Toxic People: What To Do

Everyday we interact with different types of people. Many of these people will be very different than you in personality, likes, values, etc. All of it is natural except when you are faced with people who are not just different but who like to bring you down, cause difficulties in your life, extra non-needed drama; in general toxic.

Let’s clarify something, when using the word drama I am not talking abut real challenges.  In this day and age you will encounter people who like to use the phrases “no drama please” “no baggage” —I find that term used too often, too loosely.  Every one of us comes with some type of drama or baggage (as a result of having dealt with either traumatic events or simply being human).  Short of being an amoeba you cannot go through life without encountering and dealing with challenges which shaped you. That is natural, real, and overall healthy for the development of the human mind and soul.

People who like to avoid anything “hard”, “horrific”, “upsetting”, “difficult” and who only like to focus on shallow superficial aspects of self, are actually in self denial.  They usually tend to shy away from self growth and most of the time turn out to be the most dramatic.  So let’s be clear when using the term drama I mean not the normal challenges or difficulties which we all face but the people who like to complicate their lives and the lives of others.  They like to be the center of attention by always causing trouble, either directly or indirectly.  They like to be participant of malicious gossip which only ends up wounding others or in which they are always the innocent party to some malicious attack or event; those are the type of people I am referring to when I use the term drama in this article.

We all encounter mildly toxic people; at times we ourselves can behave towards others or towards our own self as mildly toxic, but what happens when you encounter very toxic people who are abusive mentally or physically?…

It matters not what stance of life you are living in, how successful you are, or how positive you try to remain, if at the end of the day you are living in a toxic environment which is detrimental to your health or you put yourself in toxic situations.  Such situations can really damage your psyche and rob you of your potential because they are constantly bringing you down and taking so much of your energy away.

If you are already working hard on your self growth and goals, then there is no reason why you should allow toxic people to divert your focus. Life is way too short to do that. We all need to concentrate in bringing and maintaining people in our life who are supportive, positive in a realistic way, who can tell us the hard things when we need to hear them, and who encourage us to achieve our goals and to develop as human beings. We don’t need those who will mock us or put us down whether directly or indirectly.

Focus on those who are with you, whom you can share ideas and different points of view without judgement and without fear of being excluded simply because you have a different opinion.  Don’t focus on those who cannot tolerate another’s point of view without feeling like you are somehow attacking them. Don’t focus on those who only talk to you when its convenient for them but otherwise ignore you; those people expect to be respected when they show no respect.

Many times people are not willing to get rid of the toxic people in their lives because they are so fixated on their social circle or social approval, this creates a spiral of negativity which ends up bringing you down. You cannot grow as a person if you keep surrounding your self with either toxic people or shallow people. Jim Rome; perhaps the most respected voice in the world of broadcasting; said something very true and very deep in meaning…” You are the average of the top 5 associates that you spend your time with”.  This means that if you could make a list of the top 5 people you spend the most time with, you would notice how those people rub off on you subconsciously you become more like those people. Isn’t it worth then to make sure those people are of substance vs toxicity or empty shallowness?… The point he made was very crucial; take the time to actually write down the names of the 5 people you associate with the most, it will reveal a lot about you. When doing this exercise be honest; don’t be tempted to only write superficial stuff.

In reality we do know a lot about the people we hang out with but sometimes choose to ignore things. When doing this exercise please do not ignore, rather be truthful so you may get an accurate picture of who you are and where your self development is at.

I have just talked about toxic people in a very abstract way, let’s get into it a bit deeper…

Look at people in different areas of your life, your coworkers, your boss, your clients, your friends, your intimate relationship, your family (not just nuclear family but also your extended family)….

Your family is perhaps the most difficult to deal with because of all the intricate relationships you may hold with them. These are people whom you may have spent a lot of time with, because of this it becomes the hardest ones to deal with.
Now look at those people and focus for a moment on those who have the most limiting beliefs. Those are the ones that like to tell you what you are doing won’t work and will list a whole bunch of negative/pessimistic reasons why you should stop. Then there are the ones that like to be victims, these are the ones when you talk to them they are always blaming someone else for everything that happens to them. They can never take their part of the responsibility but rather like to always portrait themselves as naïve and defenseless yet they do not hesitate for a second to blame someone else for the chaos in their life.  Next focus on really dogmatic people, these are people who do not understand the concept of open mindedness, they are very set in their ways, be it religious, political or morals views in life. They don’t just counsel but rather want to make you fit in their version of how YOUR life should be, and if you don’t, they take it personally and act offended; they are really close minded people.

Next look at those who are very angry people. We all have some degree of anger inside of us but here I am referring about those who are very consumed by it, those that any little thing sets them off tremendously which can develop into full on acts of violence. They can directly  or indirectly hurt you, for example: drive by your house while yelling insults or try to harass you in your inner circles (I personally had this happen to me yet when they are surrounded by others, they act as if they did nothing).

Next comes those with addictions, if they are not trying to help themselves and take their issues seriously, they can actually hurt and halt your personal development.

