Toxic people can create negativity that seeps into all aspects of your life. They can affect your self-image, your mental health, your very sense of self and who you are as a person. So, how do you know if someone is truly toxic, and not just having a bad moment? When do you know when it's time to finally cut ties, and how do you go about it?
Pruning negative, toxic people from your garden of friends and family is essential, basic self-care, and never something you should feel bad about doing.
My experiences with cutting out toxic people are a little more extreme than others, so I speak with a lot of experience. Not only have I removed toxic friendships from my life, but I've had to cut ties with nearly all of my family. Losing them was one of the hardest things I've ever been through, but when I did finally break away for good, it was as if a light started shining on my life. I didn't feel bogged down by negativity and self-doubt any longer; I felt free, and able to move on with my life. Here's my process:
Step 1: Identifying toxic people
Everyone has bad days, bad weeks, even bad months sometimes. We all go through bad times when we're feeling negative, and our negativity can bring others close to us down. So, how do you recognize a case of the grumps vs. toxicity?
Take note of how often this person is negative to the point where it affects you. Do you end up feeling bad about yourself when you're around them? Do they negatively affect your self-image, or constantly disrespect your life choices? If the latter is true, it sounds like you have a toxic relationship with someone.
Is there something stressful going on in the potentially-toxic person's life that is making them act this way, or is their toxicity an actual state of being? Are they going through a traumatic life event like a divorce, marital trouble, problems family? It's important to be supportive and understanding of friends and family who are going through hard times, but if it's getting to the point that it's negatively affecting your own life and sense of self, it might be time to distance yourself from their situation for a while as an act of self-preservation.
Does the potentially-toxic person have mental health problems that they're trying to cope with? The world of mental health is so murky and abstract, and it can sometimes take dozens of medicine changes and combinations and hundreds of hours of therapy before someone who has mental illness can properly cope with life.
Personally, mental illness runs deeply in my family. The line I draw is this: If someone is actively seeking help and trying to get better, I'll stay by their side and be as supportive as I can be while preserving my own mental and psychological well-being. However, if the person is sticking their head in the sand, ignoring their mental problems, refusing to acknowledge them or get the help they need, I refuse to be their victim and distance myself from them.
Step 2: Making the change
Cutting people out of your life is always painful, even if it's for the best in the end. I don't think there's really any way around it. You have to be strong and brave to realize that you need to do what's best for you and preserve your well-being by removing toxic people from your life.
Removing people that are detrimental to your well-being is always hard, and you'll go through all the classic steps of grief, and mourn their loss, even though you know it's for the best. But you have to keep in mind why you're doing it, and focus on the end goal of self-preservation and self-care. Remember, too, that removing toxic people isn't selfish; you aren't a bad person for doing what you need to do to be healthy and happy. This isn't your fault.
Step 3: Start Living
Cutting my own mother out of my life was probably the hardest thing I've been through, because the feelings of rejection, shame and self-blame stung like nothing I've felt before. Now that she's out of my life, however, I can finally live — I was able to discover who I am as a person and to pursue activities that make me happy. I met a man, fell in love, got married, adopted two beautiful fur-kids, all without her in my life. I can say with utmost confidence that I wouldn't be nearly as happy as I am now if she were still in my life.
As soon as I cut ties with the toxic people in my life, I started feeling better; like someone had opened a window and let the light and fresh air in. The peace, freedom and happiness I feel let me know every day that I made the right choice by standing up to the toxic people in my life and letting them go.
Identifying truly toxic people can be difficult, but if you really ask yourself some hard questions and examine your relationship with the people in question and deem them to be toxic, letting them go and moving on comes with such an exhilarating feeling of liberation that makes the pain of losing that person worth it.