It's an uncomfortable thing, to consider how many people we keep in our lives for less-than-desirable reasons. The reasons we keep them there are the same reasons that make us want to avoid addressing the question: "Who do I actually love?" It's less than you think. It's more than you'd assume. It's the sheer fact that many people in your life are in your life because of obligation or proximity or comfort or fear. Addressing this means acknowledging that when those intentions err toward the side of being toxic, it's time to let go.
But obligation is powerfully influencing, proximity is easy, comfort is what we desire, and fear is what controls. Letting go of the people we don't actually want in our lives is also letting go of all the things that control us in everything else. But perhaps we're getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe we should start with just identifying the kinds of toxic people that you're (unnecessarily) keeping in your life:
The Family You Stay In Contact With Solely Out Of Obligation
To some people, family does means unconditional obligation. For the people who have family members who accept them, who are kind and rational and caring and present, this is wonderful. But for many others, it's an extremely unhealthy, destructive decision to remain in contact with some people, only because you think you "have to." You don't have to. Swaths and generations of people haven't, and honestly, they're usually better off for it. Your family are the people you choose. Some people choose those they were born to. Others have to choose people who actually love them. Either way, you decide. You're not bound to anything you don't believe yourself to be.
The Friend You Can't Feel Happy For
If there is someone in your life you don't feel happy for when good or great things happen to them and for them, you need to remove yourself from that relationship. You don't want to be their friend, you want to win them over. You use their existence as a gauge of your own worth.
The Person Whose Approval Supplants Your Own
They're your inspiration, everything you hope and want to be. When you receive their nod of approval, or even better, wide-eyed wonder and awe, you feel whole. It's an insatiable chase, and you can't quite get your footing in your relationship no matter what. You think about them, and daydream of some wild and intoxicating situation in which they gaze on admiringly, and you feel success. This isn't self-love, this is deflection. If you need that "high" from someone else's love, it's because you can't feel it for yourself.
The Person Whose Presence In Your Life Says Something About You — But Nothing Else
It's like remaining friends with the b*tchy but popular girls at school because it makes you cool by association. Or not breaking up with someone because you don't want other people to decide what it "means" about you that you failed at a(nother) relationship. When a person is a categorizing figure, and not loving, fun presence in your life, you have a responsibility to dissolve things — for both of your sakes.
The Person You're Afraid To "Break Up" With, Even If It's Platonic
You're afraid of what it will mean to not have someone to talk to every night, to be there for you when you "need" it. This is the person who has cemented a sense of necessity in your life out of nothing much more than fear and proximity. That's not "being there" for the people you love, that's using someone.
The People You Hang Out With Out Of Sheer Proximity
The coworkers whose negative, cunning discourse on the ins-and-outs of your boss' potential lack-of-sex-life and all the ways their loser-ness accounts for why they aren't getting promotions. The friends you've had since elementary school with whom you don't have much in common, but you hangout with simply because they're there when you come home for Thanksgiving. If you leave these interactions feeling drained and stressed because you're putting on a façade, you don't need them in your life. Even if it's easy. Even if it's convenient. Even if they're right there.
The Person You Believe You Need
The person whose death would induce your own. The person whose presence not only validates you, but almost makes your life worth living. This is the person who is holding the key to your sense of self and life and worth, and as long as you keep them in your life, you won't be able to find it for yourself.
The Love You Never Got And Never Let Go Of
Hanging on to the love you never got is an indication of one thing, and one thing only: You're deflecting from the brutal truth you cannot accept, which is that some people just won't love you. It's not because circumstances were off or you're not beautiful enough or there's someone better. You just didn't jive. Many people don't. Hanging onto that love is hanging onto your dignity. It's a last ditch effort at winning the war. You're just not realizing that surrendering is winning, not holding on.
Images: CW; Giphy(4)