There are people in life that are toxic to your existence.
They feed on you and suck away all your positivity.
The funniest part is they will make you feel guilty and go seek sympathy from everyoneâ€”family and friends included.
I call it Toxic PeopleÂ Syndrome.
I have always been labelled as a volatile and reactive person. The truth is, I wasâ€”until a few years ago.
The reason was that I always invested too much of myself in everythingâ€”friendships, relations, work, home. Now, my foolishness was that I expected the others to do the same.
What then developed was a vicious circle of hurt and reaction, which became impossible for me to break at a point. I was hurting, and perhaps no words can justify that hurt. But all the people around me could see was that I was angry and frustrated.
All I wanted was someone who could understand why I was so angry with everyone around me. Instead, my anger became a resentment point for them because I was no longer patient and giving in to their whims and fancies.
Here are five things I learned about toxic people, which I call Toxic People Syndrome:
1. They have power over you.
These toxic people knew very well the kind of emotional power they had over me. And they used it actively to harm my self-esteem, and in the process, making me more vulnerable and dependent on others. Sometimes, it would be verbally yelling, belittling, or criticism, but usually, it is subtleâ€”intimidation, manipulation, and the silent treatment.
2. They play the victim card.
These people are experts in playing the victim card. The poisonous words whispered in my ears behind closed doors would shred me to minuscule pieces. But all the world outside knew was my shouting, yelling, and anger. All my time and energy went into proving that I was innocent. Though, in reality, it should have been the other way around.
3. There’s always a dilemma with an apology.
If we ever reached a point where we would sit down to discuss, and I expected an apology from them, it never happened. Rather, more often than not, I ended up apologizing to them. To my utter disbelief, I would realize it days later, and all that time I would blame myself only. Those toxic people didn’t understand where they have gone wrong.
4. They are pathological liars.
They lie left, right, and center without any regard for the consequences. Even when I confronted them, things would be dismissed as a simple misunderstanding or a mere joke. And I would be blamed for taking things too seriously.
4. They are control freaks.
These people are control freaks. In my experience, they are such master manipulators, and so subtle that I was almost caught unaware of their intentions. And it would be too late by the time I realized it.
5. They say no to everything.
They are experts in making excuses. Especially if anything doesn’t suit their agenda. Anything I wanted was a no. I had to give explanations even for small daily routine things.
After being in this continuous cycle of guilt and remorse, I became painfully aware that nothing was going to change until I changed, or at least tried to change.
But it is much easier said than done. There are so many factors involvedâ€”kids, families, financial concerns, my own emotions (which seemed unbearable at that time). These might seem mundane, but in reality, these are real-world problems.
It is very easy to say walk away, but in my experience, you can not walk away from every situation life puts you in, because then it would negate the whole purpose of lifeâ€”that is to give you a chance to grow as an individual, as a human being.
I was in such a situation. I could not walk away, so I decided to stay and fight.
Becoming aware and mindful of what I wanted at this stage in life was the biggest blessing. Slowly, very slowly, I started to work on myself.
My sole purpose was and still is to be a better person for my kids. I always believed that they deserve my best version. I owe it to them.
Five basic steps I took to counteract Toxic People Syndrome:
1. Being selfish.
I knew that I could not manipulate the situations and people to my benefit, and I could not give smart answers, so I did the best thing I could do: I accepted the tag of being selfish.
There was no way I could explain that what I was doing was not selfish but essential for my survival, so I accepted the tag of being selfish and practical. She is not emotional, became their favorite line. And my response was, “If you know this, then do not expect anything from me.”
2. Being thick-skinned.
It is not easy being called selfish or self-centered all the time. I learned to ignore others and trained my mind to not even register these things.
3. Choosing my battles.
I chose, consciously, which battles to fight and which to let go off. Keeping my end goalâ€”my peace of mindâ€”became the primary goal of my life.
4. Forgiving myself.
This was a huge process of healing. I tried to forgive myself for everythingâ€”for not being perfect, for not being smart enough, for not being ambitious enough, for simply being lazyâ€”everything.
5. Cultivating acceptance.
As soon as I started forgiving myself, I started accepting myselfâ€”with all my shortcomings and strengths. I became more proud of whatever I was doing and whatever I achieved. I tried my best to accept people and situations as they were and learned to negotiate my way around them.
It is not to say that, with these conscious changes, things improved overnight.
It is a long process with a tremendous amount of effort. But it’s worth it. People have stayed the same, but the major improvement is that their power over me has reduced significantly.
Slowly, I found my wings to fly.
I stopped playing their game, I stopped running that race, and I am creating my own path with awareness.