Spark joy and get rid of your toxic friends.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

A year ago, I ruthlessly dumped three-quarters of my clothing and accessories to try out a capsule wardrobe – a tightly-edited selection of only things that I (actually) like.

Boy, what joy it sparked! Gone were the things that made me feel absolutely lousy, like pants I could no longer fit into, splurges I felt guilty about and broken things that I didn’t care enough to mend.

This year, humans are on the purge list. Yep, you heard right. These aren’t “starter” friends but a species that has existed long enough in the phone book to give you a fair amount of joy, but also unparalleled levels of pain.

And I have quite a large and eclectic collection in this department, rather tragically.

There’s  the emotional vampire (who saps your soul till you turn Smurf-blue); the sneakysnoop (who gleefully rats on you to your boss); the preacher-Jane (who condemns you to Dante’s Inferno with her 20 commandments); the guilt-tripper (who keeps scores of little favours in exchange for mammoth ones); the green-eyed monster (who sees green – then red when you’re happy); the attention-seeker (who's embarrassingly loud and brash in the most inappropriate circumstances); and the ghoster (who shows up with a sad face to borrow $200 before she “vaporises” – and appears many moons later, acting as if nothing happened).

Oh, let’s not forget the chronically unhappy girlfriend who waltzes around with a permanent scowl on her face, with an attitude that rivals Wednesday Addams.

I wasn’t about to embark on any project in some vain attempt to “turn” them – like I would with my gardening efforts to turn waste into soil fertiliser by dumping them in the compost – in the hope that the result would be a friendship blossoming like fresh tomatoes in my balcony.

I was way past it.

As psychotherapist Jean Chen, director of Relationship Matter, puts it: “One needs to stop toxic behaviour and work towards it, it doesn’t go away on its own.”

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

So, it begs the question: Why do we put up with lousy friends for years – and become insufferable fools, when we’re decisive enough to break up with our partners when it doesn’t feel right anymore?

Why do we feel a tinge of guilt at the thought of cutting them loose – even if they’ve been stringing us along for years, making us believe that they really care?

Well, that’s because we sympathise with the person’s past experiences and situation, says Jean. “For example, if you don’t want to lend the money to a friend to buy a handbag she doesn’t need because it doesn’t change her habit, you may feel that you’re not being a good friend,” she explains.

“Yet if you do (lend her the money), you may feel used in the long run. State your reasons clearly and tell her that you care. Leave it to her to decide if she wants to form a healthy relationship or leave. If she chooses to stay but not work it out, you can walk away.”

And walk away I did. When something is completely out of sight, out of mind, it no longer bothers you as much or at all.

I’m not saying that people are as disposable as last season’s trends. Truth is, life’s too short to be “saving”  everyone from themselves at your own expense.

Operation Block Party

And desperate measures call for drastic actions for my culling spree. I took the bad-boyfriend approach, going beyond unfriending and blocking on social media (a few just don’t get the hint!) to devise an intricate and comprehensive plan – Operation Block Party – that covered all communication apps.

In four hours, I had successfully konmaried a dozen names from Whatsapp, Viber, Telegram, WeChat, two phones, and four social media platforms.

It sparked a sense of relief – and joy.

I was never ever going to be robbed of my emotions again – or from my purse.

Just as with my wardrobe, I’ve resolved to invest only in what I love – people who love me back without drama.
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Foxic behaviour 
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