To survive and thrive humans need other humans. Knowing who can be trusted and relied on is one of the key ingredients of a fulfilling life. Ideally, relatives, colleagues, friends, neighbors, and even strangers at cafes should make us feel safe, happy, cared for, loved, and free to be ourselves. But life has never been famous for fairness and justice. Sometimes even the closest people turn out to be the opposite of what we'd like to expect, slowly and painfully draining our positive energy and diminishing our self-worth.
“The wrong person will give you less than what you’re worth but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept it.” — Sonya Parker
With or without realization manipulative friends or relatives are slowly ruining your life, feeding on your soul a bit at a time until you're fully depleted. The question is - what are you going to do about it? Is their well being more important than yours? And why should you be an emotional slave to anyone?
The most important thing is to notice toxic people around you as soon as possible and make sure that they know that you won't go into the black abyss with them. These seven warning signs will help you figure out whether you're in a company of a toxic person:
1 - You can’t trust them
You've heard so many false stories about yourself that you've forgotten the count. They use you as their "cover-up" person and you always have to clean up their mess. They'd tell you any story to get you to do things for them, they will claim the rewards, and leave you with the problems. There's constant drama and they always have an almost perfect story to explain why things happened the way they did. They also have little regard for boundaries - manipulators are relentless in the pursuit of their goals, regardless of who they can harm along the way. Think twice before you become the one who is hurting.
2 - They make you feel confined
They will turn around your positive news and find a negative side even if it doesn't make sense. Your success makes them upset and they always find a way to ruin it for you. Someone with a toxic attitude would do everything they can to make you feel bad about your existence. They will hold you from trying something new and achieving your goals because your success is their misery.
3 - They blame you for everything
They hardly ever support or congratulate you, but it's always your fault if anything bad has happened to you, them, or anyone else. To be more clear: it's your fault if they got into a car accident because you called them at the wrong time, like after the accident. Do you see?
Instead of analyzing their own actions, toxic people love assessing and commenting on the behavior of others. In reality, they are acting out of fear of change, anxiety, or feeling threatened by your accomplishments.
4 - They diminish your self-worth
They know your weak spots and like to keep them bleeding. "You still...", "you never...", "this doesn't look good on you", "you don't deserve a pay rise", "this was a pure coincidence" - it's difficult to fight back against such manipulation. These individuals have a habit of pointing to the one time you didn't do anything or the one time you did something. They judge your actions as proof of your most likely nonexistent flaws.
5 - You get bad vibes around them
Are you looking forward to seeing or talking to this person? Or quite the opposite - even an idea of meeting feels like a heavy burden on your shoulders? Because you know it will be all about them, they will criticize you and everybody else, they will complain a lot, and eventually, they will ask you to do something for them. This type of person is also called an energy vampire - they take advantage of your ability to listen and care for them, exhausting and overwhelming you.
6 - Everything is about them all the time
They always steal your thunder. Some people are so desperate for a spotlight that they will burn you to death just to get more light. They will talk about themselves only, will never ask questions, and end your stories with stories about themselves. In the long run, you just give them the stage and stand by quietly.
7 - They only show up when they need something
Everyone has a "mate" who only contacts them when they need something, but never shows up when you need them.
Do you recognize any of these signs? If yes then it's time to quit rationalizations and justifications. Stop blaming yourself for their behavior and justifying their actions. You're not guilty you weren‘t good enough because you will never be good enough. A toxic individual is unlikely to change their perception of you or their behavior towards you. In fact, they are unlikely to believe that they need to change. Continuing this relationship will just lead to the same trends repeating themselves and your self-worth diminishing.
The last bit of this painful topic is how to get back in control of your mental wellbeing and your life. In some cases, it can be easier, in others - very difficult. Depends on how close you are to this person. Nonetheless, taking action is inevitable because this is a game you'll never win.
We're aiming for either of the two solutions: the best option is to cut this person out completely. Yet in some cases, it can't be done if it's your child, sibling, or parent. So the second-best option is minimizing the interactions and cutting them out for a certain period until they are ready to have a healthy relationship.
Here are seven ways to help you through this process:
1 - Make a decision
Are you going to let this person continue manipulating you, using you, and negatively impacting your life? Make a decision that some form of distancing or complete cut-off is happening and it's the best for both of you. It might hurt in the short term but will definitely open new doors in your life in the long run. Promise yourself and potentially somebody else that this time you will go through with the plan. Nothing will work if you're unsure and don't show your determination. So are you ready? For real? Do you want to own your life?
2 - Learn to say "NO"
The word "NO" is both a full sentence and one of the most powerful words. You don't have to validate, clarify, or make excuses. The guardian at your front gate is "NO" which ensures that pollution from toxic people doesn't reach you.
3 - Understand why they‘re seeing what they see in you
Toxic people see in others what they don't want to see of themselves. It's known as projection. They will turn themselves inside out to persuade you that you are fake, unjust, negative, or a slob, even though you are the nicest, most caring, and highest performing person on the planet. Take a look at it for what it is. Even if they never admit it, you know the truth.
4 - Draw your boundaries
Negative people will demolish and bury your barrier before you even realize it was there. You can determine how much you're willing to let someone encroach on your limits by establishing boundaries and sticking to them - "I need to hang up now", "I have to go", "You're getting upset and I won't tolerate that", "I won't accept you shouting at me/lying/making me feel bad, it's time to say goodbye". Be strict, remember you've made up your mind and you need to care for yourself.
5 - Don't get into discussions or fights
That's just their way to manipulate you. Be firm. Direct. Remember, you made a decision and you no longer care what this person thinks or feels about you, so there is no reason to get into a conversation or worse - arguments with them. Use phrases like: "We went off-topic and I don't intend to argue with you," "I see this is going nowhere, we will end this here then." Aggression, anger, and even tears are common reactions, try not to react back.
6 - Fill your time with pleasant people or activities
Start new hobbies or rediscover old ones. Fill the time you used to spend together with pleasant activities and people. Reconnect with your old friends or meet new people via new activities. You will surely get blamed for this a lot, so remember not to respond to accusations, critique, blames, and the rest. The idea is that you need to re-discover your self-worth through things that make you happy, people that appreciate you, and activities that will prove you're a very capable person.
7 - You don‘t need their approval
Offer what you think is right, but don't go beyond that in the hopes of receiving anything in return. There will never be more than a bare minimum, and even that will be subject to restrictions. Whatever you do, make sure you understand why you're doing it and that the reasons are sufficient.
Knowing what to expect from people helps to adapt your own behavior accordingly and avoid challenges related to trusting an untrustworthy person. By identifying the signs of toxic behavior and dealing with it intentionally you will reduce their effect on your wellbeing. What's more, this practice will boost your self-worth and encourage you to stay whole and motivated.
The truth hurts, but being in an unhealthy relationship hurts more! Don‘t be tied to your past, free yourself because when one door closes, the other opens.
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We practice distancing or disconnecting from toxic people in the Self Mentoring Guide along with other topics like embracing failure, taking responsibility, making better choices, embracing change, trusting your instincts, working on the trustworthiness of yourself and others along with many more topics. Check it out.
Your choice today define your tomorrow.