I am a firm believer in the idea of quality over quantity. I value having a tight-knit group of friends over a large and unconnected one. As a result, I become incredibly close to the few friends I have. I love to share everything with my friends, from boy troubles to anxiety about schoolwork. I don't think I will ever change in this way and I don't intend to.

However, conflict arose during my junior year of high school. This was the beginning of an incredibly stressful time. My friends and I were all scrambling to choose Advanced Placement classes that aligned with our interests, take SAT/ACT prep courses and cultivate detailed college application lists. In spite of the fact that this was an anxiety-ridden time for me, I thought sharing my experiences, fears and all, with my best friends would reduce the madness I was suffering from. However, my best friend seemed to feel differently.

It had started with small things. She would be eager to know my exam grade when receiving our marks back, but would be hesitant to share hers unless it was higher than mine. She would opt not to share specific information about pre-college programs or opportunities that would help in terms of my grades or applications. I noticed these things, but tried to look past them and attributed her unprecedented behavior to the difficulty of what we were all going through. Things finally came to a head, however, when I asked her why she wouldn't share her grades with me anymore when we always used to before. She said to me, 

"I was so upset when I found out your GPA was higher than mine. I needed to do whatever I could to be better than you." 

After that conversation, I knew I had to get some space from that friendship. As much love I had for this person, it was taking a major toll on me. Constantly being on edge with someone who is supposed to be your best friend is incredibly draining. It was detrimental to my mental health at a time I needed to be my most secure. In retrospect, maybe I should've placed more boundaries in terms of how much we shared. I also should have addressed the problem at the first time I felt concerned. No words would suffice in describing the way it hurt me to end the friendship, but the fact remained that the nature of our friendship changed once competition became involved.

It is an inevitable feeling to want to be the best. In the back of our heads, we always have the desire to feel as if we're doing the most we can in the most successful way possible. That is nothing to be ashamed of. It becomes toxic when instead of building ourselves and those we love up, we wish to ascend ourselves while tearing others down, hoping for their downfall.

I've learned over time that those who are truly not just your friends, but your supporters, want the best for you. However, I've also learned to check-in with myself and those close to me during times I am not being my best self. Stress and competition are inevitable, but what is avoidable is ruining incredible friendships due to projected self-doubt. When you feel yourself falling into a pattern of toxicity, address it. It may save you from falling deeper into a toxic mindset or, more importantly, a friendship that could elevate both people involved.

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