Dear Charlene: “Is It OK to Break Up with a Friend?”
Writer and actor Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’m a writer and actor in Los Angeles. Some of you may know me as @charstarlene on Twitter, or maybe you’ve heard about my feature film, Unlovable. (Now streaming everywhere! Check out the trailer here.)
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your identity will remain anonymous.
And if you need one-on-one guidance, check out the work I do on charlenejoy.com. I would love to help!
You wrote about letting go of friendships a while back, and it helped me become aware of which relationships in my life were filling me up, and which were draining me, as you put it. There was one friendship in particular that was difficult to let go of, but I knew I needed to. We had a very mature conversation and walked away on good terms. But I’m pretty sure she was hurt. Now I’m obsessed with it. I keep thinking I did the wrong thing, or that I’m a bad person. I keep worrying about what she thinks of me, what she says about me, if she hates me. I don’t want her to hate me. I feel like I made everything worse. What should I do?
Breathe! I’m so glad you wrote to me. Setting healthy boundaries can be really, really hard. Not to mention scary and confusing. The first time I started setting boundaries, it actually felt wrong in my body. Like, it felt physically wrong, like I was doing the absolute wrong thing. I felt sick, I thought I was going to either throw up or die, and I felt like a horrible person. So any panic, uncertainty, guilt, or obsession is completely normal. And totally makes sense since you are new to this. New things are super uncomfortable and awkward. Allow it to feel this way. You’re a beginner. Be a beginner!
I’ve written a little about boundaries before, but let’s talk about what happens after the boundaries have been set.
Anytime you set boundaries, there are consequences. This doesn’t mean the consequences are bad, and this doesn’t mean setting boundaries is bad, this is just acknowledging the fact that with every action, there will be a reaction. That’s why boundaries can be so difficult—essentially, it’s another opportunity for you to choose yourself, show up for yourself, and do what’s best for you. Some people have been taught that doing anything for yourself is “selfish.” But as I’ve mentioned many times before in this column, it’s simply self-love, it’s necessary, and nobody else is going to do it for you. You must take responsibility.
Sometimes the consequence of setting a boundary is that the other person isn’t going to like it. Sometimes the boundary will hurt somebody’s feelings. Sometimes that person won’t be able to understand, or will never be able to get closure from you. No matter what the consequences are, remember why you needed to set that boundary in the first place. Remember that it was the best thing for you. Remember that the best thing for you is ultimately the best thing for others. Both of you deserve to be in friendships that are mutual. What’s the alternative? Continuing to be in a friendship you’re unhappy in? Which situation is healthiest for both of you?
Releasing people and things, healing, and self-love are messy AF.
I know how hard it is to think of someone being upset with you, or someone disliking you. This is a good time to start practicing being OK with the fact that not everyone is meant to like you! We simply can’t make everyone like us. (Ugh, this is such a hard one to get, I know.) Not only is it not our job, but it isn’t our business. You don’t like everyone, right? And that’s OK. Put your focus and attention and energy into those people who love you. Those are the ones that matter anyway.
Whenever I start to obsess over what somebody thinks of me, I shift my focus back on myself instead: what do I think? We can’t know what other people think of us, but we can tend to what we’re feeling, which is what needs the most attention, anyway. Often when I ask myself how I’m feeling, I realize that I don’t like that person. Or I tap into my feelings of shame, or guilt, or wanting to be liked and loved and accepted. You will find that the part that hurts ultimately has nothing to do with your friend, or the situation. You’re getting the opportunity to tend to old wounds. And you’re the only person who can do this for yourself.
Go easy on yourself. Releasing people and things, healing, and self-love are messy AF. When we first start to set boundaries, they’re going to lack grace, they’re going to be a little bumpy, it probably won’t be pretty. Give yourself permission. Allow it to feel untethered and scary. Allow yourself to be a beginner. Acknowledge how difficult it is, and love yourself through it. FL