Monday, July 23, 2012

Toxic People

How do you handle the toxic people in your life? People who are gossipy, critical, judgmental, narcissistic, deceitful, manipulative, bullies...just to name a few less than attractive traits.


And what about if these people are family members? Do you put up with their behaviour because of their ‘title’? Do you excuse their actions because they’re ‘relatives’? What about if it’s a very close relationship, say, a sibling or parent? Do you feel that their position requires you to tolerate some of their toxic behaviour?


When I was much younger, I was quite often a people pleaser, and had a difficult time saying no. And an even more difficult time establishing clearly defined boundaries. Especially with family members.


As such, it opened the door to toxic people. People who suck the very life out of you. People who leave you emotionally, psychologically and even spiritually injured when you interact with them.


These types of relationships are never healthy. They affect your self esteem and even your sanity at times. And some individuals cause so much stress and emotional imbalance that your physical health may be affected and compromised.


As I got older, I decided that no matter who the person is, and no matter what position they have in my life, I have to do something about them if they are toxic. It took awhile to get there, but sometimes it takes a little time to recognize toxic relationships, or realize the detrimental effect they are having on you.


For me, there are only two ways to deal with a toxic person:

1) Create strong boundaries

2) Cut them out of my life completely.

There is no in between.

Life is too short to waste on toxic individuals. Soulful relationships require time and effort, and I now choose the people I want to spend time with wisely. After all, isn’t it much more appealing to be around people who fuel you rather than drain you?

24 comments:

  1. You're absolutely right, Martha. If you give a toxic person an inch, they'll take a mile. I had to learn that the hard way too.

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    1. Sometimes the hard way is the kick in the butt we need to realize some people are really bad for us -- and our health.

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  2. This is a great post today Martha! It takes an enormous amount of courage and strength to deal with a close family member who is toxic. It is also our parental responsibility to limit the interactions these toxic people have with our children. Having said that, it is also important for our children to learn how to deal with toxic people on their own and they learn this through limited contact and shared experiences with toxic family members. It is very liberating to get to the point of either setting boundaries or else cutting off all communication. You're absolutely right in that toxic people suck the life right out of you. Life is too short and it is important to be surrounded by people who we cherish and who cherish us.

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    1. It truly is liberating to get to a point where you can set strong boundaries, or be able to cut ties without feeling guilty. Toxic people are very detrimental in so many ways, and need to be pushed to the side. I allow my children to find their way in life, to determine on their own which people are toxic, but I do share whatever I've learned along the way so they can grow to believe that the respect they give to others is the same they should demand for themselves.

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  3. Well, this hits very close to home for me, Martha. Sadly, I have more than one family member like this---a brother and a sister---and I've had to cut off contact. I tried for the longest time to have a relationship, but it was impossible to have a healthy relationship. Funny thing is...although in most ways, it was a great relief, I still feel enormously sad about it. It's almost like a death. Cutting ties with them meant I also lost my relationships with their children. That was hard. But sometimes, there just seems to be no other way.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that, Beth. I can imagine how hard that must have been for you. Sadly, there are innocent casualties along the way, and we lose contact with other people we want to have relationships with. But that's the price we pay to maintain peace and quiet in our lives -- and our sanity!

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  4. Unfortunately I know what you mean. And unfortunately because my toxic people are family I've tried to mend fences too many times. It is hard when there are relationships that overlap. I prefer animals I think.

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    1. Francie, it's good that you try to mend fences. That shows that you are willing to work things out. But it has to be a mutual effort, so eventually it can reach a point when you have no choice but to move on.

      Hahahaha...yes, I think I prefer animals, too!

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  5. Very interesting topic Martha. I haven't had a toxic relative, but I had a so called friend that I met a few years ago who was an extreme, what I call a Vampire Extrovert. She sucked the life and energy out of me, and never gave anything in return. After a tragic incident in my life where it was obvious that she could care less about my feelings, I new it was time to drop her and I did (eventually). I haven't run into her in almost a year. It is hard for an introvert to ever drop anyone as a friend but I knew it was for the best. I agree with Francie. The more time I spend with people, the more I like my cats!

