Spring Cleaning: DAY FIVE
Photos: This Brit and Pixels
There is an old myth that frogs will pull down other frogs in order to escape a pot of boiling water. This is likely the stuff of folk law, but is there any truth to it? Maybe not in frogs, but in every human’s life, there will be individuals who sabotage, threaten and resist the opportunities for self improvement.
In other terms, these individuals are also known as the toxic friend. These people might be jealous, feel as though they will be left behind, believe your improvements highlights their weaknesses or maybe they’re just awful people. For whatever reason, a toxic friend will consciously and subconsciously find ways to sabotage, manipulate and generally ruin your growth, well-being and happiness. So identifying these people is crucial to removing barriers to your ultimate success.
So let’s discuss what toxicity is, how to identify it, and how to make the difficult decision to remove the toxicity from your life in order to “spring clean” your social calendar and give you the space to surround yourself with supportive, caring and driven people who will continuously push you to be a better version of yourself.
What is a Toxic Friend?
Toxicity is overused continuously to describe difficult, annoying, or demanding people. Although these people may be unpleasant, these are not toxic people… simply people with undesirable characteristics. Although distancing yourself from these types of people is definitely advisable, there is not the impending sense of urgency to immediately remove them from your life.
Toxicity ultimately resides on a scale, whilst an old friend who requests your attention continuously may reside at the lower end of the spectrum, your boyfriend who demands to know your whereabouts at all times, reads your texts messages to other people and controls who you can and can’t speak to lands them towards the top end of the spectrum.
When identifying toxic people, there is not a set guideline as every person is different and can tolerate different types of people. Ultimately it’s up to you where you draw the line between distancing yourself from someone and cutting them out completely. Just be aware that some people may be easier than others to cut out. For example cutting out family can be extremely difficult.
A few classic signs of toxic people are:
1. Control – whether that’s controlling who you can speak to, what hobbies and career path you want to pursue, or manipulating you into feeling bad about doing or feeling something. These people are usually not in control of their own lives, and therefore project these feelings onto you either explicitly or subtly.
2. Disregarding Boundaries – if you are consistently feeling as if someone is overstepping their boundaries, and you are continually asking someone to stop acting in a certain way or feel as if your space and time have been invaded, then this person is more than likely a toxic person.
3. Takers – there are three types of people in the world: givers, takers and balanced. Givers and the balanced are two types of people who are easy to build solid, healthy and functioning relationships with. However takers will continually exploit you without remorse and without regret as long as you are willing to offer, this is not a healthy relationship.
4. Being Right. For the majority of people, admitting your mistakes is difficult, but it is necessary when building relationships built on trust, kindness and humility. Toxic people tend to manipulate situations in order to prove themselves correct, even when they are not.
5. Dishonesty or the Reverse. I don’t mean natural exaggeration, face-saving or white lies, these are natural human behaviours. When I say dishonesty, I mean compulsive, blatant, harmful lies. But there is also a harsh reverse to this, toxic people can also demand the absolute and exact truth from you. Everyone remembers things differently, and sometimes even a person can remember an event several different ways depending on their mood and their current circumstances. Punishing someone for a change in the way they remember something is also the sign of a toxic person.
6. The Victims. Toxic people love to play the victim and make a point out of how the situation has negatively impacted them.
7. Lack of Responsibility. A victim mentality usually stems from an inability to take responsibility for your actions. When the world is perpetually against them, their choices and actions can’t possibly be responsible for the quality of their life — it’s “just the way things are.”
Do any of these characteristics sound familiar? Although toxic behaviours may not be explicitly obvious immediately, it can be quickly uncovered once we stop to consider how a difficult person’s actions and behaviours are affecting us. Everyone has different tolerances for toxicity, however some of the time this is due to a lack of awareness of the symptoms first.
Removing Toxicity: Why?
It’s rare to meet people on the very extreme ends of the toxicity spectrum, and therefore it is unlikely that the toxic people in your life are not trying to actively sabotage every single step you take to self improvement. They will however slow it down. So ask yourself the question, do you really want someone in your life who doesn’t want you to reach your full potential? Do you want someone to hold you back for fear of making them look unequal to you? The answer is most definitely no, but when you start attaching these questions to a person, someone you likely have an emotional attachment to, that’s when your answer may waiver.
Toxicity has a way of getting under your skin, and if a toxic person plants a seed of doubt in your mind, it can be very difficult to overcome those fears. Did you make the right decision? Is this what you really want? Is “insert toxic person’s name” right? This can affect your mood and your emotions so negatively that you may even begin to display some of those toxic behaviours yourself.
The pattern usually happens without us even realising it. The chain of events can be subconscious and quickly spiral out of control. An example of this is if you have a toxic boss: their behaviour makes you irritable and stressed > you lose your temper with your colleagues > causing your colleagues to become difficult with one another > which causes them to bring that attitude home to their friends and family.
That’s how toxicity works. It’s contagious and poisonous. It can even affect kind, well-adjusted people. That’s what makes it so dangerous, and that’s why removing toxic people from your life is so critical.
Cutting the Ties
Removing toxicity can be extremely painful. Toxic people are like splinters, they get under your skin and cause a lot of damage, and it is important to remove them as quickly as possible. But once you do, this can leave the wound open to infection, and sometimes, no matter how careful you are, this can be unavoidable. That being said, you don’t leave the splinter under your skin, you remove it, and this is the same for toxic people. It’s important to remove them in a healthy and rational way in order to limit the damage.
1. It’s a process. Cutting people out of your life may not be as easy as blocking them on social media, deleting their number and never seeing them again. Some people may be intertwined tightly with your life, and instead of cutting off your arm to cut them out, it may take time to untangle them and distance them from you before you can let them go completely.
2. Try not to argue. Arguing will make the situation worse, remember you don’t owe them anything, including an explanation. It’s sometimes okay to just walk away, or slowly withdraw and create distance.
3.Optional: The Explanation. If you do decide to offer an explanation, think about going to a public place to defuse the situation or write a letter to them. If I’m ever feeling as if I can’t verbally express myself I always write letters to someone and it’s a great way to have difficult conversations.
4. Changing the dynamic. Not everyone with negative personality traits are a toxic person, and sometimes creating space may help the situation instead of removing them completely. It may also give someone a chance to change their behaviour. As we stated before, toxic friends can make you a toxic person and that may be exactly what happened to your friend, a little space can help clean out that toxicity.
5. Remain Calm and Rational. When it comes to family, it’s important to remain calm, tread carefully and try to remain rational. Although every family is different, it may be worth considering creating an amount of distance between yourself and those toxic family members rather than cutting them out completely. There a several types of distance that you can choose to create, whether emotional or physical.
You might distance yourself emotionally, while still recognising that you’ll have to interact with this person on a practical level (by seeing them at family dinners, say, or taking care of a parent together). Indeed, your distancing with a family member might require you to disentangle your practical involvement from your emotional involvement — you’ll still agree to engage with this person when necessary, but you’ll refuse to let them drag you into the emotional pattern of toxicity.
Relatives don’t own you simply by virtue of being blood. Being family doesn’t confer any special exceptions to toxicity. Relatives don’t have a magical license to screw up your life. Remember that.
Spring is the time when your social calendar begins to fill at a steadying increasingly rate, and it’s important to be aware of who you are filling your time with. Cutting people out is one of the hardest parts of creating a sustainable, successful, and healthy life.
Most importantly, cutting toxic people out sends a key message to yourself. You’re saying: “I have value.” You’re prioritising your happiness. Once you recognise how toxic people can erode this basic sense of self-worth, it becomes harder and harder to allow them in your life.
Inspiration for post: The Art of Charm