Part 1: All About Toxic People
We’ve all had experiences with toxic people at some point in our lives. They’re people who make us feel bad about ourselves for no good reason, and the relationship is generally a one-sided one.
Before we get into how to deal with toxic people, it’s important to note that it is often the behavior of a person which is toxic, and not the person themselves.
Also, a toxic person can and will change – but as I’ve mentioned before, it is their responsibility to do so – not yours.
Let’s get started. Welcome to –
How to Deal with Toxic People: The Sweet Clean Living Guide
First things first – why is this guide even necessary?
I’m a big believer in personal growth and change – we can always be a better version of ourselves, and a lot (if not all) of that begins with the way you think.
Toxic people, either actively (in the worst cases) or passively try to change the way you think about yourself and bring you down to their, toxic, level. They try to make you as unhappy or paranoid or confused etc as they are themselves – because misery always loves company.
So why might you need this guide? And why am I the person to tell you how to deal with toxic people?
Because I’ve been there and done that a thousand times over, and I learned how to deal with toxic people as a result. Here I am on the other side of the experience –
But you should know – I’ve found myself being irresistible prey to toxic people throughout my life, and it affected me deeply. There were definitely no carefree smiles!
The most recent (and worst) experience of this was with a girl I worked with a few years back. Looking back, I can see that right from the start, she kept trying to make me feel like I was out of my depth in my new job.
She was nasty about all of my friends, or – as I later noticed – anyone who took my attention away from her. There was always drama after drama – even when I had an actual real-life fairly urgent situation, it was still all about her; my feelings (and pretty terrifying situation) didn’t matter one bit.
She made me feel so awful about myself, especially after all the hard work I had done. And it only became worse when I knew I needed to get away from her, because when she realized I was pulling away from her, she started spreading dangerous rumors about me online, and around my office. Fortunately, the rumors were so unrealistic that few, if any, people believed them.
When she saw that I refused to be brought down by her behavior, she tried to trap me in dramatic situations – she told me she was pregnant, then she was sick, then one of her relatives was dying…her lies grew progressively worse each time – and I decided I’d had enough.
Thankfully, I managed to get away from her. However, I made the mistake of thinking she was my actual friend (at least at the beginning), and trying to help her.
And now I want to help you make sure you never fall into the same trap. Here’s how you do it:
What is a toxic person?
By definition, toxic people are people who show at least one (or all) of the following:
- Create drama
- Highly self-centered
- Manipulative or controlling
- Highly needy
- Use people to get what they want
- Can’t stand to see you, or anyone, happy
- Highly self-critical and highly critical of others
- Jealous of others
- Complaining about their bad luck (and other people’s apparent good luck)
- Self-harming and self-destructive
- Unwilling to change or recognize their behavior as toxic
Another way I like to think of it: they are people who try to break you down so you can feel the way they do – it’s not enough for you to share their pain or be empathetic. Toxic people includes anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself on purpose.
Types of toxic people
You can find toxic people anywhere and everywhere – they may be a family member, a so-called friend, a colleague or a romantic partner.
No two toxic people are alike – but all of them can make you feel equally drained, angry and unhappy.
Some of the toxic people in your life may be:
The Victim – These toxic people are all about exaggeration. Each tiny setback is made into a huge, unscalable mountain – which you spend all of your energy helping them through.They choose to suffer, rather than be proactive, and you might start by empathizing with them before you realize that this happens every time.
The Gossip – If you’ve ever been around a gossip, or been the target of one, you’ll recognize this damaging type of behavior. They take pride in other people’s misfortunes – and spreading the news to anyone who will listen to them. The fact that these people need to talk about other people to get attention is a red flag in itself.
The Self-Absorbed – Feel like you’re not being listened to or having a one-sided conversation? It’s probably because you are. With self-absorbed toxic people, your issues, thoughts and feelings just won’t matter – unless they involve them in some way. You are only a soundboard or tool for this person to use.
The Manipulator – They might pretend they’re your friend, but manipulators suck the energy out of you. Their approach is very sneaky – they may learn everything about you, and then learn how to make it work for them. They are takers, with very little giving – because that’s your role of the ‘friendship’.
The Masochist – these people are so negative, that it’s hard to be anything but after you’ve been with them even a short period of time. They can only see the glass as half-empty, and see everything from a negative viewpoint. They can’t stand to see you happy, and want you to feel just like they do – miserable.
Recognizing Toxic People
This is where you come in.
I’m a big believer in surrounding myself only with the people who I’ve chosen to (in most circumstances), who make me feel good about myself, or who enhance my day in some way.
You can recognize toxic people by the way they make you feel:
- They keep you guessing about their mood – yes, we all have mood swings. However, most of us don’t let these affect other people. If your toxic person’s mood changes like the wind, and you have to guess why, it’s toxic behavior. You are not responsible for another person’s feelings – and even if you were, you should discuss it openly and rationally together.
- They project their feelings onto you – if your toxic person is angry, they might ask you why you are angry with them. They refuse to take responsibility for their feelings, instead making your feel as if you have the problem.
- They never apologize – nothing is ever their fault – see ‘The Victim’ above. And, even if it is their fault (and you have witnesses), these toxic people will twist, lie and edit the story, retelling it in such a way that they do not need to apologize.
- They don’t care about your side of the story, or your problems – you’ll spend hours on the phone, chat, in person etc trying to help with their latest drama – but as soon as you try to get support from them, they’re nowhere to be found, and you can’t get in contact with them…until they need you again.
- They’ll bring in irrelevant details to make you feel bad – when you’re discussing something, a current drama perhaps, they’ll suddenly bring up something you said or did from the past, which is absolutely irrelevant, and only brought up to make you feel bad, or confused. You’ll also be stuck on defending yourself, or arguing about that point, rather than discussing the issue at hand.
What is a Toxic Person: A Summary
..these are just a few ways to recognize toxic people around you. The general rule is – if it’s not a two-sided relationship and/or they make you feel bad about yourself – you’re dealing with a toxic person and need to get out.
Let’s put all this into action in Part 2: How To Get Rid of Toxic People!
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Also published on Medium.