Although removing toxic people from your life won’t always be a walk in the park, sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for your mental and physical well-being.
It might not take you long to think of which person or people in your life are unhealthy for you. They may treat you cruelly, manipulate you, or criticize you constantly. They may cause you to feel bad about yourself to the point that the shame drives you to engage in destructive behaviors. Interacting with someone like this can constitute emotional abuse.
Several videos on YouTube, content on the internet and some bestselling books these days promote a particular viewpoint for well-being: “Identify the people who are toxic in your life and reduce / get rid of your associations with them”, a world-famous coach even said the same to me.
I stand a bit divided though: At first, I completely agreed with this nostrum, followed it and found the benefit. However, I have seen individuals in certain groups being able to tap into their potential and function really well, both as individual contributors and team members. Yet in other teams these same people despite several attempts at ‘team building’, could never really form a joyful community. So, I feel that the individuals in and of themselves weren’t toxic. The different spaces / teams that they were thrown together in drove certain sets of behaviours.
The essence of what I am saying is not about how to do a better team building intervention at the workplace or back home. My take on identifying people as toxic is this:
If there are certain people in your life who you feel are really getting you down after all your efforts towards having a harmonious relationship, identify them and reduce or completely shut down your association with them.
But this identification of toxic people is an intermediate step.
I feel that the continual building of this muscle (identification and removal) could diminish our ability for compassion. Instead, can we make a small shift in our semantics – instead of people, and if we really have to, can we begin identifying the spaces that we feel are toxic to our wellbeing?
I am defining the word ‘space’ as: a collection of people, at a location with an overt common goal. I know it’s a small shift, but I believe it’s also a small step towards expanding our ability to see the good in people.
I say this is an intermediate step because I am reminded of the spiritual greats, those who have done quite the reverse and embraced ‘toxic’ people. Ya, I know what you’re saying, that’s a long way off! But I think this level of inclusion is a noble goal worth striving for.
Removing a toxic person from your life is a difficult process that can make you feel numerous negative emotions. It is important to find a healthy support network that you can depend on to help you maneuver through this painful time.
Surround yourself with people who bring you joy and lift you up. Reach out to friends and family who will be there to listen, validate, and help you move forward.