If you are wondering whether or not you should remove a certain person from your life, or put some distance between you and this (these) person (people), then you probably should.
Chances are, you feel at least some degree of discomfort around this “friend” or you wouldn’t be asking that question. And if you are asking Google advice about a relationships, then you’ve probably been thinking about it for a while. This is not to say that the other person is the problem. But something is definitely off, and if you haven’t yet figured out what is, then you owe it to yourself to reflect on what the issue might be.
In this post, we’l’ll explore a few questions: how to know if you should remove someone from your life, completely or not, and actually how to remove someone from your life.
When should you remove someone from your life?
Before disucssing how to remove someone, be it a toxic friend or family member, from your life, here are a few tips for figuring out when to remove someone from life:
You cannot figure out who you are
It wasn’t until I hit 30 that I finally understood that I had absolutely no idea who I was. And one of the reasons for this was that I had been raised to always, always put other people’s needs, wants, ideas, above mine. I’m not trying to blame anyone, I’m just trying to understand what got me where I was.
And, maybe because I was always trying to be so… accommodating, I also had a lot of people with strong ideas and opinions around me.
As a result, my head was full of noise. Other people’s noise and I was incapable of hearing my own voice. It got really bad until I finally reached a breaking point, snapped, and cut everyone out. Every single person, except my parents.
After this, it took me 2-4 months of absolute “peace and quiet” to finally start hearing that little voice in my heart. It was like watching a seed sprouting. It was beautiful.
When to remove certain people from your life? When you can no longer hear yourself.
Take a moment and truly ask yourself: do you hear it when your heart speaks to you? Or do you only hear it when it snaps?
When it’s time for a relationship decluttering
Have you been hanging out with the same people for years without ever reevaluating your relationship? It might be time to remove some of these people from your life, especially if their impact on you is more negative than positive.
As an avid minimalist, I think that too much of anything is bad for your mental health. Too many clothes in your closet, too much food in your fridge, too much stuff in your house… Just too much of anything inevitably equals waste, feelings of being overwhelmed, decision fatigue and you end up just avoiding it all or burying your head in the sand.
Related post: All that “stuff” you own is ruining your life. Here’s why.
It’s better to have a very limited amount of quality “objects” versus an abundance of low-quality ones, and that includes relationships.
If your relationship with that person is at best mediocre, then perhaps it is time you removed them from your life.
Sometimes you need to remove everything and everyone to know what and who you want to put back in your life
This is self-explanatory. Your mind is probably feeling so crowded and exhausted right now, and you might be feeling more and more confused about what you truly want.
Related article: How do you heal a wounded mind?
Taking some time away from a certain person or certain people can not only help you better understand what you want, but it’s also an opportunity to figure out how you feel when you are away from them. Do you feel relieved or do you miss them?
You are trying to change or you are evolving, and they are not
Growing is a natural part of life but not everyone grows at the same pace and in the same direction.
I find that two key elements will make or break your attempts at change: your mindset and your relationships.
Related article: This is why our life will never change
You may have heard this countless times: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” (Jim Rohn).
If you worry that someone might be a bad influence, you feel like they might be hindering your efforts at being a better person, or they muffle your personality… then you should probably trust your instinct and cut them loose, at least for a while.
This brings me to the next reason why you should remove people from your life.
When learning to trust your instincts
If you’ve been wondering whether or not you should remove a person from your life, then you probably should simply because you need to learn to trust your instinct and act on it.
Maybe your relationship or friendship is inappropriate? Or maybe it’s causing one of you more harm than good?
I had been thinking about removing some people from my life for over 5 years (!) but I never did. And once I did, things finally started changing for me for the better. Can you imagine? All the years wasted, feeling like crap, doubting myself, always, always stifling my instincts! The damaging impact of such behavior on my self-esteem? And yours?
At least now, it remains one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned, which is that you must honor your instincts and act on them as long as you are not actively trying to hurt other people.
8 questions to help you figure out if you should remove that person from your life
1. When did you start hanging out with them? Are you still that person?
Sometimes we grow up, and we become different people. It’s sad, but it’s life.
Relationships evolve too; they have to. It might just be time to take a break, or it might be time to let go.
2. How do you feel when you are with them?
I noticed one day that I was “good friends” with someone, and yet, I was feeling stressed out and anxious every time I was around them or knew I was going to see them. And after seeing them, I always felt like shit for days.
Gosh, I waited too long to distance myself from that person. But once I finally did, it’s as if I was breathing again.
That person you are thinking about, how do you feel when you are with them? Do you feel good about yourself? Lousy? Do they criticize you or compare you? Do they nag, gossip? Are they negative? Just observe your feelings when you are with them, about to meet with them, or after you’ve met.
It’s not other people’s responsibility to make you feel good about yourself, it’s yours. But it’s also your responsibility to pick the right people to hang out with, and remove those who are not right for you.
3. Do they encourage you according to your personality and needs, or according to their own beliefs?
Some people always “want what’s best for you” when in truth, they want you to want what they want.
When you go see that person with a problem, do they make an effort to see things from your perspective, your skills or talent? Or do they give you advice based on what they want for you?
