Dealing With Toxic People, If You Must
To Keep Your Health And Your Sanity, Walk AWAY When You Can!
I recently heard the phrase "toxic people" and started thinking about all the times in my life that I've had to deal with these people (which, if we are honest with ourselves, is more often than we'd like to think!)
The best thing that you can do is avoid them. Very simple advice, right? Not so simple to do, though, if you must work with a toxic person, or have one in your family... so, what are the effects of being with these people?
For me, my health suffered. I dealt with several toxic types at work and tried to do it the best that I could. The advice I was given was "leave work at work"... that's so much easier to say than to do though! I found myself being absorbed in deep thought many times, all I could think about were the things these people had DONE to me, and the toxicity that was all around me.
I found I had trouble sleeping, I'd eat more than I wanted to (subconsciously - I wouldn't even think about the VOLUME of food that I was eating), I would just eat it! You might know the feeling, come home from work starving... and start eating whatever "sounds good" at the time. Then a couple hours later, I'd be cooking dinner and thinking "I'm not even hungry." But when the plate was in front of me, I'd eat again!
Not only did weight become an issue, but blood pressure became one, as well as not being able to sleep, and the worst one... acid reflux! Eating too much in the afternoon and too close to bedtime. I used to have to get up out of bed and sit upright in a chair to fall asleep. All this, in spite of the fact that I was on acid controlling medication! I would have to use MORE of a different medication.
Finally, I just needed for this to stop. I wasn't exercising like I should have been (which would have helped with the stress for sure!) And I started to realize how self destructive some of my behaviors had become.
Now, you won't be able to change these people's behavior unless you are a psychologist and can get THEM to change their behavior. All you can do is what is best for YOU. If that means walking away, do it! Even at work, you can try to avoid them unless you need to talk to them about business... then keep it focused on business, do not tell them anything personal. Be cordial, polite... but keep a distance.
We all probably know toxic people, but do you know how to identify them? The warning signs are these:
1. Stopping Your Growth - When you no longer feel that you are enjoying life, that you keep your mind on things these people have said or done to you, and it keeps playing over and over in your head. To the point where it's practically ALL you think about, you fantasize about getting away from these people and are thankful when they aren't there. Then you know you are dealing with someone toxic!
2. There is a HUGE "Balance" issue - You are constantly giving so much more than you receive in the relationship, and no matter WHAT you give or how much, it is never enough, it's never good enough. You are never good enough. The person that makes you feel like this is TOXIC!
3. Lots of emotional manipulating going on! - Someone is trying to "control" you by putting guilt on you, constantly making you feel like you need to change and do things their way or you will never be "good enough" for them. For your own health, mental and physical health - you need to get out of that relationship, or at the very least put distance between you if at all possible, and put a limit on the time spent around that person.
4. You constantly feel anxious - you dread being around that person, you feel anxiety the entire time you are in their presence... you just want to crawl into the woodwork so to speak. You can even have trouble sleeping the night before you are going to see that person, because you know that you will leave feeling miserable and worth less than you are!
5. Constantly being criticized by someone - usually this happens (and I believe that all toxic people share this trait) - when a "toxic" person has little or no self esteem. They feel worthless, a failure in some way - and the way they make themselves feel better is to constantly criticize others.
The biggest thing I have found is you have to have self confidence in yourself and recognize that these people have deep psychological ISSUES that you will not be able to change, no matter how hard you try. For your own health, you need to get away and do your best to focus on things that interest you - try something new.
I know that my biggest mistake was trying to get along with these people, trying to change things that I did to try to "please" them. They say that hindsight is 20/20 - in my case it was! I realized I was jeopardizing my own health to try to fit into a mold that I could not fit into! If they went once a week to a bar to air "grievances" about work and life, I tagged along. To the point where I realized how self destructive these people were being and I stopped going. That's just one example. I saw early on that what they were doing was destructive, so I left. And it took courage to do that!
People often think that by growing up, getting out of the teenage and young adult years, that you will no longer have to deal with "peer pressure"... I can tell you that it's not true! You will have to deal with it all throughout your life, and you need to recognize that and do what is best for you. Even if it means not being part of the "cool kids" group, so to speak!
If the toxic person you have to deal with is a boss... be cordial, businesslike, do NOT become "friends" - keep it all business. Decide that you will not have any relationship with this person outside of work... and keep it that way! If you can, try to "cross train"... try something new at work. Try to get AWAY from the person who is making you miserable. I realize this is not always possible, but sometimes it is. You may have to talk to someone who is "higher up" than your boss is, and you may even find that they LIKE the fact that you want to learn something new at work! An added bonus to getting away from the toxic person! In the end, you will find that it is so worthwhile to do this if you can.
This is what I did - backed away from those that were self destructive constant complainers, "misery loves company" types. And I also had to train to do some other things - this not only helped my sanity, but helped me to deal with others at work as well. Try if you can to draw to yourself to those who will give you a "positive vibe." People that you truly enjoy being around. Life is too short to be caught up in constant drama and misery.
Now I know in my situation, I was able to move and "start over" in another place (geographically), and that is not usually possible for most people! But, the things that I was doing to distance myself from toxicity started when I was still in the toxic situations. I tried to exercise more, distance myself from those who were harmful (toxic) to my health. I started being more aware of how much I was eating and cut back. I also started trying to use the internet to learn new things instead of the way I was using it - constantly going to social networking sites in case someone was "trashing" me. Now I am to the point where I do not even CARE if they are. I know that they are doing it because THEY have the issue, not me. THEY have to do it to "prop" themselves up to make themselves mistakenly believe that they are "better' than others.
Sometimes I have found that social networking sites are just a huge playground for toxicity! I limit my time there now. I am constantly "googling" something new and trying to learn something that I never knew before. And I feel like just over the last three months, I have grown again as a person! I've continued exercising and have lost 12 pounds, I just found out that my blood pressure is the lowest it has been in seven years!
This is a wonderful feeling! I am feeling alive again, engaged in life, and enjoying things much more. I feel now that with age has come wisdom. I know that once I DO find a job here, that I will have to deal with some toxic people again... and I also know that I have done it in the past and I can do it again! The most important thing is recognizing that they ARE toxic. Sometimes that can be the hardest thing to do when you are just getting to know someone. Seek out others who seem to be happy, engaged in life, positive thinkers - like yourself!
Seek out people that make you feel GOOD about the conversation you just had... that give you a good "vibe." If you must deal with toxic people, anticipate that they are toxic, and do whatever you can to set boundaries early on in the relationship. Realize that you are not going to allow them to make you feel like less of a person - that you will walk away if you ever do start feel that way. This alone can make you feel "empowered"... think to yourself, I do NOT have to put up with this, yes, I DO have to work with this person... but I am going to do it in a businesslike way and watch what I say and do around them. Be cordial and polite, but you do not have to be their "best buddy." You have the freedom to do this!
You owe it to yourself to try to make the best out of life, and to stay engaged and keep learning and growing. Life really IS too short to keep toxic people around you. You will find that you become a much healthier and happier person. And you will be a positive influence that other positive people will want to be with! Life will become so much more enjoyable ~ and you deserve that.