Autobiography of an Introvert

Toxic People and Why We Allow Them Poison Us

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We all know someone toxic; someone that poisons our otherwise happy existence with their negativity, selfishness, and their simple ignorance regarding how their behaviors affect those around them.  The wisest way to handle such a person is to just walk away. Cut that negativity from your life and you remove the poison.  But I struggle to walk away.  I don’t like to give up on people, so I make it my personal mission to change them.  I want to save them; to show them the errors of their ways.  There is a crippling flaw in this plan, though:  You cannot fix someone that does not know or refuse to accept that they are broken. 

The Fatal Flaw – It’s not your job to “fix” everyone

I am a bleeding heart; I tend to be deeply sensitive, deeply flawed, and overly empathetic, so when I encounter toxic people in my life, I allow them to seep into my being, tainting everything I do and increasing my anxiety.  The worst part is that I tend to keep going back, heart in my hands, offering them my very soul to stomp on.  In my head, I believe that eventually they will understand what they’ve been doing and they will raise me up instead of tearing me down with their selfishness.  But, again, if they aren’t aware of what they are doing, why would they change?  When I am hurt, yet again, by a “friend” that doesn’t behave like a friend, I allow that hurt to fester until I can’t see anything except for the slight.  If I could just make them see how their behavior hurts me, won’t they want to change?

Advice to Live By – You can only control your own reactions to a situation

The truth is, they won’t, and even if they could, it is not my responsibility to change them.  If they aren’t willing to see how their behavior damages those around them and I am not willing to walk away because that is just not the person I am, then I really have only one choice:  accept it. It’s a lesson that I try to teach both my students and my own children, but I struggle with myself.  You cannot change anyone but yourself.  Getting angry, feeling slighted, or allowing someone to continually wound you does not hurt anyone but your own well-being. 

Be Kind – Because it is what is right, and not because you expect anything in return

In an attempt to take my own advice, I have made a new agreement with myself. I will continue to be true to myself and will not cut those toxic people from my life.  That just isn’t me.  But instead, I will not expect anything from them.  If I choose to give, I will see it as charity, doing something kind for others for the sake of being kind and not because I expect anything in return.  I encourage you to do the same.  You may just find a new peace fill your heart. 

This book, recommended by my brilliant psychologist sister-in-law, can help you learn how to deal with those draining relationships.

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