Let me preface by saying that you can’t possibly avoid – 24/7 – everyone who makes you uncomfortable. But you can limit contact with some of them, and you definitely should, if at all possible, limit contact with the toxic (rather than simply annoying) people in your life.
While some might argue that it is a character-strengthening practice to “deal” with these people, the truth is, toxic people can only be “dealt” with when YOU maximize your distance from them. Toxic people – and their toxic behavior – can rarely be reasoned with or reasoned through. You will reach a breaking point, if you try to “tough it out” and make lucidity out of lunacy. You’ll be trying and trying to wrap your brain around an iron post. The post will remain intact and unchanged, but your brain will end up mutilated and mangled.
Toxic people are often skilled (wittingly or unwittingly) at twisting your mind and bringing you closer to the threshold of insanity.
For your benefit and theirs, you need to establish boundaries in your life to keep these people from getting too close to you – to the point that they can compromise your ability to think clearly or function in life.
Remember, to love someone is not necessarily to be close to them or to maintain contact. Sometimes, the best way to love someone is to cut off the emotionally-enabling supply that you’ve been feeding them. (Note, this is different from providing emotional support for someone within a healthy relationship/context.)
I am going to mention some character behaviors that may indicate a person is toxic for you.
Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. – Travis Bradberry
Signs to Watch Out For
Keep your eyes open if your loved one (girl/boyfriend, friend, family member) shows any of these signs.
Needs to put you down to feel validated.
This person has a hungry ego, and must drink someone else’s blood to keep that ego alive. Like vampires, or Ravenna (in Snow White and the Huntsman) – who absorbed the youth and life-force of other beautiful, young people, causing them to shrivel up and age before their time.
This person cannot live apart from crushing your soul – the beauty and youth of your spirit. In order to thrive, they must cause you to wither.
Makes you feel undeserving of anyone or anything better.
In other words, they have to constantly berate you or physically hurt you to keep you. After enough of this treatment, their hope is that you’ll begin to think you really deserve this treatment and nothing better. It’s a tactic that shouldn’t work, but is often effective nevertheless.
If you are suffering from emotional or physical/sexual abuse, find a friend’s place or shelter where you can be safe until you can work out something else.
If you are suffering from abuse, stop reading NOW and call the National Violence Domestic Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
Exaggerates when recounting stories of accomplishments or experiences.
- If they’re always embellishing and modifying the details, how are you going to know when you can trust them?
- If they’re insecure to the point that they need to alter the particulars about themselves, then that insecurity could start playing out in other ways that harm you down the road. Who knows how far they’ll go to maintain their prized and protected image?
Needs to prove EVERYTHING to you or constantly remind you of their personal character “qualities” (e.g. trustworthiness, likability).
They shouldn’t have to prove these things. If a person really is trustworthy, that should become apparent over time, without the help of any verbal affirmation.
Refuses to take responsibility for anything or ever accept blame or admit fault.
If they can’t be wrong, then you can be sure the blame’s going to fall on you or someone else. This is not healthy for your mind. If you’re fed a steady diet of the message “It’s your fault” or “You’re a piece of s**t” or “You’re going crazy”, you’re eventually going to begin to believe it.
Constantly flatters you.
One difference I’ve noticed between flattery and compliments is that flattery usually has no actions to back it up (except, perhaps, infatuation, sexual desire, or greed), while a genuine compliment is often supported by other actions and gestures from a person that signify care/concern/love, like talking with you about the good/bad parts of your life, wanting to spend quality time with you, being concerned when you’re hurt, or remembering a detail about you.
Flattery is often exaggerated, over-the-top, or just a little too addictive and ego-boosting to be true. If someone tells me I’m the best vocalist they’ve ever heard, I’m going to wonder a) if they get out much, and b) what else they’ve lied to me about.
Is insecure or jealous, to the point of becoming hyper-controlling.
If they feel threatened whenever you smile innocently at someone else, there’s a problem.
If they become angry when it takes you a while to respond to a text about your whereabouts (not like an “are you safe?” text of genuine concern, but a “tell me where you are and what you’re doing every hour” kind of text), there’s a problem.
If they’re following your every activity with little cameras or want passwords to all your social media accounts, WHY the f’ are you still there? The NSA (or ASIO, CSIS, BND, CBI) already spies on you enough. You don’t need any more of that.
Uses religion or “faith” to prove their point or make you feel immature or un-spiritual if you disagree (a spiritual narcissist or spiritual “tyrant”).
I’ve had some personal experience with the spiritual narcissist, and I hope to write about this subject in more detail in the future.
For now, suffice it to say that the spiritual narcissist is doubly dangerous for a person who aspires to adhere to or live out a certain faith.
Are they twisting text to prove a point or support their own personal arguments and interests?
Are they making up the rules as they go, and slapping a verse on everything?
Can you never “win” an argument with them?
Are you labeled “unforgiving” or against “reconciliation between brothers” when you tell them you need space or time away, especially after they’ve done something that really hurt you?
Are you called “unsubmissive” when they’ve asked you to do something that would be self-serving for them, greedy, dishonest, or otherwise dishonorable, and you’ve refused?
Are you accused of being “unfaithful” when you smile innocently at someone else?
Are you labeled “heretic” or “blind” or “unbelieving” when you interpret a piece of the Bible (or other text) differently than they do?
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side. – Aristotle
Is obsessed with their and/or your outward appearance (physical and/or social).
If they always expect you to attend social events with them and can’t respect your need for alone time, or they sign you up to go out and “do” lots of stuff so you can both brag about how busy you are, if they expect you to dress a certain way so they can show off their “trophy” girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, then you’ve got issues.
