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To My Ex-Friend: Thank You

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 24/02/2016 Ashley McAlpin

To My Ex-Friend: Thank You
What Our Toxic Friendship Taught Me About My Business
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I sent my final apology over text message. I was over it -- over feeling used, manipulated and, mostly, over being so tired. We'd both been wrong, both made mistakes. But it seemed like I was the only one willing to push my pride aside and say those two words so coveted in friendship, "I'm sorry."
Polar silence was my answer.
We've all had them, and most of us have been them. The needy, the mean, the manipulative, the obsessive. Usually we take one of two routes: 1. We cut our losses and move on, never giving the lost friendship another passing glance. 2. We suck it up and stay in favor of being a "good friend."
But, there is a third answer to these blindingly useless and utterly heart-wrenching friendships: growth.
I hated myself for caring. For still feeling some sort of resentment and loss. After months of prayer, thought and self-discovery, I hated that I still felt that the story of our friendship was incomplete.
And then it hit me.
I didn't feel these things because of something left unfinished between us--that was long gone. I felt incomplete because there was still more to learn, more growth to be had.
As a career-driven professional and small business owner, relationships are important to me. The thought of leaving a trail of people behind me is crippling--but losing that "best" friend taught me it is necessary. From the first hint of her possessiveness to the final, dying breath of our friendship, saying goodbye made me a better person.
So, thank you ex-friend. Here is what losing you taught me about myself, my business and, well, life in general.
Obsessing over something lost will cripple your forward trajectory.
For months I struggled with letting go. I chose this, but was I wrong? Did I make a mistake? Maybe it was me who was crazy. Maybe being together 24/7 was healthy, and I was just over analyzing my thoughts and feelings.
But I wasn't wrong. I spent time analyzing what happened with friends, ultimately pushing them away as well. But at the end of the day, the relationship was toxic, and the time I spent dwelling on its passing crippled my opportunity for growth.

So too does dwelling on past failures cripple business growth. The more I dwelt on the loss of this friend, the more I realized the pattern of obsession and backwards motion. In my business, I had experienced the same loss--failure.
I spent days agonizing over one lost client. Why did they hate me? Was I not good enough? Should I quit? Losing that friend, and finding myself, taught me to always look forward. Whether it is a client, project, friend or opportunity. Spending time dwelling on the past only stunts your opportunity for growth.
Possessive people will rob you of your passion.
The biggest reason to walk away from that friendship, and others, was simple: possessiveness. But, it is also true in business.
Have you ever worked with a partner that made every project feel like a game of tug-of-war? Feeling like the victim of possession, and being possessive yourself, will ultimately rob you of your passion. Leaving you tired, agitated and, well, done.
Possessiveness is a leach. Losing my friend taught me to recognize possessive traits early, see the negative traits in myself and consciously choose the distance myself from those who treat "friends" and business partners this way.
Change is inevitable, growth is optional.
I could have walked away from our friendship and never given that friend a second thought. But I didn't, I couldn't. I valued that ex-friend, I valued her heart, her pain--even while our toxic friendship began to shatter. I chose forgiveness, and forgiveness changed me--and then I chose to pursue growth.
In business, and life, change is inevitable. Clients come and go, strategies fail, processes change, but one thing remains the same -- growth is optional. It is easy to allow brokenness and failure to define you. As an entrepreneur, that definition can break your future -- or make your legacy.
By choosing to take each failure as an opportunity to pursue growth, you are building a legacy of balance, integrity and authority.
Above all else, quality over quantity.
What I have realized over the past few years is that quality trumps quantity -- every time.
Looking back, that friendship should have ended long before it did. It was toxic. I felt trapped, I missed spending time with my husband, I felt guilty for saying "no" to dinner plans after seeing her every day for a week. It was not a healthy relationship, and I kept trying to make it work because I was afraid of losing quantity -- regardless of quality.
But now I know better. I would rather have one quality, supportive and encouraging friend (who understands balance) than 100 friends who demand the type of attention I cannot deliver.
In business, this means choosing the quality clients that are a solid fit for me and my specialization, rather than groping at every breathing business I encounter. Those quality clients offer me much more fulfilling business relationships. We work together in harmony, rather than stressfully struggling through project after project.
No matter how you swing it, losing that friend is one of the best things that happened to me. Despite the pain, resentment and change, the growth I experienced was far greater than I could have imagined.
So, thank you ex-friend. You made me a better person, a better business owner and a better friend -- and I hope I did the same for you.
Ashley is the founder of McAlpin Creative, LLC.

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