Toxic people. We all know them. Whether they’re friends, relatives or co-workers, we have daily run-ins with these individuals who are detrimental to our mental health. You can identify a toxic person by how easily they accept fault for their actions that have hurt you. More often than not, a toxic person will use everything in their arsenal to blame you for their transgressions against you. They wouldn’t have deleted you off Facebook had you not been passive-aggressive. They would have talked to you had you not turned down their party invite.
The biggest lesson I learned about dealing with someone toxic is to realize that they are not in control of their toxicity. They have their own inner demons which perpetuate the cycle of abuse toward you because they don’t have a supportive outlet. Their feelings are suppressed by those around them and as a result, they need to place that anger and resentment at another party: YOU! Talking logically to a toxic person never works because they are incapable of seeing their actions from your viewpoint. Unfortunately, toxic individuals are unable to put this concept into practice. They will never own up to their actions because they don’t see their actions as toxic, hurtful, unsupportive or neglectful. All they see is you — and how infinitely flawed you are. No matter what you do, you will never be successful in teaching them otherwise. But there are some things you can do.
1. Cut them off completely. This is the harshest step but most effective in dealing with a toxic individual who habitually mistreats you. Block their number, delete them off social media and limit the ways in which they can contact you. While this is drastic, sometimes, it’s the only option they left open to you.
2. Scale back the personal information you share with them. Toxic individuals feed off weakness and vulnerability because those are the moments when you’re most likely to give in to what they want. The most effective way to negate this behavior is to keep your personal life at a distance from them. Don’t share your drama on social media or with them via text message. If you’re going through a hard time, pretend everything is fine when they’re around.
3. Delete them off social media or limit what they have access to. Social media is a breeding ground for toxic behavior. We overshare our feelings and unfortunately, these feelings can be misconstrued to a toxic person and they will use your words against you.
4. Politely decline invitations. If you don’t feel comfortable attending their events, then don’t go. It’s that simple. If your partner, parent, sibling or friend has an issue with this, kindly remind them that they don’t have to agree or even understand, but to please respect your decision. You don’t have to surround yourself with people you do not feel safe around, and more importantly, you have a RIGHT to decide who gets your time.
5. Create boundaries. This could be something the toxic person doesn’t even know you’re doing. Let’s say they get angry when you don’t respond to their text message right away. Make a decision to answer them when you want to, not when they are expecting it. Learned behavior is changed behavior.
6. Don’t give in to feeling guilty. If I turn down an invite or take a break from someone I consider I toxic, I still find myself feeling guilty because the invite will usually come right after they’ve done something generous for me. It’s because of their generosity, then I begin to feel vulnerable and agree to attend their party or other gatherings. However, your guilt and vulnerability are what a toxic person is counting on. When you rescue someone else (saying yes to their invite), you victimize yourself in the process. If you’re hanging around the right people, then you should never be living with feelings of guilt for making decisions that are right for you. Guilt is a sign of toxicity.
7. Recognize that you don’t have to get approval from anyone. Here’s the thing, no matter what decision you make, you’re going to piss someone off. So, why not make the decisions that are best for your mental health?
8. Recognize that the whole “you only get one family,” comment is utter bullshit. You do not only get “one family,” because you are in charge of creating your own. Yes, you are given one BIRTH family, but family is not a singular term with one definition. Your family is who you create with your partner and who you decide to include. Plain and simple. No one has a right to mistreat you simply because they’re family. That is such a toxic concept and I hate it.
9. Recognize that their toxic behavior has nothing to do with you. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t. Toxic people will be toxic to you and if you didn’t exist, they’d be toxic to the person standing in your place.
10. Realize that the behavior they hate you for is the same behavior they are incapable of dealing with themselves. You are a mirror of the faults and flaws they carry. Their anger at you is really anger and resentment for their own situation. You are a mirror – and that’s not your fault. Don’t let them make you believe otherwise.
11. Start making decisions that are better for your mental health. Chances are, if you’re dealing with a toxic person, you expend a lot of energy by thinking about them, being angry at them, feeling hurt by them and wondering what you can do to help them understand your side. You’re barking up the wrong tree. There will never be anything you can do to change them and believing you can is, in itself, toxic thinking. Instead, channel your energy into the people and activities that bring you joy. The more positive energy you channel into the things you love, the less time you’ll spend being angry and hurt by those who’ve wronged you. Slowly but surely, their opinion of you won’t carry as much weight.
12. Accept the situation. Sometimes, it’s impossible to fully dispose of a toxic person but that doesn’t mean you have to own their negative perspective on you. Love yourself enough to stand behind the boundaries you create. When it comes to a toxic person, their actions are always going to catch you off guard. But their actions are always going to be selfish, immature and hurtful. When an asshole acts like an asshole, can you really be surprised that they acted like an asshole? Learn to expect the toxic behavior from them and move on. If you practice this enough, they’ll begin to move on to someone else who will feed into their toxic behavior. Because at the end of the day, that’s all they want.