Releasing toxic people from your life is not for the faint-hearted. This might seem more than a little obvious, but don’t ever underestimate just how hard it is to let go of people who are intent on making you feel bad about yourself. It can leave an emotional scar and endless guilt, no matter what the reason, or how justified you are to have done it.
What makes things worse, and infinitely more tricky, is that they might possibly be family members, close friends or even colleagues you work with every day, but the truth is that some people can only exist if they keep others down. Their own insecurities cause them to be mean spirited and unkind and that’s what I’m talking about here.
Their power comes from taking yours away from you. So don’t give it to them.
So how can we recognise toxicity? Here are just four signs ….
It’s always all about them. Everything revolves around them. Every conversation, every discussion is them talking about themselves. They rarely ever ask questions of you, and if they do, you can visibly see them waiting for you to stop speaking so they can resume talking about themselves. The truth is they don’t care but the sad thing is they don’t even attempt to pretend otherwise.
They never celebrate your achievements, even the small ones, especially the small ones. They’re unable to be happy for you and often appear resentful. They see your successes as reflections of their failures. They’re not interested in speaking of them.
You constantly feel taken advantage of. They use you, no other words for it, and you know it. You’re aware that you serve a purpose for them and that’s as far as their curiosity goes. They will only ever come looking for you, when they need something or when you have something they need.
Despite you stating your needs, they ignore them. They don’t respect your boundaries, ever and appear oblivious to their existence. They really dislike hearing you saying no and won’t change their behaviour no matter how gently or earnestly you ask.
You might then be thinking, as you read this, why on earth would anyone choose to be in the company of someone, like this, who clearly treats you this badly? But the reality is that it happens more often than you might think. It could be a family member, it might be a friend who once was kind, but something changed along the way, or indeed it might be a colleague, who you never got on with, but have to work alongside.
Life is messy. People are peculiar. Things happen in people’s lives that will change them and their relationships, both for good and for bad. Consider that, what attracted you to each other in the first place, can often end up being what divides you. We don’t always get to choose who shares our space but we always have the choice as to whether we tolerate it or not.
When you choose to make changes in your life, those close to you may feel a very strong resistance to it. Expect that. When you declare that you want better from your life, they hear something different. They hear that you are unhappy with the life they are part of. Your movement unsettles them. It holds a mirror up to their lives, their fears and their insecurities.
Not knowing why they’re doing this they will try and talk you out of it. They might not always want you to be unhappy but they definitely don’t want you to be happier without them. They are doing what feels natural and looking after their own best interests. Simply put, you need to do the same.
Some toxic people will go a step further, and they’ll reinforce your own doubts and limiting beliefs. When you start thinking ‘I can’t do this’, they’ll be standing by, ready to confirm that you can’t and pointing at all the reasons you shouldn’t. When you think ‘what’ll it look like to others?’ they’ll plant the seed and talk of “notions and getting above your station”. Toxic people will point to your failures when what you need to hear is encouragement and support.
But, toxic people can only do this if you let them. So don’t let them. Extricate yourself from their company. Find the people who want what’s best for you, who want to see you grow and who will cheer you on from the sides and be there when you cross the line.
We teach others how to treat us. Every act, every word, you present to the world is telling it what you find acceptable and tolerable.
If you can’t fully support yourself; how can you truly expect to be supported by others? Ask “who in my life lifts me up, has my back and celebrates when I sparkle?” These are your people, not the toxic ones. They give you permission to shine. Find them. Keep them. If they’re not making you glow, glow alone!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Empowerment and Transformation Coach and founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme and host of The TOUGH LOVE ENERGY™ Podcast. If you want to discover just what kind of a people pleaser you are, then try Niamh’s quiz here. Find her on Instagram on @1niamhennis.