If it’s the latter, it might explain why you feel stifled or uncomfortable when you are around them and their behavior is not helping you find your way or your voice.
This is not to say that the other person is bad, or that their intentions are wrong. But still, it might be necessary for you to take a step back from the relationship and take the space you need to figure out what you want.
4. Do you put on a different persona when you are with them?
Ok so first, I think it’s normal to act differently depending on who you are with. It’s unreal to expect someone to behave the same way with their 90-year-old grandma in a nursing home, as they would with their girlfriends on a trip to Cabo.
That being said, there’s a difference between expressing specific aspects of your personality depending on the context and stifling yourself when you around your friends.
If that little voice in your head is always screaming in frustration because you are not saying what you really think, if you always pretend to agree with things you don’t… then maybe something is “wrong” and you should distance yourself from that person and take the time to reflect on that.
5. Do you guys share the same core values?
If you value kindness and that person values putting other people down, then you have conflicting values and I don’t see how you can thrive in that relationship.
And if you don’t know what your values are, then it’s time to take a step back, take some time on your own, and reflect on this.
The other person might not necessarily be the problem. It’s hard to be happy around others when you are not happy around yourself or don’t understand the type of person you are.
6. When you think about the ideal friend, how do they behave? Is that person behaving like this?
This question is self-explanatory. Take some time to really think about it.
And yes, you should be accepting and be willing to compromise, but you shouldn’t compromise on your core values and on being treated right. If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s time to remove that person from your life.
7. When you think about a lousy friend, how do they behave? Is that person behaving like this?
Again, this is self-explanatory. In order for you to surround yourself with the right people, you must figure out what the “right” people look like for you and what you expect from a friendship, but you must also understand what you don’t want.
This is called setting your boundaries.
And once you set your boundaries, you must learn to respect them.
Related article: How do you build more meaningful relationships?
8. When you go to that person with a problem, do you feel better after talking to them, or worse?
If you feel worse, it does not mean you should necessarily remove that person from your life completely. But it does mean that you should be aware of that fact, and consciously maintain a certain distance between the two of you.
If you are not sure, you don’t have to cut them out for good
Sometimes, all you need is a few weeks or a couple of months to gain some clarity, and it’s okay.
Just because you put some distance between you and a friend does not necessarily mean it’s forever. If you were real friends in the first place and you did it politely and with some class, there is no reason why your friendship should end.
But if the other person takes it badly, then it’s either one of two things. Either a) you involuntarily did or said something to hurt that person, in that case, do apologize but only if you mean it; or b) this person doesn’t want what’s best for you or does not have the emotional maturity to care about another person’s needs beyond their own self, in which case, you are probably better off without them in your life.
Should I tell that person I want to take some distance from them?
I used to think that you should always be completely and radically honest, and tell them. But now, after having done that myself, I think differently.
One thing for sure: do not ghost them or cut them out without warning. That’s just plain rude and in most cases, it’s not the best way to go.
If you guys were close friends
Here’s the thing, you might think that the other person is the problem, and maybe they are to some degree. But I firmly believe that in most cases, when something bothers us, angers us, or causes us emotional discomfort about another person, it’s because there is something within us or about ourselves that has not yet been resolved or that we are not accepting.
Sometimes, all you need is time and distance to figure out and accept things about yourself first, before you can be true to yourself and your values when you are around others. In which case, there is no point risking hurting other people by telling them: “I don’t want to be around you anymore, you suck the life out of me”. There is a possibility that you might regret that and will have to deal with the resulting guilt.
But you should tell them that you want to take some time to yourself, that you will not be available to talk for the next few months, and that you hope they understand.
Now, depending on how “close” you were, you may need to have a deeper conversation later, after you’ve figured out your stuff. Especially if you guys don’t want the same thing (i.e., they want to see you but you don’t, or vice versa).
You have different values or a clearly toxic relationship
Obviously, if your “friend” has values that are completely opposite to yours (for example, they throw rocks at birds or other animals just for the fun of it, or they take hard drugs and that’s not your thing), then you could tell them just that: “I wish we could hang out but we don’t have the same views on this and that and this is not working for me right now. But I do wish you the best”.
What if I want that person back in my life after I’ve cut them out?
Most of the time, all it takes to repair a relationship is an honest conversation and a sincere apology, if necessary. But most people avoid these two things. They don’t say what they truly feel in their heart and they don’t apologize, usually because they are scared of rejection.
If you want to rebuild a relationship with someone you previously removed from your life, you simply need to face that fear of rejection and honestly tell them how you feel.
- Explain why you had to take some distance from them;
- Tell them what that time apart has brought you;
- Tell them you miss them if that’s how you feel, or that you regret doing things the way you did if you were insensitive or rude;
- Listen to them if they share their feelings;
- Tell them you want to be friends again, or want to try rebuilding the relationship;
- Stay calm and listen.
Don’t be scared, don’t be rude, and go with your guts. Apologize when you are wrong, and you will be fine.
Now back to you. Have you ever regretted removing a person from your life? Please share: email me, comment below… I want to know what you think.