It is common knowledge that certain substances are detrimental to our health. We have identified these items with labels such as “toxic” or “poison,” so that we can avoid inappropriate contact with them. Similarly, people can be toxic to our lives.
Unfortunately though, toxic people do not come with clear warning labels and are not as easy to recognise. With this in mind, here are three helpful suggestions for identifying and eliminating toxicity from from our lives.
1. Set healthy boundaries
Be aware of emotional boundaries. Our emotions can be used as a compass to guide our behaviour. Feelings such as shame, guilt, anger, or resentment can be “clues” that our boundaries have been crossed and that something is not quite right. It is important to acknowledge and identify our emotions.
One way to do this is by increasing self-understanding. The better we know ourselves, the more we are able to set healthy boundaries and then notice the people in our lives who cross these boundaries. Toxic people have a tendency to violate personal boundaries and not respect our choices or decisions.
2.Learn to say no
Some of us have a tendency to put other peoples’ needs ahead of our own. While specific reasons for this behaviour can vary, it is often noted as a symptom of low self-esteem and/or poor self image. If this becomes a pattern, consistently taking care of others instead of one’s self can lead to strong feelings of resentment and self-hatred.
Learning to say “no” when we want to is a sign of assertiveness and self-confidence. In eliminating toxicity, we have to stop saying yes to people who could be taking advantage of our kindness. Instead, start saying yes to whatever makes us happy and make self-care a priority, such as travel, massage or yoga, healthy dining, and spending quality time with friends and other loved ones.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
Negative people can be emotionally draining. Think of our psychic energy like the battery on our mobile phones: we know that certain apps use up more battery power than others. Toxic people deplete a massive and disproportionate amount of our limited battery power. Toxic relationships drain our reserve of energy, leaving us less able to focus on the people who really matter in our lives.
Toxic people are everywhere: in our social lives, our professional lives, and yes, even in our family relationships. No matter where they are, it is important to identify and manage these relationships in healthy ways.
Sometimes, despite our very best efforts at being honest and assertive, some people do not change. It is then that we have to decide to put ourselves first, by eliminating toxicity from our lives.
Dr. Michael Eason is a psychologist and US licensed therapist practicing at MindnLife in Central, Hong Kong.