We work with them and for them. They are in our classes, our clubs, our gymnasiums and our places of worship. We encounter them at the businesses and restaurants we frequent. They can be our friends, our partners, our spouses or even our family members. When we are with them, we can feel the shift in our mind, our body and our temper as we become lesser versions of ourselves under their influence. In some cases, we grow accustomed to this dynamic and this shift in our selves becomes the new “normal.” Our tolerance of these relationships subtly stifles the personal growth that would come from more healthy and inspiring relationships. Left to fester, we feel our own personality change and, sometimes, almost unknowingly begin to adopt their traits.
From the schoolyard bully to the overbearing boss, from the possessive boyfriend to the passive aggressive mommy-friend at the weekly, neighborhood playdate; toxic people exude their toxic energy and taint the vibe wherever they go. Maybe deep down you know it and maybe deeper down you wish they weren’t in your world. They are exhausting to be around because of all the emotional hoops you are jumping through whenever you are around them.
You might have a person or two like this in your life and, if so, you probably already know some of the things that toxic people do.
~ Toxic people are negative to the point of extreme. Their glass is never half full, never even half empty. It’s just empty. Heck, they might not even have a glass. They would have you believe that everything in their life is something to complain about and they always seem to be down or in a bad mood. The moment they are around us we feel their negativity affecting our own good mood. When we try to express something positive to a toxic person, they find the tarnished lining in our silver cloud.
~ Toxic people are victims. Of what? Ask one or just wait and see because in short order you will learn that everything in their lives that they find unsatisfying is the fault or responsibility of someone or something else. Someone has always done them wrong, something unfortunate has always happened to them, life has dealt them a crappy hand and they are compelled to wear these burdens on their sleeves rather than overcome them. Of course, if something terrible is someone else’s fault, you never have to change anything about yourself, right?
~Toxic people don’t—can’t—share the joy of others. When we are the best versions of ourselves, when we feel whole and fulfilled and are living in our own joy, and then good things happen to people in our lives whom we care about, we expand our own sense of happiness by sharing their’s. Think about it… why wouldn’t we want the people in our lives to be happy and successful? It can only mean good things for us! But, to a toxic person, the success of others only exacerbates their own sense of unfulfillment, negativity and disappointment. In their victim mentality, our success is part of the reason they have such a hard time and so they can’t possibly be happy for us.
~Toxic people peddle guilt. “If you really cared about me you’d….” It’s a passive aggressive tactic to try to inflict guilt onto other people and often stems from the toxic person’s own feelings of jealousy, envy and competition. Because they can’t be happy for the success of others, they attempt to make us feel guilty about it. When a toxic person is effective in dumping guilt on us, we end up not doing what we want or being who we want because we have been manipulated to feel guilty about making them feel bad or sad or defeated. The truth is, however, that no one can make another person feel anything. Our emotions are ours.
~Toxic people use sarcasm in place of honesty. So, instead of saying, “I know you’re really busy with your work right now but I miss you and would have liked to have seen you today,” they might say, “It must be nice to be so important and busy that you don’t have time for the rest of us.” Having an open heart and expressing what we feel in a direct and honest way takes courage and requires that we leave ourselves vulnerable. Not all people accept honest emotion well and when we open our hearts we have to be ready for any number of responses, including ones that may be painful. But, honesty and open-heartedness are the building blocks of trusting relationships.
~Toxic people are exhausting. Being with them requires mental and emotional acrobatics and makes us anxious and “on edge.” When we have healthy relationships, we feel inspired, invigorated and energized. Toxic people drain us with their negativity and squash our own sense of inspiration with subversive attempts to bring us down to their level of pessimism.
What to do? No one can ever get in another person’s head or heart. No one can know the truth of another person’s relationship. And, only we can choose the path that’s right for us. Because relationships with toxic people can ease into our lives in a way that can promote a twisted sense of normalcy, one thing we can do is to begin to ask ourselves important questions when we suspect we might be involved with someone who is toxic.
Do I feel inspired and invigorated when I am with this person?
Can I freely share the joys and successes of my life with this person and feel good about these things in my life?
Does this person always make me feel like I have let them down?
Am I the best version of myself when I am with this person?
What would it feel like to not have this person in my life? Would I be relieved?
When we surround our selves with people who are in the neverending process of self-improvement, who are to eager share our joys and successes, who see possibility instead of loss and who inspire, encourage and invigorate our hearts and minds, we surround our selves with people who make us better at being us. When we are better at being us, we can be the kind of people who make others better at being who they are.
Sounds good to me. How about you?
TRY THIS WEEK: Join the non-toxic club.