An important part of self-care is to not allow negativity from outside influences to take up space within yourself and control or manipulate your spirit and self-determination.
Reclaiming time to focus on your own needs and build yourself up can be unnerving to some. Those that dislike your personal growth or desire to be exactly who you are, and live unencumbered from standards created by others, can be a liberation that they wish to stifle – and it’s this stifling that makes a person or action, unintended or not, a toxic power in your life.
Toxicity can range from an overly negative, drama-filled, draining individual to a calculating, controlling, emotionally abusive one. And even though there seems to be a gulf between these types of toxic behaviours, the aims and outcomes are often the same – restraining your progress by strangling your confidence and self-esteem.
Emotional abuse thrives through its insidiousness. You often don’t know it’s happening until you’re in the middle of it, making it hard to disentangle yourself. By keeping your self-empowerment in a quietened state, toxic people continue to meet their needs, so it’s assertiveness that can be used to break yourself free from their influence.
An often overlooked quality of assertiveness that hides its power, is that you don’t actually need to have it, at first, in order to use it. In it’s quietened state you can be tricked into believing that you aren’t self-assured enough to speak up for yourself – which is often what toxic people want you to believe – but as soon as you do, your assertiveness becomes strengthened, just like a muscle, by its use.
Assertiveness with toxic people is about creating boundaries. If you’re unable to avoid contact with them (cutting people off who are particularly emotionally abusive can be appropriate) use simple, clear statements that include impact and action. Practice what feels natural to you, but all-purpose phrases like these might be a good place to start:
“When you … … I feel … … and I’d like it to stop.”
“You may not be aware, but when you … … it makes me feel … … and I’d like it to stop.”
“I didn’t appreciate … … .”
Liberating yourself from the negativity of other people will likely trigger some push back from them, particularly if they gain something from it, but stay firm on what needs to change. Don’t let your boundaries be breached, life really is too short and far too beautiful to be restrained by continued toxicity.
Do you have any advice for dealing with toxic people? Have you recently been assertive and set boundaries? How did it go?