This is an edited repost from my Archives, with the original able to be found here.
It has become apparent to me over the past few months how important it is to be surrounded by people who truly want the best for you and are in your life to uplift you in the low times, encourage you in the rough times, celebrate with you in the joyful times, and walk beside you at all times. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately as I begin looking at my tentative guest list and start asking my bridal party to stand beside me on my wedding day.
I am a huge proponent for taking care of everyone before myself. It’s an awful habit of mine, caring about everyone’s needs around me before my own. Honestly, if an airplane was going down, you wouldn’t want your child to be sitting next to me — I definitely would be trying to put their face mask on prior to mine. It is just my instinct. Some may say this is an admirable quality. Some may disagree and say it’s a weakness. I say it can be both, depending on the situation.
Unfortunately, though, I also see it as a quality not always shared among my peers. Over the past few months, I’ve become a bit more aware of how others interact with me and those in society. I have always been pretty observant, but perhaps not specifically to how people interact with me.
Recently, my vision has broaded and my observations have been enlightening.
Since becoming more aware of such interactions, I’ve made it my goal to surround myself with more “true” people in my life. More integrity-centered friends, real and honest. I have found Life is much more joyful when I have a handful of trustworthy friends rather than numerous questionable acquaintances.
It was about two months ago when I chose to begin calling out toxic relationships in my life.
Certain behaviors are incompatible with a healthy relationship, be it a friendship or romantic. Relationships that are the most debilitating and unhealthy give you the feeling that you’re not being taken care of emotionally, spiritually, mentally, or physically. At least, not in the ways you should. They may even start to shape you into someone you are not proud to be.
I think we’ve probably all been in those relationships where we just don’t feel like ourselves. It’s almost like your authentic self is withering away while you try to appease the other person with a faux version of you. We give away our power to other people sometimes and becoming someone another person wants us to be rather than the person we are is giving them ALL the power.
The word “toxic” means something drains the life and energy from someone. When you’re in a toxic relationship, you grow weaker and more feeble as you subject yourself to the whim of the person you’ve given your power. That desire to be agreeable is actually suffocating the real you!
All relationships can open our eyes to new perspectives and expand our awareness of society, but some relationships simply shut you in and hinder your development. Certain people are not assets in your life; some are liabilities. Your intuition tells you this, but we don’t always listen, do we? Sometimes the voice inside our head saying change and growth is good can be stifled by self-judgment and fear instilled by those in our lives. It is when you realize this voice is a good thing, however, that you also recognize that you cannot develop healthy relationships before first cutting off these unhealthy ones.
Now there are a few signs to decide whether or not your relationship with another person is toxic. The obvious signs are physical, emotional, or verbal abuse, cheating, lying, and stealing. However, a toxic relationship is any one which causes you to feel isolated, sad, trapped, criticized, or afraid.
Sometimes this means that you feel you can never do anything right. Your friend or partner constantly puts you down as not good enough. This sort of treatment might even lead you to begin acting like the judging person and reacting in ways not true to your character. Or you may simply go into a shell and try to hide the personality traits being mocked and become only part of the person you truly are.
Another sign is when you feel uncomfortable simply being yourself around the other person. You can’t speak your mind, you can’t participate in the things you love, you can’t go to the places you love, you can’t spend time with the friends you once enjoyed, etc. When you have to put on a different face just to be accepted by this person, then something in the relationship is wrong.
Or how about when everything is about the other person, and never about you. Have you ever heard the song “I Wanna Talk About Me” by Toby Keith? Yeah, it’s great to talk about other people and learn what’s going on in their lives, but you have feelings and situations going on in your life as well. Listen to the conversations you have with this other person. If the conversation is completely one-sided — meaning your opinions are not being heard, considered, or respected — then the other person does not care about your side of the relationship. If they don’t inquire about you and your life or take into consideration the points you do make when you have an opportunity to share, then why keep caring about theirs? This behavior just leaves you feeling isolated.
However, the biggest sign to me that you are in the midst of a toxic relationship is when the other person does not want you to be happier than them. Say you begin a new career, enter a new romantic relationship, or have some new Life opportunity open up which any friend and/or partner typically should be beaming with excitement for you. Instead, they become withdrawn. They no longer ask questions or take an interest, they go out of their way to point out the faults in this new opportunity, and they outright become hostile towards you when the situation is brought up. It is almost as if they place their insecurities on your shoulders and what once was a budding friendship or romance is now a twisted jealousy of a relationship.
The reason a toxic relationship is not ideal for anyone is because it does not allow you to grow or change. Is the other person encouraging and supporting your efforts to grow and improve yourself? Evaluate the relationship and be honest — what is the worth of this relationship to you?
Embrace the answers that come from your intuition. Your own conscience is going to want what’s best for you, unlike the friend or partner of your toxic relationship. Don’t sit in an uncomfortable or unsettling relationship until the effects of isolation and sadness push you into depression or bitterness. Take deliberate action according to your gut feeling.
Sometimes this deliberate action may call for a very difficult decision to be made — you may have to cut off the relationship completely. However, in the big picture of Life, people come and go and some relationships have an expiration date. Friendships and romantic partnerships may, though incredibly hard to lose at the time being, be more worthwhile to lose in the long run in order to make way for a much more meaningful relationship instead. Chalk it up to experience, feel the grief of a lost friend or love briefly, and go about bringing more light into your Life than what that toxic relationship was shadowing.
You won’t be sorry.