I was sixteen and sitting on the bus, riding home from a basketball game. My Discman (also known as a portable CD player for all you young cats) had just run out of batteries mid-song and I was too lazy to take the headphones off so I closed my eyes thinking I’d just take a little nap before we made it back to school.
Then I heard them: my two best friends talking about me. Sitting in the seat behind me, they were talking about me because they thought I couldn’t hear them. One girl complained about me asking her to braid my hair on the bus ride to the game. The other girl agreed that that was super-annoying and that she just wished I would leave them alone. This typical, high school mean girl stuff went on for a few minutes.
It felt like hours.
Just typing this, reliving those moments, makes my stomach twist up. I can recall with perfect clarity how horrible it made me feel. I felt such shame for not being worthy of their friendship.
I was heartbroken and embarrassed. I wished I could disappear; I wished I could instantly get off the bus and make my way home unseen. But that’s not how things work even when you really, really need them to so I had to suffer through the rest of the bus ride home. I don’t remember much after that. I know it didn’t end our friendship, that we still played basketball together, that we still hung out together, I have the pictures and memories to prove it.
But what I do remember is the absolute devastation of feeling betrayed and unwanted. These were my two best friends and they didn’t want to be my friends? Who was I supposed to be friends with? High school without a friend is horrible. I needed them. I liked them. Why didn’t they like me all of the sudden? Or had they not liked me for a while?
Almost twenty years later, I realize that I could have gotten new friends. I had other friends, other people that wanted to be friends with me, and probably wouldn’t have–literally and figuratively–talked about me behind my back.
I was thinking about that story the other day as I was puttering around the house. Wondering what friends I have now that I need to do without, what friends I have now that cause me to feel insecure, betrayed, or unwanted. I know that’s a crazy question to ask myself, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t letting things–people, relationships, distractions–into my life that were taking away from it instead of making it better. I am too loved and too awesome to let people in that make me feel bad about myself.
Also, you are too loved and too awesome to let people in that make you feel bad about yourself.
You know that, right?
It sounds like such a simple truth, but I know it’s really not. I have had friends before that I shouldn’t have had for no other reason than they took more than they gave. I’m not talking about friends that need you for a season and then you need them for a season and you take turns caring for each other. That is wonderful and what friends are for. I’m talking about people that just take. And take and take and take. They never fill, they never serve, they never lessen our burdens or loads.
Those people have to go. Those people need to step back.
I didn’t learn this lesson until my thirties. I had to have some friendships fail to be able to learn this lesson. I had to feel the uncomfortable fit of forced relationships that weren’t meant to be so that I could learn what the healthy, life-giving ones really looked and felt like.
And it was so worth it. Because I’d say the friends I have now, the relationships that are growing and blooming and supporting me, are pretty great.
I want that for you, too. I want you to have friends that make your life better not worse. I want you to have some ride-or-die friends that have your back no matter what. I also want you to know what ride-or-die means so if you need to, Google that shiz.
Having good friends makes every aspect of our lives better. I believe my marriage is better because of my friends. I believe I’m a better mom because of my friends. I believe I’m a better friend because of my friends. So if you’ve got people in your life that leave you feeling less than or are tearing you down instead of building you up, it’s probably time to say goodbye to them. You deserve to have good, real, encouraging friends. Life is too short to be around people that don’t add to your life.
I just wish I had learned this truth sooner.
This post originally appeared on Trusty Chucks.com in April, 2015.
Mary Graham is a lifelong resident of Indianapolis, Indiana. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog, Blue. During the day, she teaches high school English and at night (after the girls are asleep), she writes for The Huffington Post, Pearson's Teachability, For Every Mom, her own blog TrustyChucks & various other print and digital outlets. In her spare time, she likes to read, travel, eat chocolate, run half marathons, and then eat more chocolate.