Finally criminal activity, this is a really dangerous one because once you are sucked into it, it can be very difficult and dangerous to leave.

So what to do you do?  Growing up I was taught to see toxic relationships as a cancer or tumor. What do you do if you have a tumor? you can’t keep on letting it grow, you got to do whatever you need to in order to remove it before it spreads. It really is a good example because your mind truly is like a sponge. When your mind is constantly exposed to negativity, to toxicity, to people trying to make you responsible for their lives, then all those thoughts really start to metastasized and grow just like a tumor. Ask yourself this question: What is best, to continue surrounding yourself with people who hurt you or to draw a line and focus on you and on those who actually support you?…

You may feel you have to narrow your social circle but it is better to have few very intimate friends than to be surrounded by toxic people or people who don’t even know the real you. I know a lot of people but I am extremely picky as to whom I let close. Not a lot of people can say they are my friends. These doesn’t mean the majority of people are bad, simply I like to be very selective with my inner circle. I don’t just brush off people either, I tend to give them opportunities to get to know me and I them; past the superficial, if it doesn’t work,  then I just move on.

You have to be very clear about the most important rule, anyone can be cutIt does not matter who, if that person is hurting you, using you, victimizing you, then that person can get cut. It can be your boss, your coworkers, your clients, your friends and even family. Again the latter is the one most people have trouble dealing with. We tend to fear how the rest of the family will react but reality is those family members who love you will not want you or expect you to stand by and idly watch as other members of the family hurt you, victimize you or simply defame you, by either full on lies or half ass versions of truths.

You have to have boundaries and real principles. Obviously you are not going to cut a person out of your life for any stupid reason; that would mean you are the one who needs to look at your life more closely; I am talking about serious situations.  The closer people are to you the more leeway you can give them but if they keep mistreating you or using you whenever is convenient for them, then that person can be cut.  It doesn’t matter who it is, your mother, your father, your extended family, even your own children.  It sounds hard but reality is, it is best. You have to have boundaries and self respect.  Understand that to continue allowing others to disrespect you time and time again only enables and hinders the growth of the person who is hurting you and more importantly your own growth.

Subconsciously people will test you and see what they can get away with; if they are hurting you and you keep allowing it, then it just keeps on getting worst; specially toxic people because they are not very self developed people.  They don’t operate from a high conscious mind set rather from a victimized or bully mindset. They ran their lives hurting others and go around believing they don’t need to apologize for any hurt they cause. If you call them on it, the tears and victimized mentality turns on or what I call the ignorant bimbo effect; acting as if they are clueless as to why you would be upset with them, anything to prevent taking responsibility for their part on any serious situation. Those type of people tend to demand more but give less.

You really have to develop the mentality that anyone who hinders your self growth can be cut, even a child of yours. At some point if that child of yours starts to behave in ridiculous ways, doing and saying totally the wrong things; after a certain while you have to set some boundaries and if they keep choosing to break them or expect respect when they don’t give any, then that person can be cut.

When cutting someone you need to do it gently. You don’t just cut someone out of the blue; ground rules have to be laid.  Never cut someone out in a moment of anger, you need to do it when you are calm. When you are calm you can assess the situation and determine if that person has indeed violated your boundaries time and time again; if they have, then you are right to cut that person out of your life.

Learning to be a responsible adult means owning up to whatever you are responsible for. It means learning to be humble enough to apologize and not to simply expect an apology but act as if others don’t deserve one; specially when it comes to family.  Just because someone is your family doesn’t mean that person has the right to mistreat you or to expect an apology but be unwilling to take responsability for their part.

Learning to stand your ground is hard; I am not telling you something I read in a book.  I lived what it is to cut and be cut out of someone’s life. At one point growing up, I was making some very stupid choices, being a teenager/young adult, I felt all things which had happened to me gave me a reason to behave the way I did. I felt because others had hurt me I had the right to continue acting stupid. I am very grateful for having those in my family with enough balls and education to know that no matter what had happened my response was stupid and ultimately detrimental to myself. They knew that to keep feeding my wounds would only turn me into a victim; one who would never overcome whatever wounds others inflicted and those I brought upon myself.  At its time being a teenager/young adult and lacking maturity I felt their actions were cruel and uncalled for.  After the “healthy adults” in my family cut me off, life kicked me so hard that I learned many lessons.  I learned those who were hard on me by not letting me become a victim only did so because they truly loved me.  They weren’t asking to simply “get over it”, they were asking me to stop hurting myself by making dumb choices born out of anger and hurt.

It is easy to love when you don’t have to be the bad guy, it is hard when you have to stand your ground and risk the chance that life may take many years to teach the person you are concerned about the lessons you hope for them to learn.  Those lessons are.. life will have hurtful moments; life isn’t the one who hurt you,  people do but if you keep using that as an excuse to go hurting others and yourself then you will either end up being just like those who hurt you, or worst, someone who thinks the world owes them and  therefore thinks they have the right to hurt others.  They become so mentally immature as to impose hurt yet expect people to kneel and pay their dues when they themselves are behaving no differently than those who hurt them; at times even worst than the ones hurt them.

