A few years ago I saw this meme “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.” I chuckled because while we are responsible for our own happiness, if we surround ourselves with people who don’t have our best interest in mind it will cause problems. These toxic people (sounds nicer than “assholes”) can actually cause depression and low self-esteem. I have found that all of the toxic people that I have removed from my life came in one of the six types (or any combination of the six) below. So before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, make sure you are not surrounded by any of these toxic people first!
Who they are: Relatives, Friends
Why they are toxic: Toxic beneficiaries are people who use you. They either only show up when they want/need something. Or they stay connected to you only because it benefits them in some way. Examples: People who always rely on you to solve their issues, financial, emotional, or otherwise. Or people who want to stay close to you or in your circle because they gain from their connection to you. Their is no reciprocity between you and a toxic beneficiary. The relationship is completely one sided with you constantly giving of yourself or providing without anything in return. Toxic beneficiaries constantly take advantage of you to the point where they drain you.
How to remove them: Stop providing/giving to them. When you do, expect a backlash, however cutting these people off will help you feel much less stressed.
Why removing them is good for you: When you realize that you are not obligated to anyone you can begin to help only those you choose to and not those who have latched onto you because they benefit from that attachment. Helping people is wonderful. However, you can’t help someone who is taking advantage of you.
Who they are: Aquaintences, Friends, Relatives
Why they are toxic: These are the people who constantly complain. Either they complain to you or they complain to everyone. Nothing is ever good in their life. They are constant victims to wrongdoing. Nothing is ever their fault, it’s always the world against them. Their constant complaints are unhealthy for you. Taking in a stream of constant negativity from someone else does affect you. The world is already difficult enough without someone adding more negativity to it.
How to remove them: Stop listening to them complain. That may mean deleting them from your social media or just limiting contact with them.
Why removing them is good for you: The less negativity you allow into your life, the more positive your life will become. Just not seeing/hearing a stream of constant negative thoughts will automatically make your days brighter.
Who they are: Spouses/Boyfriends/Girlfriends, Friends, Relatives
Why they are toxic: They are in a constant competition with you. They have the tendency to mimick/copy things that you do. They also must dominate any conversation about how “they did ________ too”. Not only do they compete with you they also will never congratulate you on your accomplishments or congratulate you begrudgingly. They are in a constant competition with your life. If you go to a basketball game, they have to go to a basketball game. If you start a business, they start a business. It’s a constant competition that you didn’t know you were in. It’s unhealthy because life is not a competition. It’s possible for everyone to do well. These toxic competitors are not supporting you but actually looking for ways to elevate themselves and put you down. You will never get the support you need from these people even if you support them.
How to remove them: The best way to remove a toxic competitor is to completely cut them out of your life.
Why removing them is good for you: Cutting these people off sounds drastic but it will help you refocus on you and what’s best for you without someone constantly trying to outdo you. You should not have to face constant competition when you never signed up to compete.
Who they are: Celebrities/Strangers/Acquaintances
Why they are toxic: You are probably wondering how a celebrity or stranger can become toxic. It is because often people compare themselves and their lives to others. People who you constantly compare your life to, people who you watch on television or follow on social media that you actually do not know. People see the life of the toxic stranger (or sometimes the physical body!) and believe that somehow that person is living better/happier than themselves. The comparison of the toxic stranger to their own life makes them feel bad about themselves.
The truth is those strangers are not any better than you. Their lives may appear better to you because you are not focusing on what makes your life great/happy. You are allowing the comparison of your life to theirs to steal your happiness. On top of that, celebrities have problems in their lives just like you do. Never think for a moment that they are better off. They are paid to look like they have it all together, that doesn’t make it true.
How to remove them: Stop watching shows where you compare your life to theirs. Unfollow people who you constantly compare yourself to.
Why removing them is good for you: Removing toxic strangers from your life will allow you to focus on your own life and find the good in it.
Who they are: Friends/Relatives
Why they are toxic: Toxic resenters are people who are jealous of you. They can be jealous of anything from your looks to your education/accomplishments to your ambition to where your live. Toxic resenters are usually the people who are very friendly to you to your face but throw shade about you behind your back. They will generally love being around you similar to toxic beneficiary however whenever there is a chance for them to say negative things or gossip about you outside of your presence they will. Very often these toxic resenters will proclaim that you or someone else is jealous of them. Toxic resenters are also masters of passive aggression. Their jealousy towards you will often come out in backhanded compliments.
How to remove them: The best way to remove a toxic resenters is to cut them completely out of your life. Expect a serious backlash when you do. In fact toxic resenters will often make up rumors about you when you cut them off in order to taint how others feel about you. Resenters are some of the hardest people to remove from your life because once you do they will continue to try and bring you down long afterward. Stay strong though.
Why removing them is good for you: While a toxic resenters is positive to your face the constant negative energy they have towards you will eventually seep out and begin to affect you. Your life will always be better without someone near you wishing for your downfall.
Who they are: Relatives
Why they are toxic: I know we are taught that family is stronger and means more in life than everyone else, however family can sometimes be the most toxic people in your life. Parents, siblings, cousins… all of these people can be harmful to you if they offer you zero support. Many times your family will balk at you if you decide to live differently from them. If you step outside of what is “normal” for your family many times the support you thought would be there just isn’t. A lot of times family members want you to stay the way you were or the way they thought you were because you changing and growing makes them feel uncomfortable. Your change often highlights an insecurity in them. So instead of congratulating you on your accomplishments they will offer you no support. Or instead of helping you when you have a challenge in your life, they will gossip with others behind your back.
To make it simple, any family member who does not love and support you unconditionally is not acting like family. That doesn’t mean they become a “yes man” in your life. That means if you need them they are there to help you, support you, and cheer you on if you accomplish a goal. If your family isn’t doing that for you, they are toxic. They would rather see you lose than win. If something bad happens to you and your family gossips and relishes the fact that you are having some challenges in life, they are definitely toxic.
How to remove them: Depending on how toxic the family member is you may have to cut a family member completely off. For some you may need to only limit communication because you may still need to interact with them. For example if you have a toxic family member that you care for, you may need to limit how/when you talk to that member since they are in your care. But for toxic family members that you do not have to continue communication with, cutting off all communication is best for you. I know this seems cruel but subjecting yourself to a toxic person will not help you improve your life. Eventually your family member may reach out and apologize and you can begin to rebuild a new non toxic relationship. But for now, put your best interest first and remove the toxic person from your life.
Why removing them is good for you: Just like all of the other types of toxic people, removing them from your life will make your life better. You may feel a little guilt when first removing toxic family from your life but over time you will notice the improvement of not having those negative people in your space. Once you have grown stronger you may or may not allow those toxic family members to have limited contact with you. Either way, your life will improve.