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    1. Oh, you are so right! It is difficult for an introvert to drop people, but we do it when we have to. Too bad about your friend. But then how much of a friend could she be if she made you feel that way? You are probably much better off.

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  6. Fantastic post! And I'm digging those photos!
    m.

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    1. Thanks, Mark! You are always welcome to come hang around and listen to my rants. Hahahaha...

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  7. Wonderful post & I so agree Martha - in fact, I've had to cut two very close family members out of my life because of the effects their toxic behaviour had on my physical and mental health. I don't feel bad or apologize for this (other members have also followed suit) as both decisions were a long time coming and way over due. Don't miss them at all - life's too short. The first step is accepting that you can't change another human being - no matter how hard you try - this is one of the most important revelations in life and frees everyone - including the person who's making your life miserable.

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    1. You got it, Jane! You can't change another human being -- and probably shouldn't even try most of the time. Sometimes it's just bad chemistry. We can't get along with everyone, and shouldn't worry when we don't. It's just the way it is. As for physical and mental health being compromised, I have been there, and don't intend to ever be in a situation like that again.

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  8. Thank you for this. I agree with you completely and I like your two point policy. I grew up with toxic parents and you're so right, sometimes it does take awhile to realize that's what they are. I cut my entire family out of my life because they crossed the boundaries I set up. It was super hard but I finally feel like I've grown up into the me I'm meant to be. And the stress...gone:) It's good for others to know they have the power to do so too!

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that about your parents. That is a very hard relationship to come to terms with, and I admire your courage. Some people spend their whole lives living a toxic existence with parents and siblings because they aren't able to free themselves from guilt, etc. I'm glad it worked out for you, and you are much happier.

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  9. Martha, like you I've been plagued with the people pleasing disease. I have had a hard time learning to set boundaries and always worried about hurting people's feelings. But like you said, I ended up drained and hurt. You are right, life is too short to waste with people who are miserable.

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    1. I used to be like that, Ana, and there are times when I still am. But I don't allow myself to feel that way for very long. A relationship is about give and take, respec, trust and honesty, and if only one person honours all that, it's understandable that the other party will eventually become frustrated and take action. It takes time to reach that point, but you free yourself when you do.

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  10. I agree about how "titles" are meaningless when it comes to toxic people. It doesnt' matter if they're your aunt, cousin, sibling or whatever. Toxic is toxic. I'm glad you made your realization and are setting boundaries or dropping the toxic people! The bird pictures were awesome for this post too.. they were so bleakand desolate, like how you feel with a toxic person in your life!

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    1. Yes, toxic is toxic, no matter who the person is. I don't care about someone's title, I care about who they are, and how they treat me. Makes no difference to me who you are as long as there is a mutual respect between us. Thanks for the comment about the images. I was going to upload some fun, colourful pictures, but they didn't seem right for this type of post.

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  11. It took me many years to be able to stand up for myself. Now, at 41 I have no problem. A few years back I was working for an employer that had a very strong personality. (She was a bitch.) I worked for her for 6 months and one day I had enough. She had said one of her many condescending bullying remarks. I left her office, packed up my desk and walked out. Inside I was shaking but my outside showed a strong woman. I was so proud of myself. Ever since then I do not back away from the nasty bullies. It feel so good!
    Now if I could just learn to deal with my brother...

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    1. Birdie, I swear there is something about hitting your 40s that makes us a little more bold. Perhaps it's an age when we feel we've earned the right to stand up and say "Beat it" (not exactly in that polite a tone...haha). Good for you for standing up to a bully of an employer. It's toxic to work for people like that.

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  12. Unfortunately the toxic people in my life can't be cut out. Just have to deal with. But I am not a people pleaser which I think has a lot to do with me being an introvert.

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    1. I've been in a position like that in the past, and divorce fixed it....hahaha... I'm kidding, kind of. But yes, there are times when we can't cut a toxic person out of our lives; that's where strong boundaries come in.

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