Toxic. We all know the word and many of us use it to define substances that may harm us if we are exposed. What about the individuals who have a negative impact on others? They are perhaps one of the most toxic substances because they enter into our lives under the guise of friendship.
Do you allow toxic people into your life?
Toxic friends are those who drain you of your energy, are unsupportive and most importantly unequal in the shared friendship energy. As women, we adhere to an unwritten code that tells us we must be loyal to a friend. Through thick and thin, no matter what occurs.
Most women admit that even when a friendship is draining their energy and sabotaging their own integrity and self-esteem, that they should remain loyal to the friendship. We are certainly told in regard to all other relationships to set boundaries, and to not tolerate relationships that are unhealthy. Yet, why do we continue and so often encourage the toxic friend to remain in our life?
Why do we feel this way? We safeguard ourselves from toxic chemicals, toxic food additives and toxic waste. Yet, many of us do not know where to begin to manage and safeguard ourselves from the emotional and often physical stress that results from a relationship with a toxic individual.
When someone shows you who they really, believe them the very first time ~Maya Angelo
The most important (and often most difficult) step to take is to identify a toxic person. People will show you who they really are right away, but often we make the mistake of compensating for the red flags that warn us of their toxic personality by justifying their unacceptable behavior.
The Personality Traits of a Toxic Friend
Self-Involved – The friend who can’t see past their own world. Think of the playgroup mom who never asks you how you are. In fact, after hours of many conversations, you realize you know every detail of every crisis in her life and yet, she doesn’t know a thing about you. Typically, she is a victim of all that happens in her life, and takes no responsibility for her actions, including the fact that you can’t get a word in edgewise.
Demanding – The friend who expects much and gives little to the friendship. You know who I am speaking of. She is the friend who cannot imagine why you would not help her with a task when you have a fever of a 104. She is demanding of your time, your help and your emotional energy. Yet, she often never offers you any support or reciprocated energy.
Needy – Do you have a friend who calls you at all hours of the day to complain and vent about her life to you? She constantly seeks your advice, but never takes action on the things you discuss? She needs constant attention and becomes angry and weepy when you are not immediately available to her. Her demands exhaust you mentally and emotionally.
Unsupportive – The unsupportive friend who will never make rude or demeaning statements directly, but there is always an undertone of hostility. She is the stereotypical passive aggressive personality and any step you take towards success is viewed as a threat. She may say things like, “Yes, you did really well. Thank goodness you had my help.” She may want you to be happy and successful as long as she is more happy or successful. She must win at all costs.
How to Protect Yourself from Toxic People
Do you recognize any of the toxic red flags above in your friendships or people you know? Are you allowing toxic in your life? If so, there are steps you can take to complete a HAZMAT sweep of your world.
Recognize – Watch for the toxic personality red flags outlined above and observe how that behavior is impacting you.
Step Back – As with any toxic chemical, you must first limit your exposure to this person to prevent toxic side effects. Use this time to gain clarity and release yourself from any guilt or fear you may have of hurting the person’s feelings. Engaging with a toxic person adds stress to your life and damages your self-esteem. You must stop giving of your time and self to a person who brings no value to you. It is time to put you first.
Set Boundaries – Now that you have identified the toxic people relationships in your life, it is time to set serious boundaries. If the relationship is casual, changing behavior with boundary setting will be easier then it will be in a long-standing friendship.
Train and Reinforce – It’s important to realize that you are responsible for reinforcing and basically training people to treat you. Use the open-ended sentences below establish boundaries and begin the training process:
Example conversation with the playgroup mom…
When you…talk to me so much during playgroup about your personal issues
I feel…unable to observe and enjoy watching our children play.
If you continue to…discuss such personal issues with me
I will…need to sit at another table.
Be clear and firm about your expectations and then be consistent. If you set the boundary by stating the above to the playgroup mom, and still engage her by listening to her drama, you will teach her that it is okay to dismiss your request.
Letting Go of Toxic Relationships and Replacing with Healthy Ones
Remember, the toxic person is needy and attention seeking. When she shows you who she is, believe her. Set boundaries with the toxic friend in all areas that are affecting your life. For example, where you feel the friendship is lacking and what you need from her if the friendship is going to continue.
I say IF because if after you set boundaries and express what you need from her and her toxic behavior continues, you may need to take a break from the friendship to gain clarity. If nothing seems to change the relationship for the better, as much as it’s a difficult decision, you may need to make that break permanent.
Surround yourself with people who give you that special power that only the healthiest of relationships provide – ones where you feel uplifted, supported, encouraged and the energy is equal. It is time to respect and value yourself by setting boundaries with how you are treated and who you share your valuable time with.
In doing so, you will become more confident in the future and able to easily identify the toxic person when they show you who they are the very first time. You will no longer attract individuals who are toxic at all and you will clear your life of any unhealthy relationships you are currently in leaving more room for healthy people to enter your life.
Remember, when toxic tries to walk right into your world again, say this: “Back off toxic, I embrace my power.”