How to Know When It’s Time to Cut Off Toxic People

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Stop Apologizing" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How much do your friendships affect your life? Can a negative influence or unsupportive person really bring you down?

In her bestselling book Girl, Stop Apologizing, Rachel Hollis says that the people you spend your time with (your community) mold who you are. Hollis talks about the importance of having a community and how to know when it’s time to cut off toxic people.

Here is why your community matters so much.

Choosing Your Community

There’s a popular adage (most often attributed to motivational speaker Jim Rohn) that claims you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. In other words, if your friends are all at the top of their game, you probably will be too. Conversely, if all of your friends are criminals, there’s a good chance you will commit crimes as well.

Hollis subscribes to this belief, detailing how your friendships can pull you up or drag you down. She encourages you to surround yourself with people who support and inspire your personal growth.

Hollis’s advice? Take inventory of your friendships. Are your friends supportive of your personal growth? Do they have goals of their own? Are they open-minded and committed to lifelong learning? If not, they’ll drag you down, and Hollis believes you should limit or eliminate your time with them. She advises you to instead seek out friends who will lift you up and cut off toxic people who bring you down.

Research Shows That You’re the Average of More Than Five People

Research supports Hollis’s belief that your community affects your growth and development—but that community extends well beyond the people closest to you.

Bestselling author and former business professor David Burkus has learned through his research on the science of social networks that we are the average of far more than the five people we spend the most time with. In fact, our likelihood of becoming smokers or overweight is linked not only to who we spend time with, but to the people those people spend time with. 

According to one study cited by Burkus, if the friend of a friend of a friend is a happy person, you are 6% more likely to be happy with your life. Compare this with only being 2% happier with your life if you get a $10,000 raise. 

The message is that you should pay attention not only to your immediate friends, but to all of the social circles you participate in.

Identifying Supportive Friends

In 12 Rules for Life, Jordan B. Peterson teaches you how to identify unsupportive friendships. He advises you to keep your eyes open for the following red flags: The friend puts down your goals, is jealous when you succeed, downplays your achievements, or attempts to one-up you.
How to Know When It’s Time to Cut Off Toxic People

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Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Stop Apologizing summary:

  • Rachel Hollis's lessons she learned while building a multimillion-dollar company
  • Why "having it all" isn't something you should aspire to
  • Why women need to stop trying to fit society's idea of a "good woman"

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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