“Moldy Tomato” Friends (Are You Being “Infected”?)

I like to buy small plastic containers of grape tomatoes at the grocery store. I’ll go to the organic section, pick up a transparent container and carefully inspect each side: top, left, right, bottom. I want to make sure every tomato is delectable. You never know where a moldy, unripe, mushy culprit will be hiding.

Every once in a while my well-honed tomato inspecting skills fail me. Last week I bought a container of tomatoes and when I got home and opened it, there was a fuzzy, black-green, moldy tomato right smack in the middle of the other perfect specimens.

“Nooo!”

I picked out the offending ball of gushy, seed-spewing disgust and flung it in the sink. Then I picked out a few of the surrounding tomatoes–that had started to get moldy and disgusting by association–and discarded them. I washed it all down the drain and turned on the garbage disposal.

The rest of the tomatoes were spared.

Are You Surrounded by Mold?

It is said that you are the composite of the five people you spend most of your time with. So, like selecting tomatoes, it only makes sense to pick the most “delectable” friends. Surrounding yourself with positive people who allow you to grow and be your best self is a good thing, but I’d say the more important step is to remove negative influences in your life. You can have a whole container of the most-amazing, supportive, loving friends, yet one close moldy friend can ruin it all. That friend will sit there and cultivate fuzzy, disgusting negativity until you start getting a little mushy… and before you know it, you’ll be a moldy, negative mess.

I used to think that I was a strong person who could stand on my own and make good decisions despite my outer circumstances, but that’s simply not true. Your environment affects you. Your friends affect you. Your intimate relationships affect you. Your co-workers affect you. If you want to be a certain kind of person, you need to create an environment that supports that. If you want to stop drinking, for example, don’t hang out at bars! If you want to be a giving person, hang out with people who give. If you want to be healthy, hang out with people who are healthy.

A “moldy” friend is anyone who consistently throws you off course. She’s the one who entices you with pastries even though she knows you’re on a diet. He’s the one who constantly puts you down and reminds you of your past mistakes. It’s the people you can’t open up to because you know they will be judgmental or talk behind your back. It’s the victims who spend their time blaming others for all of their problems. You may think, “I’m not a victim! I would never get sucked into that mindset.” But that’s not true. If you are around it long enough and consistently enough, you will become it.

Everyone has their weaknesses. I definitely have some traits that could be considered “moldy”. It’s not like you should expect perfection. But there is a difference between small annoyances, enduring weaknesses and personality quirks and outright toxicity. If you are around someone who makes you feel insignificant, like your dreams or desires don’t matter or who constantly dampens your mood, you might just have a moldy friend.

If You’ve Identified a Moldy Friend, What Should You Do?

Step 1: Evaluate the Nature of the Friendship – The first step is to evaluate the nature of the friendship. Is this someone you feel like you “have” to maintain good relations with? Like a family member? Or a co-worker you see every day? Or someone who you’ve known since kindergarten so you feel an obligation to make things work? Or is it someone you can cut out of your life without many consequences? This will tell you if it’s even worth taking the next steps.

Step 2: Establish Boundaries – Just because someone is doing something that affects you in a negative way, doesn’t mean the relationship is over. Maybe the problem is your lack of clear communication. If you are just going along with the other person and silently resenting them, who can blame them? They don’t know what the issue is. So, in a clear, kind way bring up what is bothering you. If the other person commits to changing his behavior, there’s the possibility of turning a moldy relationship into a healthy one. If he argues with you or doesn’t care about your point of view, it may be time to say sayonara!

Step 3: Enforce Your Boundaries – Once you’ve set your boundaries, keep them in place. Pay attention to your friend’s actions. If he cannot respect you and treat you the way he says he will, it’s time to distance yourself. Once, I spent a full three months not speaking with a family member because of the way he treated me. Finally, he apologized and we have had a perfect, respectful relationship ever since.

Step 4: Assess the Brain Damage – Is it worth it to try to make the relationship work? Is the other person trying? Do you feel fulfilled from the relationship? Maybe the relationship is at the wrong level. Some friends are five-minute, once-a-month friends–you check in with them five minutes every thirty days and that’s it. Other friends are Facebook friends. You “like” their photos every once in a while and pretty much never speak with them. Close friends are those you speak with on a regular basis because you trust them and love them and want to be with them. “Moldy” friends are not nearly as toxic if you only say hi to them on Facebook every so often. At that point, they aren’t in your same tomato container :) Determine what level you’d like to interact with them. If they are used to a close relationship with you, it may not work. They may become offended and end the friendship. This could cause you some guilt, but hang in there. If the relationship is bringing you down, it’s imperative to your emotional survival to make room for relationships that will lift you up.

All my love,

Laura

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