Don’t let a toxic person steal your joy. Here are strategies to help you deal with the toxic people in your life instead of getting caught up in their drama.
Dealing with a toxic person in your life can be confusing, frustrating, and disheartening. These relationships can feel unfixable because that other person not only dishes out hurt; they refuse to take any responsibility or honestly discuss the situation. My own frustration has led me to develop these strategies for dealing with toxic people.
For the record, I don’t think that many people are toxic in general. And it’s really not my place to label someone as toxic—it is an ugly word. So, when I say toxic person, I really mean toxic-to-me.
I’ve been trying to write about toxic people for a few weeks now but I couldn’t quite get my finger on what I was trying to say. I’d been dealing with an ex-boyfriend and I was trying to figure out if I should let him remain in my life or not. My sister finally said, “I don’t think he’s toxic but he’s douchey for sure.”
Then I was trying to write about toxic people in our lives that we could walk away from rather than the more difficult subject of toxic people that you can’t walk away from easily such as family or co-workers. Sure you might find the checker at Walmart a little toxic, but you can always choose another line. But when you are related to someone, have a long-term relationship with, or work closely with someone it is not so easy.
However, I finally realized that what I needed to write about and understand was how to deal with toxic people that are firmly planted in the framework of my life.
Here’s what happened. A few weeks ago, my toxic person did something pretty horrible and hurtful and not for the first time. It was one of those punches to the gut that just blindsided me. And while I probably shouldn’t have been surprised—I was. It took a couple of days for me to find my equilibrium.
All of the sudden, I was having toxic-person syndrome. (made up syndrome)
- Having trouble sleeping.
- Having trouble concentrating.
- Having thought patterns that weren’t going anywhere.
Then yesterday it happened. Again. With the same person. And that’s when I realized that I did not want to let that person rob me of my joy again. Or of anything else such as productivity or a good night’s sleep.
Don’t Let a Toxic Person Steal Your Joy
Here are the markers that tell me I’m dealing with a toxic (to me) person.
- They have some kind of power to make me feel like crap.
- I can’t have honest discussions with them.
- I can’t ever get through to them.
- They aren’t willing or able to have any open discussions about the relationship
Of course, there are times you can distance yourself from a toxic person or even not have them in your life. But that’s not always an immediate option, so sometimes you have to take care of yourself AND still deal with a toxic person. That only leaves only one person I can change: Me.
Since I can’t change them and I can’t totally avoid them, I needed strategies to help me keep my equilibrium and my joy. I have to look at me and why I have that kind of reaction to that person or why they might be having one to me.
I wondered about my part in the relationship. Had I been too defensive? Had I said things to offend the other person? Was I not open to having a healthy relationship?
To be honest, I really did think I had been open to having a healthy relationship. I had put my defenses down and I thought it was going well. Until I got sucker-punched. For the umpteenth time. It was time to look at this in a new way.
I always start with my mental attitude. While I may never have the kind of relationship that I’d like with this person, surely it can be better. I made a few mental ground rules.
- Accept the situation right where it is.
- Concentrate on all the relationships that are going well in my life.
- Have the intent to have a healthy relationship.
- Remember that hurt people, hurt people. This person is hurting.
- I will let my feelings of self-worth come from me—not what another person thinks of me.
As much as I can mentally be in a better position about a not-so-great relationship, I also have to remember that I don’t deserve to be hurt. It’s perfectly okay to have healthy boundaries and respect for myself.
With a stronger mental picture of this situation, I believe I will develop better physical tools for dealing with these types of people.
- I can choose whether to have them in my life or not.
- I can address the behavior if possible.
- I can deal with this person in an unemotional way.
- I will not ruminate or obsess about their behavior.
- I will consciously choose my actions and interactions with these people.
As you can tell, I certainly don’t have all the answers for this situation. But I do feel in a much better place about this situation and others that may be similar.
One thing is for sure, I do not want to give a toxic-to-me-person any more power in my life or to rob me of one more minute of joy.
If you are in a situation that is unsafe to you physically or mentally, then you may have to make other decisions. Please take your welfare seriously. Sometimes removing yourself from a situation is the best solution. However, this isn’t always the case and for your own reasons, you may need to keep dealing with a toxic person.
In my case, when the more recent even happened, I did at first feel the hurt from the behavior. However, since I had already been thinking about my mental attitude, I was able to get back to my equilibrium much faster. My attitude is now more curious and open than it was before.
I also realize that I don’t have to fix this for me to feel better. I can feel better just by choosing how I’m going to think and what I’m going to concentrate on. Sure I’d love to have this person’s love and support. But I am not going to let the not having it right now, make my life feel like less.
I can learn from every situation and my final intention on this subject is that I am going to learn and grow from it.
As for the ex-boyfriend. Maybe he’s not a toxic person but he might just not be good for me. And that’s okay too.
Keep showing up my friends!
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.