Back in the day, before I knew any better, I had a few friends who were toxic. It seemed like no matter what I did for them it was never enough. If I bought a gift, there was a bit of score keeping on their part and the score keeper always wins. They spent their days fired up and pissed off about their job, their spouse, their kids and their life in general. Every conversation included a rundown of their latest altercation, or situation that ended somehow with them being a victim. They enjoyed stirring the pot and creating drama and if you didn’t buy into it, they made you feel like you were not being compassionate enough, or sympathetic, or kind.
Toxic people have a litany of complaints about how life has dealt them a poor hand, and how they would love to change their circumstances but can’t. No matter how I tried to offer support and find ways out of their disempowered mentality, they wrapped their story of being a victim tightly around their shoulders like a warm blanket on a cold winter day. In fact, they had a death grip on their story and their suffering which seemed to correspond directly with their level of toxicity. As I became more aware of who I was, my tolerance for this behavior began to wane and I started to step back slowly. Toxic people you see, are incredibly selfish, yet the first to point out how selfish you are if you don’t comply with their expectations. Rather than traveling a path of love, they live in the space of judgment and fear. They are constantly looking over their shoulder to see how they measure up with other people, why they deserve more but have less, and I now realize how deep their personal suffering must be to travel a life path filled with alienation, anger, jealousy and fear. Toxic people live in a space where they feel a lack of personal power. They make demands and have expectations that are not only a bit narcissistic, but down right selfish. They are master manipulators!
I used to allow myself to be manipulated because I had a need for everyone to like me. I have no idea why I was in a space where I needed to please people, but I would reschedule my time to accommodate requests for babysitting help or a ride somewhere, or picking their kids up from or volunteering at school. I allowed myself to be manipulated because I didn’t value my time or myself enough to say no. This was primarily happening when my children were very young and I was a little too nice. If I had the courage to say no, I would feel guilty about it. I played into the bad behavior of the toxic friends and I then started to feel resentful.
On the way back to my authentic self, I worked on my own issues of people pleasing and judgment, forgiveness and compassion. It was somewhere along that path, I shifted my perspective towards people who loved drama, the people who were toxic. Two things happened. I began to see the depth of the suffering in the person creating this kind of life for themselves, and because of my compassion, I could forgive them. Make no mistake, I was not condoning the behavior, I was responding with love and understanding. It was about setting boundaries, allowing the emotional outburst to ensue because the person was not successful in manipulating me or drawing me into their drama, and accepting the outcome whatever it was. The drama queen can’t fight if you choose to step back and disengage. She can get pissed off, she can yell, she can call you names and try to prey on your vulnerabilities, however, when you stand firm in your position, there is nothing she can do. Step back and watch this unfold with detachment and love as if you are watching a great drama on T.V. but not emotionally invested in the outcome. The world will not stop turning. You may feel a little emotional discomfort at first, but as you practice this, it will get easier.
Toxic people are like a pissed off two-year-old. They are angry and loud and will do whatever it takes to get people to follow their agenda. They will tell you how you should be living your life, raising your kids, ending your marriage. They are masters at examining how you are falling short. These are all just outward reflections of the inner dialogue they are having with themselves. The interesting thing is how many people around them tolerate it and make excuses for them.
I think when people see how you are living your life, it triggers in them a deep insecurity on how they are living theirs. To make themselves feel better they must take you down a notch, or make some cutting remark to put you in your place. I believe we all have the inherent right to set healthy boundaries, demand respect, and step back if we need to in the interest of preserving harmony. It’s a beautiful thing to disengage when someone is aggressively trying to engage. They step forward, you step back. If you are on the phone, get off the phone. If you are receiving a text, stop texting. If rumors are flying, stand firm in your integrity and let your character speak for itself. You have nothing to prove. You can choose to take the high road. Stand in your integrity. Speak your truth. Always choose love.