Addressing the Toxic People in Your Life

Detoxing people from your life is just as important as ridding your body of the toxins that can take hold of it. Chances are that at some point in your life, you will come in contact with people whose personalities conflict with your own. Defining the difference between conflicting thoughts and unhealthy behaviors can become a fine line. Manipulation can take discrete forms, so trust your gut and read on for tips on identifying and distancing yourself from the toxic people in your life. 

Recognize the Signs

Despite popular belief, toxic relationships can take many more forms than heterosexual romantic relationships. Parental figures, figures of authority, friends, family, and many others can fit within the toxic threshold. Recently, a person I looked up to chose to exit our friendship. After ten years of seeing her as a motherly figure, it wasn’t until she was no longer in my daily life that I saw the negative effects she had in my life. Unfortunately, toxic people don't always choose to exit on their own.

In order to create the healthiest life for yourself, the first step is to recognize the signs of toxicity. Manipulation of your mental, emotional, physical, financial and spiritual wellbeing are all ways toxic relationships can manifest. Control is huge for those who radiate the toxicity you avoid. Control can look differently depending on the situation, but common forms include, the abuse of leverage in a employee-boss or a student-teacher relationship, placing financial holds on bank accounts, controlling what you wear or where you go, or the use of your own spiritual or moral beliefs against you. In many cases, these tactics start small. It is these apparently innocent moves that suck people into their web. White-lies, denying money, or placing an unfair incentive on a task are all warning signs. Early detection of toxicity is important, as the longer you saturate in this behavior, the harder it will be to get out. 

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Reflect on Your Role

Every relationship is somewhat symbiotic-- friends help friends. Ideally, it would be an even trade off of time spent helping, but this isn’t the case. When you love someone, you are willing to take that time. The problem occurs when an individual begins to take advantage of your time. At this point, it is important to reflect on the role you play in the relationship. In an extreme example, I was used as a babysitter for a close friend, but what I was informed of later is that she was using me to help hide her marital affair. My role was a babysitter; however, I became implicated in a devious scheme. Using a preexisting relationship is a very common form of toxicity. Whether it be at home, school, or work, it is easy for people to overstep boundaries, but it becomes an issue when it becomes a recurring theme in a relationship. Establish boundaries with others and yourself. Know what you are willing to tolerate and don’t be flexible. Once you get in the habit of saying “yes” to everything, the word “no” becomes harder.

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Your Exit

The worst thing about toxic relationships is their signature difficulty to leave. While not impossible, those who are toxic in our lives can make it a painful process to move on with life without them. Consistency and adamant holding of your boundaries is of greatest importance. As I mentioned earlier, the sooner you can notice the signs, the easier it will be to leave. Typically in a toxic relationship, guilt and pressure can coerce you to stay-- leaving you feeling life is better off if you become complacent with the relationship. When you notice behavior that is harvesting your love unfairly, confront it! The sooner the situation is addressed the better. If confronting the toxicity seems too much, bring in a third party to stand with you. Everyone will experience an unhealthy relationship at some point in life, so never feel alone. 

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Toxicity can be anywhere. In many cases, it is those we cherish most that can be the worst for us. Manipulation, enabling, isolation, coercion, and incentivizing can each be equally toxic depending on the chemistry of personalities. Minor toxicity happens in our day to day life and goes unnoticed by most. The greatest takeaway I can give you is, know your limits and don’t stray from them. Just as you listen to your body when detox is needed, you should listen to your heart and mind when bad feelings occur about people in your life.