Do you have “friends” who always seem to make jokes at your expense? Maybe they used to be lighthearted, but lately, they have really started to cut you to the core? What about a family member or even a co-worker who dismisses your ideas and opinions without hearing them through? Or, maybe your partner has been stonewalling you or constantly criticizes you.
It is hard to think that the people in our lives that we really care about could actually be toxic. That word, in itself, just sounds dangerous and scary. And, it should. Toxic people are, in fact, dangerous and scary. They can impact your self-esteem and self-worth, and may even lead you to mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
It is not always easy to just get rid of the toxic people in our lives, especially if you have cared about them or known them for a long time. So, what can you do to handle toxic people without sacrificing your own wellbeing?
1. What Makes You a Victim?
It is important to understand that you should never need to feel as though you are the one to blame for any kind of verbal attack. You should never second-guess your own personality or traits because someone is picking on you.
But, what you can do is have a better understanding of what makes you an easy target. Do you have a need to please people? Are you naturally more insecure than others? It is easy for toxic individuals to pounce on traits like that, instead of encouraging you.
So, recognize the patterns in which toxic individuals are giving you a hard time. If it is something you can change when you are around those people, you might not be such “easy prey” for them in the future.
2. Practice Your Reactions
When someone is saying something demeaning, your reaction is crucial when it comes to whether or not they will continue. If you don’t seem fazed by something said about you, it is almost like giving that toxic individual permission to say something worse in order to get a rise out of you. On the other hand, if you overreact, they might brush you off as being overly-sensitive.
Practice how you might react to something someone says by creating if/then scenarios in your head. Respond to their criticisms with something like, “That’s very hurtful, why would you say that?” It puts them in the ‘hot seat,’ and forces them to acknowledge the fact that they hurt you while having to come up with a good reason for it.
3. Trust Your Natural Instincts
If you have toxic people in your life, and there is something in your gut telling you to cut them loose, sometimes that is the best indicator. That doesn’t mean it is an easy thing to do. But, instincts are often a good judge of character. If your mind and body keep telling you to avoid that person, that just might be your best option.
4. Don’t Normalize It
You might try to go against your instincts by “normalizing” the abusive behavior from a toxic person. That will often make things worse and turn you into more of a victim without even realizing it. Maybe you have brought up the fact that you have been hurt by them in the past and they retaliate, telling you it is not a big deal. So, you start to believe it. Lying, demeaning, name-calling and gaslighting are all forms of emotional abuse. They should never be tolerated or viewed as normal in any type of friendship or relationship. If it feels hurtful to you, that is all that matters. Don’t allow yourself to believe that you are overreacting. Feelings are great indicators of your own personal reality, so don’t make up an alternate reality and pretend everything is okay if it isn’t.
5. Don’t Be Won Over by Lies
Many times, a toxic person in your life will try to “win you back” with kindness. Or, maybe they are even nice to you most of the time, but the moments of meanness overshadow it. It is like catching and releasing the same fish over and over again.
It is up to you to finally swim away and be free. When you care about someone, it is tempting to believe their nice words or the kind actions they might do for you. But, if those are often masked with demeaning language, lies, or making you feel like less of a person, it is just not worth it. It is likely that they are the one with insecurities and they need you to keep coming back for their own wellbeing. You are not responsible for that, if they are not treating you with respect, love, and support.
6. Spend Time With Loyal Friends
One of the easiest ways to recognize the toxic people in your life is to spend more time with good friends and people who make you feel good about yourself. Share more experiences with people who support you and lift you up rather than those who tear you down.
The more you realize that there are people in your life who truly care about you, the easier it often is to stand up to the people who don’t.
It cannot be stressed enough that any kind of emotional abuse should never be tolerated! While it is normal to want to give people you care about multiple chances to “get it right,” there are some people who simply never will. If you have expressed your feelings to someone and they seem to disregard them or don’t change their behaviors, it may be time to either cut that person from your life or limit your time with them for the sake of your own mental and emotional health. You deserve so much better.