At least once in our lives, we run across people that are not so pleasant to be around. I wish there was a proper way to deal with toxic people, but the truth is, there isn’t a universal definition for the word “toxic.”
Is it your ex hitting you up at 2 a.m.? Is it your so-called “friend” talking about you behind your back? Are your parents yelling at you for your grades not being good enough? There must be different approaches for different people and situations.
How do you know if a person is toxic? According to Web MD, if they play the victim, disrespect your boundaries, lie to you, control and manipulate you or are judgmental of you to the point where you always have to defend yourself, they are not helping you grow and improve. Substance abuse tends to also contribute to these types of behaviors.
You can choose to ignore it if it is a one-time occurrence, but in many circumstances you go to the same school or live in the same home as the toxic person. You have probably also known them for a substantial amount of time and feel emotionally attached to them.
Do you make a comment back to them? Maybe so, but if you are being made fun of for your ethnicity, disability or sexuality, you may feel powerless because that’s what society teaches minorities in these categories to feel.
Being ridiculed for my stimming as an autistic person is something I have personally experienced. This makes me feel like nothing I do will ever be enough to impress people because it is something out of my control.
What do you do in these situations? First of all, don’t expect them to change. I know that personally, I stay with these people because I get a fantasy in my head that I can “fix” them or they will eventually turn out differently once they mature.
But if they act that way once, they are likely to do it again. Once you are able to get that fantasy out of your head, you will be able to see the toxic person for who they actually are and emotionally detach yourself.
After you are able to disassociate yourself emotionally, establish and maintain boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say no to the toxic person or they will walk all over you. Blocking or restricting them on social media can be another healthy way to do this.
Don’t share too much about your personal life with them. Toxic people often use what will hurt the most against you, so don’t give them the power to do so.
It is beneficial to stay busy by doing what you love. Personally, getting a job, working out and journaling have helped me heal from dark times in my life recently. Not only will you gain more confidence in yourself, but you will no longer be tempted to be around that person because you won’t have the time.
Lastly, getting in touch with a therapist if possible is a necessary step for many. Talking to a mental health professional will help you be less unhappy about the issue and help you identify red flags you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
The University Counseling Center on campus is a resource that students can use for this.