I will be honest, I have been a toxic friend before. I have been the one to make people feel like they are not a priority, to tear them down when they needed me to lift them up. I've gossiped, been self-absorbed, and been the type of friend I would never wish on another person. They say hurt people hurt people, and I was no exception. In a dark time of my life, I was a terrible friend to the people I had in my life and ended up irreparably ruining a friendship. I have deep regrets about ever having been this person, and wish desperately that I could go back and treat people better. But I can't change what happened, and I can't pretend like I don't have those tendencies. I have to own up to the fact that I have hurt people in the past, and that there are parts of me which aren't the good person I try to be.
When I took a step back and realized I was causing problems, I was able to be more careful in the way I interacted with and talked about my friends. I'm not perfect: I still tend to gossip too much, I can be more rude than necessary, and have been a bad friend on more than one occasion recently. The difference is that now I'm aware of these flaws. I can call myself out and end a destructive action as I'm doing it. I am no longer pretending to be a perfect friend. By removing the delusions that I was a good friend, I actually started to become a good friend. Or at least a better one. Because I was aware of the way that my actions were hurting other people. I was able to start validating people instead of tearing them down and was able to begin building genuine friendships instead of dishonest ones.
To all my fellow self-absorbed people: stop making excuses for yourself. Own up to the parts of yourself you're not proud of, and most of all know that you can get better. Just because you have been a bad friend in the past, does not mean you have to doom yourself to be this way forever. You can recognize that you played a part in the destruction of friendship and use that knowledge to better yourself. Knowing your toxic tendencies and being able to recognize when you're falling back into old habits is the first step towards being the true, genuine friend someone needs.
People attract people similar to them. If you are looking at your life and wondering where all the positive, empowering people are, make sure that you yourself are bringing positive and empowerment to others. If you are bringing happiness into other people's lives, you will attract the kind of people who can bring happiness into yours.
There is no stage of life where you reach the best you can be. There is always room to grow, always room to become a better person. This constant room for improvement should not be exhausting, it should be exciting. As kind as you have been in the past, as loving as you are being now, you can always be kinder and you can always, always, always love more. And you can always learn how to be a better friend.
This is not to say that other people are never to blame when friendships go south. Certain people can still be harmful to you and in many cases, you may not be to blame for toxic relationships. But you have to learn to accept your responsibility for creating a toxic relationship. Conflicts are never the fault of one person, and learning how you contribute to hurtful relationships will be the best thing you have ever done for yourself. In doing this, I have been able to surround myself with so many incredible, positive, and kind people and have built a real family out of my friends. I still regret my past actions which ended relationships which could have been amazing. But today I am able to embrace the bad parts of myself and work to better them. When you learn to abandon your toxic habits and embrace your good ones, you will see your relationships flourish.