I’ve heard too many folks talk about their experiences dealing with the wrong people in their lives. Mean Girls become Mean Adults who become Mean Old People. Relationships and friendships can grow toxic. In the past month, I’ve seen at least a dozen articles come across my social media news feeds about navigating challenging relationships.
It’s a sad reality.
Over drinks with a friend a couple months ago, my friend shared that she was feeling hurt by a friend in her life who repeatedly wasn’t being a good friend back to her. Despite knowing in her gut the friendship wasn’t productive, my friend hated the feeling of being excluded and socially disconnected by this girl and also didn’t like the way she felt when she was around her. All that aside, my friend sadistically kept going back for more.
I know that feeling and have been there myself. It stinks.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I studied abroad in the Netherlands. It was my first time overseas and I was alone and missing my friends, boyfriend (now husband), and family back in Florida.
There was a girl in my law program named Amelia. She was from Toronto and was one of the first people I met at the new school. Amelia was beautiful, engaging, and rented a huge apartment that overlooked a river in the center of town. She always knew how to navigate any social situation, which was noteworthy considering I often caught myself bumbling and feeling insecure. She was the girl who all the guys wanted to date and all the girls wanted to be friends with.
A total “It Girl.”
Every Monday night, Amelia hosted raging parties at her apartment that our classmates would attend before hitting the popular clubs as a group. Everyone wanted to be invited to Amelia’s parties.
But the more I got to know Amelia, the more I felt uncomfortable. Despite spending plenty of time together (we had all of the same classes and made several mutual new friends) there was no depth to our friendship beyond the exchange of casual formalities. Based on my observations, it seemed she was that way with everyone. What made things worse is that Amelia was overly critical of other people, including our “friends,” and usually had something unnecessarily snarky to say. If someone didn’t give Amelia the attention she thought she deserved, they were on her radar and she passive aggressively bullied them. I knew I would eventually become a target.
In my gut, hanging out with Amelia just didn’t feel good.
One by one, Amelia started ganging up on our classmates and not inviting them to her Monday night soirees. Always for stupid reasons. She would blow off the situation under the guise of “We’re all adults here.”
Being around Amelia felt like walking on eggshells. I never knew if I was going to say or do the wrong thing. I didn’t want to stand up to Amelia in fear of retribution. Even though I knew our friendship was not the right fit and as pathetic as it seems, I somehow wanted Amelia’s acceptance and validation. I wanted to scream from the rooftops, “AMELIA, I’M COOL. LIKE ME. ACCEPT ME. BE MY FRIEND.”
But it wasn’t to be.
After a while, I shifted my focus from Amelia to a girl from my own law school class at the University of Florida, Ashley, who arrived late to the Dutch program after the semester already began. Ashley was authentic and being her friend was easy. I never felt judged. Never felt worried about saying the wrong thing. Never felt like I had to be “on.” Never felt scared of being excluded.
A decade later, Ashley and I are still good friends.
Sometimes removing yourself from the wrong people is difficult. You can’t easily separate yourself from co-workers, neighbors, and family members. For me, getting away from Amelia wasn’t easy because we had every class together and several mutual friends. Of course, I had the good fortune of returning to the United States when the semester was over and never having to deal with her again. We don’t always have that benefit.
Here’s the thing.
We all have Amelias. People who we know deep down in our gut, something ain’t jiving.
We’ve dealt with them in the past. We might be dealing with them now. We’ll deal with them again.
There will always be an Amelia.
But this is how you deal with the Amelias.
You focus on the Ashleys.
The people who you love who love you back. The people who are easy to be friends with. The people who you could stay up talking to all night. The people who discuss goals and ideas. The people who mourn your losses and celebrate your achievements. The people who are emotionally intoxicating who make your heart expand just by being around them. (You know that amazing feeling!) The people who give a damn about who you are and not just about what you can do for them.
Those are the people who you should focus on. Not the Amelias.
There are so many Ashleys in this world. Go out there and find them.
And here’s the thing about the Amelias. There’s nothing “wrong” with them; they’re just not “right” for you. While I don’t know what became of my Amelia, I’m not the same person I was when I was in my twenties and I’m willing to bet she’s not either. Heck, perhaps there’s been a time when we were someone else’s Amelia.
There are millions of people living on this planet. You aren’t going to have a genuine connection with everyone. Be polite to the Amelias (because they need compassion and kindness) when you are around them, but don’t spend your spare time agonizing about them.
I’ve spent valuable time doing this and I can never get that time back.
What a waste.
Feeling excluded and disconnected can be awful, but you don’t need anyone else’s validation.
God created you in His image and He loves you. You have already been validated.
And remember that gut feeling we’ve been talking about? That’s the universe trying to tell you something. Listen.