was put an obscene amount of stress on a child’s shoulders. My teachers, family, and classmates looked at me like I was ‘advanced,’ and I believed it. I took every word that she said to heart and tried to be the prodigy that she painted me out to be.

But what she forgot to forewarn me of is that every human inevitably has to fail.

Everybody screws up, that is just part of life. But when you are told from a very young age that you are special and above average, failure simply does not seem like an option for you. Any grade that is not a hundred makes you feel like you should be doing more. Any question that you might have should be left unsaid because it is expected of you to understand everything at a faster rate than everyone else. This mentality of expecting for yourself to be better than you actually are makes you spiral quickly into failure.

And when you fail, it feels like you are doing more than just failing yourself. You feel like you have let down your parents, your teachers, and your peers. It’s a harsh fall from superiority to realizing that nothing about you makes you any more special than anybody else. And while it does help you gain perspective about life that every person has something that makes them special in some way, it can still hurt you greatly.

The transition from knowing that you are something special to realizing that you are nothing has caused for an increased spike in teenage depression in the past few years. This flawed system of dividing kids at a young age due to their academic performance has created an environment that builds stress for children on both sides of the spectrum.

Why was there never a lesson where the teacher explained that every person has the capability to be extraordinary, and that academics is not the most important aspect of one’s personality? When will we not feel confined to the labels we were given at a young age?

Being a child prodigy was not easy, especially now that I am an average student at best. But being on the opposite side of the spectrum was not easy for those students either. I get aggravated with myself for not living up to everyone else’s expectations, but I know on the other side that the ones who were labelled as below-average are proud of themselves for not confining themselves to the expectations they had years ago.

I believe that this means that, overall, we should not define ourselves to others expectations. Part of growing up is realizing that you’re going to mess up, but also that sometimes you will succeed. How you performed on a standardized test in first grade does not define the person that you are now, and it shouldn’t.

The only thing that should define who you are is yourself.

An Honest Letter for High School Seniors

As May quickly approaches and the life that you were so familiar with is coming to an end, you can’t help but to ask yourself: what now?

As May quickly approaches and the reality of the fact that the life that you have lived for the last thirteen years is about to end, you can’t help but to worry.
For the majority of your life, you have been told how to feel, how to dress, what to eat, and even when to use the bathroom. You were discouraged from being too expressive, and might have even gotten in trouble for trying to make decisions for yourself. The schooling system is extremely robotic and honestly exhausting, but you cannot help but to feel a crushing wave of fear once you realize that in a few short months you will be released to the world and nobody will be there to control your every move. The prospect of this freedom can seem both daunting and exhilarating.
For the first time in your life, you can get in a car and drive away for hours if you desire to.
For the first time in your life, you can do ‘adult’ things like buying a house, getting married, and having children without having society judge you for it.
For the first time in your life, you get to choose.
And I know people might act like the only option for you after high school is college. Or they might act like you should immediately enter the workforce. Or they might even tell you that you should get married and start a family because you won’t stay young forever. And any of those things are completely valid options and you should consider everything that interests you, but the most important thing that you can do during this time of your life is to do what makes you happy.
I know that you are scared, that you feel like the choices you make at this very moment can determine your entire future. I know that you might feel that you should be doing one thing to make those around you happy even though something else might draw to you more. I know that you are worried about losing the friendships that you have had for years.
And, here’s a secret that nobody likes to tell us. It is absolutely okay to be scared.
Do you think that our parents knew exactly what they were going to do for the rest of their life when they were seventeen years old? Do you think that your grandparents knew that they would one day spending most of their retirement scrolling through Facebook? Do you think that ANYBODY is 100% certain in the decisions that they make?
Of course not!
We are humans. We make mistakes. We do not know the answer to everything. And I know sometimes it might feel like everybody else around you has their life perfectly planned out, but I promise it is not.
Life is a fluid thing. You might think that you are destined to be a teacher in a middle school right now, but when you go to college and you could realize that you despise education classes. Or you might think that you want to immediately go into the workforce, and find yourself six months later googling online classes to be an engineer. Everything can change in the blink of an eye because nothing is ever set in stone. You can be the happiest you ever been on one day and then experiencing your biggest heartbreak the next.
Not many things are in our control, and that just becomes more evident when you graduate high school and are no longer taking part of a daily routine. But the most vital thing that is in your control is your freedom of choice.
Don’t let the people around you make your decisions in life for you. Look inside your heart, find what makes you feel excited, and chase after that.
Are you going to screw up as you navigate through your life? Of course. Everybody does. Are you going to experience moments where you feel like you are lost and alone? Sadly, yes. But those moments are what makes the times when you’re smiling so hard that you feel like your cheeks are going to break so much more worth it.
I know it can be scary to have this era of your life end, but you need to remember that this is not the end of your life. This is simply just the start of your next chapter.