High school was not easy for me. I never cared for the teenage wasteland parties. An exciting Friday night in my little Wyoming town was going to the main drag and turning up the volume on our car radios. Girls got married and guys got drunk.
I wanted to be somewhere else. I wasn’t the only one. Most of us made the decision to leave sometime in middle school, years before the idea hit consciousness in our senior year. Those who didn’t leave also knew by middle school that they’d never make the one-way trip out of town.
An interesting pattern started to develop among my classmates. Those who had a low opinion of their own worth chose new friends that confirmed it.
Maybe they didn’t believe they deserved any better. Perhaps they were too lazy to look for something better. Even worse, if they surrounded themselves with loser friends, they started to look like the winner of the bunch.
Not everyone who chooses to stay behind is a loser, so let’s define loser friends. They are people who:
- Are not supportive of you.
- Not there when you need them.
- Tend to be negative about everything.
- Agree with everything you say.
- Only show up when they need you.
- Have no desire to make their life better.
- Expect you to drop everything when they have a crisis.
- Tend to think everything that relates to them is a crisis.
- Have a negative impact on your mental health.
Most of us have loser friends — toxic people who disrupt our world as soon as they come onto the scene. Wimps are people who are too lazy and too timid to cut ties from loser friends and move on so they can improve their lives.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
We are influenced by the people with whom we spend the most time. They create the environment that influences the way we think, our self-esteem and our decisions. We will interact with many people over the course of our life, but the few who are closest to us have the greatest impact on our way of thinking and our decisions.
“People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” — Plato
Pick the people you spend time with care — they create the environment in which you will either thrive or wilt. While we need different types of personality traits in our life to bring out the best in us, only share your dreams and goals with special people who value them as much as you do.
Here are five reasons you need to dump your loser friends so you can:
1. Surround yourself with friends who will give you honest feedback
The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a study that summarizes the difference between amateurs and experts. Amateurs focus on positive feedback and want to hear what they’re doing right so they can continue on the same path.
Experts do not care about what they’ve done right. Instead, they’re more interested in how they can make progress. They don’t surround themselves with sycophants and other bootlickers who don’t have the backbone to be honest in their feedback.
As entrepreneurs and business owners, your focus shifts as you become more of an expert in your field. Your confidence is not affected by recieving feedback that may be negative, just as long as it’s constructive and honest.
How to make it work for you: It’s important to be surrounded by people who want the best for you and will be there when you need them. But, it’s also necessary to keep people around you who will provide you with constructive criticism and not just vacuous positivity.
The author of the study above believes the onus is on the person who provides the feedback. Often negative feedback is buried and not very specific. Encourage your circle of friends to be specific and straightforward with their critique.
2. Establish a benchmark for your inner circle
We all have different friends for different seasons in our life. It’s been said that the way we do anything is the way we do everything. So, be intentional about the people you select to be in your inner circle.
If you have a friend you wouldn’t recommend to a close family member, why do you spend time with them yourself? Remember, a wimp is someone who settles for loser friends because it’s the easiest path.
Choose friends who are dependable and honest. Select people you admire, show you love and respect, and reciprocate your kindness.
How to make it work for you: Ask yourself whether spending time with this person will lift you up or drag you down? If you spend time with this person, will they help you to become your best self? Will you be happier after spending time with them? Will they help you achieve your most important goals? If not, find friends who will.
3. Make room for a mentor or two
Loser friends are not known for or respected for their knowledge and skill sets. They do not champion your success, nor have they expressed a great deal of confidence in your abilities. Turn that upside down, and you have the perfect description of what you should look for in a mentor.
You deserve to surround yourself with successful people who believe in you and are willing to build a relationship with you. Above all, good mentoring relationships will always challenge you and encourage you to take risks.
One of the best moves you can make in life is to surround yourself with friends who see the potential in you, that you might not even see in yourself. These are the people who give you permission to follow your dreams.
Enthusiasm is contagious. The best mentors are enthusiastic about what they do and believe their work provides value and meaning. They want to share that excitement with you. Most of all, they encourage you to have the same goals.
How to make it work for you: In your career, you will meet people who are both younger and older. Don’t always assume a mentor should always be someone who is older. While older friends can be a beacon of wisdom, younger friends can keep you from getting too jaded in your work. It’s often refreshing to see the world through the eyes of those who are still anxious to learn rather than teach.
4. Recognize narcissists for what they are
Loser friends suck life out of your aspirations because they always shift attention and energy back to themselves. They may listen as you voice your concerns, but notice how they manage to inject their own situations into the conversation. Suddenly, it becomes about them and their life experiences.
Narcissists are loser friends who belittle your problems. They may offer some level of sympathy and understanding at first, but they’ll soon shift the conversation back to the scope of their problems and what great things they’ve done to solve them. On top of that, narcissists expect you to show appreciation for their assistance and presence in your life. All that’s important to them is what they want and what they need to do to get it.
How to make it work for you: Set boundaries. It’s difficult to reason or argue with a narcissist because they won’t listen or change. One of the easiest ways to get rid of loser friends is to limit meeting times. Limit contact with them.
“Everyone pretty much knows that when someone complains about being ‘too busy’ to catch up, it is code for ‘you’re off my A-list,'” as Suzanne Degges-White writes.
5. Walk away from weasels
Another type of loser friend is the weasel — the one who is sneaky, conniving and always has a scheme. Weasels can adapt to almost any situation and manipulate it to suit their own needs. Not sure one of your loser friends is a weasel? Here are some characteristics.
Weasels can appear as harmless to your face, which is why you need to watch your back. They love to take credit even when it’s not warranted and do not like to collaborate with others. Weasels also tend to be guarded about their intentions and plans. They are not trustworthy and love to meddle in the business of others.
How to make it work for you: While narcissists are selfish; weasels are mean-spirited little people. Run away from them if possible. They cannot be redeemed as friends, so you waste your time if you plan to rehabilitate them.
When you remove a weasel from your life, it’s not a sign of weakness or wimpiness; it takes mental toughness to kick these negative people out of your life.
LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception.
Quy is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.
If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s daily leadership news briefing, among SmartBrief’s more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.