If they cannot respect your emotional needs for space and your personal definition of modesty or your preference for comfortable clothing, you’re in an unhealthy relationship. I’d encourage you to share your concerns with a therapist.
Has to always maintain a superficial facade.
Can never talk about deep, hard, or sad things. Can never hear you share about your struggle with depression, at least without slapping platitudes in your face and telling you to “snap out of it” or bragging that they’ve never been depressed. Can never share about any of their own struggles or issues or insecurities or flaws. In essence, a person who can never be real or authentic.
And I realize we all have those parts of our lives and ourselves which are tough to share.
There are many aspects of ourselves which we don’t share for fear of judgment or because we haven’t found the “one” with whom we feel safe sharing. But if someone is unable to let you see the human side of themselves at all, then that is cause for concern.
Doesn’t respect your boundaries or standards.
Are they pushing you to kiss, have sex, or for you to let them hold or touch you in a certain way? Are they saying things that they know hurt you? Are they unable to ever give you personal, private space to be alone and think and have some down time? Do they expect you to completely tailor your schedule to theirs, and always put them first?
Do they expect a daily report (vs. desiring a casual, caring conversation) about all your activities?
Do they follow you with cameras (hidden on their person or in your apartment/house)? Do they monitor your email, or otherwise censor your actions? Do their actions suggest they don’t fully trust you?
Do they view you as an extension of themselves rather than an individual and independent human being? Even if you are financially dependent on them, this is no excuse for them to attempt to govern your daily and personal affairs. You are an adult, after all, and you are CHOOSING to occupy the same place (even if you’re broke, there are places you can go if you need to be safe).
Doesn’t listen to you at all or take much interest in you.
Are they never asking you questions? Do they seem totally uninterested/uncaring about your hamster’s death, the charities you’re passionate about, or your entrepreneurial aspirations?
A healthy relationship is marked by give-and-take. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you both talk an equal amount. But if they’re never asking you anything about your life (unless it pertains to them or their need to know all your whereabouts) then you should ask yourself what you really are to them. A sounding board?
Are you just there for them to talk and feel good about themselves, as you tirelessly nod, smile, and say “mmhmm”?
Tries to control your activities, ambitions, or life (different from providing solicited advice or gentle nudging and loving words of counsel).
If you are really skilled at something – or want to become skilled – and your friend/family member/SO is not supporting you in this, or even seems a bit envious, ask them about it. Ask why it is such a problem that you invest time and energy in becoming better at something for which you have the potential or interest or talent?
Granted, there are different seasons of life for everything, and if you’re trying to bite off more than you can chew, then please listen to the counsel of your loved one. If you have responsibilities that cannot be annulled, redistributed, or reasonably delegated (with kind consideration for the workloads of others), then yeah, maybe it’s just not the season to build that cat shelter, launch your baked goods business, or trot the country as a professional speaker. Yet.
Ascertain, as you speak with your loved one, whether they are against you ever doing this thing, or just doing this thing right now. And even if you decide to put your dream to sleep for now, watch over time, to see if it’s really a matter of “now” or “ever” to your loved one.
If they never want you to pursue your passions and hone your skills, then maybe they feel insecure, and all they know to do, in their immaturity, is hold you back.
If the answer is always “no” to practically anything that you want to do (anything that’s safe 🙂 ), there’s a problem in the relationship.
The problem may be that your loved one is overprotective or feels possessive of you. Or it may be that they just tend to see the flaws in every path or course of action you could take. While such a cognitive approach is imperative in fields like engineering, it is impossible to apply this mentality seamlessly to the rest of life, as life is too full of permutations and possibilities for us to account for every potential setback, glitch, obstacle, failure, or error. In the end, you have to acknowledge that the risk of pain, harm, and failure is everywhere, and therefore, that pain, harm, and failure are inevitable. Eventually, you must say “yes” to something.
If you have a GF/BF, friend, or parent who just believes that you’ll suck at anything you try, and it’s never worth giving anything a shot, then work to create distance between you and them (even if you have to do this gradually and subtly). They may be trying to keep you close, available, and dependent on them so they’ll have a steady diet of narcissistic supply. You don’t need that negativity and neediness dragging you down.
Love them from a distance.
Isn’t willing to take their health or your health seriously, or invest in health preemptively, proactively, and protectively.
If your loved one doesn’t give a s**t what happens with your health, or blindly believes that you’re going to be feeling just fine 10, 20 years from now on a “cheap” diet of fast food, potato chips, frozen dinners, and burgers, you need to put your foot down and take responsibility for your own health, whatever that takes. If they’re more willing to spend money on frivolous crap than on your wellbeing, that isn’t love.
If money’s tight, and taking care of your health (and their health) means cutting out cable TV or spending dessert money on some extra fruits/veggies/oils/meat instead, I believe someone who truly loves you will be willing to do that.
Plus, if they’re not taking care of themselves, how long are they going to be around to share life with you?
Cannot save money, AND expects financial support from you.
If only one of these cases is present, things might work out. In other words, someone who struggles to save money but makes their own money, OR someone who is capable of saving at least some money but relies or is going to rely on you for financial support.
But if they are going to be depending on you financially AND they always have eyes bigger than your shared pocketbook, keep your eyes open. There could very well be issues down the road.
What To Do
If you’re seeing any of these signs in your relationship, ask other people you trust for their perspective on the situation. Narcissists often have a way of disguising themselves to their victims.
The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for. ―Bob Marley
You can love a narcissist, but you should keep your distance. Love does not, by default, equal proximity or trust.
If you are receiving such treatment, I’m here to tell you that you do not deserve that. Do what’s necessary to protect yourself so you can be free to thrive.
National Violence Domestic Hotline: 1−800−799−7233
Thanks for reading! 🙂
© Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved