Toxic People: It's Okay to Walk Away

What I am about to say is difficult and complicated and painful.  I'm writing it anyway.  I've avoided this subject for too long.  Turning 40 has helped me see that I can no longer allow anyone to treat me badly.  I wish I would have come to this realization sooner:  I have no room in my life for toxic people.

What is a toxic person?  This post explains it best.

There is nothing toxic people can bring to my life that justifies me having them as friends.  It's even more complicated when the toxic person is a family member.  I've learned to keep them at a distance. Yes, it sounds harsh, but I am speaking from experience.

For most of my life I have believed that if I just do x,y,z I will help the toxic person realize they are being toxic.  If I choose my words carefully, if I use a neutral tone of voice, if I delicately point out their destructive behavior they will see the light, turn their life around and stop causing harm to mine.  

This has never worked.  I have wasted far too much time and energy trying to get a toxic person to stop being self-destructive, and to stop destroying the people around them.  It's a failure every time.  Whenever I tried to show them that I believed they could be a better person, that with work on the relationship it could be healthy and positive, when I let my guard down and trust them, they have abused my kindness and willingness to forgive. Every. Single. Time. 

They try to destroy my life, my reputation, and my self-esteem. They malign my character. They make up lies about me.  They convince others that they are the victim and I am the villain.  Toxic people are like a virus, leaking out and infecting everyone around them.

These people are so convincing and so manipulative that you begin to question reality.  You start to think you are crazy.  You look for things you could have done differently that would result in a better outcome.  A toxic person wants you to change who you are to suit their agenda.  No matter what you do or say, no matter what you give the person, they will always be disappointed and you will never be good enough.  

Whenever I was in a situation with a toxic person I believed I could reason with them.  Even when I would think the whole conversation was crazy!  When reason didn't work,  I would question myself and try to take the high road, often sacrificing myself and my feelings in the process.  The problem is that I engaged with that person's toxicity.  I gave that person the validation they sought, I played by their rules only to find out they change the rules whenever they want with no repercussion.

When I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder my doctor recommended several resources that have helped me identify when my anxiety began and what triggers it. My anxiety is worse when I deal with a toxic person.  I no longer trust myself when I have to deal with this person.  Because of the nature of the relationship I have noticed that my panic attacks occur after a toxic encounter. 

A friend at church mentioned a book that she read last month.  I decided to check it out.  It was eye-opening for me.  When to Walk Away has helped me to quickly realize that I don't have to remain in a toxic relationship.  I have been better able to recognize toxic tendencies in others and I quickly determine that this person needs to find healing in a space that is not with me.  

Their issues are just that:  theirs.  I am not responsible for how they feel.  I am not responsible for their unhappiness with themselves. 

I have discovered that my problem was that I kept trying to teach the toxic person how to be non-toxic. This is like teaching someone to fly.  No matter how much I wanted it to work, it didn't because it's not possible.  It's a waste of time. 

I've discovered when someone doesn't support me as a person, when they are constantly degrading me, blaming me and manipulating me, I need to cut off contact. I need to keep my distance as far as possible.  I cannot fix this person no matter how hard I try.  I know when to walk away. This is my life.  Life is short.  Every breath I waste on toxic people is one that I'll never get back. 


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