Later on as a mother I learned to apply such revealing lesson with one of my own children. Life was not optimal for her growing up, however in the great scheme of things it was nowhere near catastrophic; however she was growing up believing the world had done her wrong so she could just avoid taking responsibility for her actions and use her wounds to blame and act in ways that were hurtful to others and ultimately would be hurtful to her own self development. As a parent I tried everything that I could at the time. I took her to so psychologists, I talked, argued, fought, pleaded with her but no matter what, she was determined the world owed her and she was the victim. I made then a very difficult decision; one which at its time ripped my heart; I cut her off. Thankfully my family had enough life experience and foresight to understand, support and guide my decision. Not all my family but those that mattered, those whose lives I had looked up to.  They listened to her but did not give her a way out, they did not give in to her tears or her stories.  They listened when we both were present; other times they would listen to her and then go over it with me to make sure they were being impartial and getting the story accurate. They did not give her a place to play victim; they did so because they loved her and wanted her to face the fact that life will kick your ass, life won’t always be perfect, your parents won’t always be the type of parents you feel you deserve, but none of it is an excuse to be blatantly disrespectful or mean spirited.

I am not going lie, it takes nerves of steel to watch your child blame you, try to hurt you, act in unkind ways and yet expect others to be nice. It takes nerves of steel to stand by and watch those who in their ignorance will not be impartial and without the full story like to meddle.  Through it all I kept reminding myself wise words from very wise people. “Do you want to be loved and praised as a parent by others even to the detriment of your own child or do you want to truly love your child and do the hard parts? Do you love your child enough to do the things that are necessary for her to be a healthy adult or are your needs for acceptance, self validation and praise more important?”…  The answer then became crystal clearI didn’t just cut my kid out of my life because she was too difficult, I had tried in every way humanly possible as a parent other than enabling her on attitudes that were detrimental for her self development.  Thankfully after a short while she learned quite a bit.  I am extremely happy with the results; my child is not perfect but she has and is learning a lot.  She learned life hurts and even those whom you trust the most can let you down;sometimes without meaning to; but it does not mean she has the right to ran around hurting others and blaming everybody else for every hurt she ever experienced. She learned to put things in the proper context and learned to face life rather than hide from it.

When I divorced I had to force myself to be cautious, maintaining a line between compassion for my children’s feelings but also to make sure I was not enabling any of them to use what happened as a crutch for their lives.  They know life didn’t turn out the way they expected it; their parents changed, life happened. No matter what, they are growing up knowing that all of it is part of life.   They learned that it is erroneous to believe one has trust in life, the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, yet become malicious and mean spirited because of how life unfolded.   I am very blessed and thankful to see that through it all my girls have learned that life is unpredictable.  They would not expect their father or I to be together but unhappy. It was hard to be compassionate and to draw a line; it still is.

Many times those who don’t know me may think at times I’m too hard on them but those who do know me, know I love them dearly, and can see that they know it.  They know I will stand by them openly yet I will not enable them to hide from life nor will I support them on things which are detrimental to them; I rather be the parent they don’t like than the parent they like but hinders their psychological growth.  If I chose to over shelter them, to play a role of first friend over parent, what would happen when life throws them another curve ball or when things don’t go their way? those are the things that need to be considered.

So you see what I write is not just advise from someone who would not be willing to walk the talk. I lived it, I am living it; I am not just trying to sit on some fictional throne, thinking am better than everyone else. I write from my experiences and I have made more mistakes than most people.  If what I say appeals to those who read it great, if not that is okay too. After all that is what open mindedness is supposed to be about.

I was asked if I would I do things the same way? the answer would be a resounding yes, because I am seeing the results. My kids are far from perfect, they still struggle with many things as do we all. At times we drive each other crazy but we express our emotions openly.  They know I am aware that just because I’m the parent doesn’t mean I know everything or that I don’t make mistakes.  I am conscious enough of my own mistakes and have the humility to apologize for them while also having the strength not to enable them; letting them think they can just behave in erroneous ways and walk through life without making amends.  For the most part I am please at how they are turning out to be; truly compassionate…they don’t go around showing emotion to everyone but they feel deeply and would be there for those who need them anytime.  No matter what they treat everyone with politeness but also stand up for themselves respectfully. So yes, if I had to, I would do it all over again.

To summarize, be gentle with people, be open to them, give them opportunities and have faith in them.  Treat people the way you would like to be treated, respect the way they live their lives.  Learn that you can give advise but it does not mean others have to take it. With that said, respect starts with self!… If others want to hurt you, disrespect you, manipulate you go or hope you go around apologizing all the time; if think that you need to do or live your life the way they feel you should, then you need to pick yourself first.

Ultimately remember the road less travelled is the one which holds the most benefits. It is not an easy one; I am not talking dogmatic beliefs here; I am talking fundamental truths for self development. Lastly remember you cannot force anyone to grow faster than they want to in this lesson called life; it also means you don’t have to be part of the rollercoaster if it detriments who you are, your peace of mind, your health, your spirit and more importantly your personal growth!


By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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