One of the most important aspects I have found about being an actual grown up is the ability to tune out any relationship that doesn’t serve you anymore. We often hear about “toxic” people around us, but it can be hard to realize some toxic behavior or when we do realize it, we may not be able to change the relationship we have. Our relationships are not just romantic ones…they are our family, our friends, our inner circle of people we hang out with or even just the people we work or go to school with. I believe that once we start to actualize who we want to be as adults, we have to take steps to remove those around us who are creating problems for us.
When we think about toxic relationships, the most common instance is our romantic relationships, but that isn’t the only relationship we need to examine. Most of us have put up with (or continue to put up with) someone we truly love who may not treat us well. It doesn’t necessarily have to be abusive; it could just be someone holding us back because of their own needs or insecurities. Many times, we think that it is worth it to put up with this behavior because we think it will change once their needs are met, or once they realize how we are feeling. Sometimes, just talking to a loved one can make them realize their behavior and they will make changes. The problem lies with those who don’t believe they are doing anything wrong.
Are there people surrounding you that you dread talking to? Someone who makes you feel a bit nervous when you know you have to interact with them because you fear their criticism, their narcissism, or their lack of empathy? Becoming an adult means deciding who you want to be. Do you always want to worry about what your parents think about your life, even though you are doing well for yourself? Are you always going be afraid to take a chance on doing something new because you fear the criticism of your “friend?” If this is the case, you need to ask yourself, what purpose does this relationship serve you?
Now I am not advocating that you cut ties with people who love you and offer you well meaning advice or who questions your decision making altogether. Sometimes, those we are closest to offer us new perspective in our way of thinking and challenge our mindset. This is actually a good thing! And it is okay if you are nervous telling your parents you are dropping out of college because you found an amazing job doing what you love. Of course you should feel nervous about things like this. There needs to be a balance of people in your life who will question you and make you think about the hard stuff.
Toxic relationships, however, are those where there is little happiness. You gain nothing from the criticism other than feeling bad about yourself. Toxic people are self serving and only worry about what YOU can do for THEM, not what you are doing for yourself. It is hard to identify those people and their motives, especially when it is someone you truly love. Setting boundaries with these people is the best way to combat the negative energy.
HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
- Identify those around you with motives that go against your way of thinking. Some people are obviously toxic. Others are harder to realize. It can take time to figure out which people you need to set boundaries with.
- Analyze your relationship. Some relationships, like family ones, are harder to set boundaries with than others, like friends and romantic partners. Look at your relationship with the toxic person and decide if keeping them in your life in any capacity will serve you in the long run.
- Make a decision. It seems hard to cut someone out of your life completely, but in some cases, it is easier than dealing with them for the long term. Before you decide to cut someone out of your life, think about if it is worth it to try to talk to them about your feelings and see if they are willing to make changes. Some people will find change impossible, even if they try. Others will never admit that there is anything wrong with the way they treat you and try to turn it around on you. Be aware of this behavior and don’t let them make you think you are wrong. In other cases, you may still want to have them in your life, but in a much less important way. Start thinking about what kinds of boundaries you want to set. If you need boundaries with your parents, start out by slowly distancing yourself from the small things. Go ahead and attend birthdays and holidays…all the important stuff, and check in once in a awhile, but allow them to realize that your life is important to you and you need to focus on that. They may not like this, but you can slowly distance yourself without even telling them the reason!
- Stick with it! The hardest part is not being drawn back into the toxic relationship. We are so used to being treated a certain way after so long that we end up being drawn that behavior. Have you ever left one relationship only to end up in one very similar? That is because you are conditioned to think that being treated poorly is normal. Even if it is the same person trying to drag you back into those negative feelings, stand strong and make your boundaries stronger. I tend to just be “busy” when there are things I don’t want to do because of how the feelings will affect me.
- It is okay to feel bad about this! I feel guilty for a lot of the boundaries I have set for myself, but then when I allow myself a glimpse of what I WISH the relationship would be like, I am quickly reminded of why I need boundaries. I feel guilty sometimes that I don’t have closer relationships with family, but I remind myself that it is not a one sided relationship where I have to be the only one sacrificing and making amends. I have tried that over and over and I have only found pain after years of trying. I still feel bad, but I remind myself that my mental health is at stake, as is my sense of self worth and my confidence.
Your journey as a grown up in this life is YOURS. You get to decide who comes along with you. You wouldn’t want to take a cross country road trip while towing a vehicle that doesn’t work, so why would you want to weigh yourself down with someone who isn’t serving your needs as you make your way to your goals? Of course, this doesn’t mean being cold hearted, narcissistic, or having no empathy for others. Please don’t turn into a toxic person in your quest to remove toxic people. Surround yourself with love and light and positivity, your own and from others. Set boundaries with people who want to extinguish that light within you and take control of who you want to be.
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