Not too long ago, while looking around in Twitter world to see what was going on, I noticed a tweet that had me be like, "Yeah, I need to save that for personal reference and an xoNecole piece." To me, it was so good that I'm going to share the tweet itself. Are you ready to exhale in a way like you probably haven't in a really long time?
Y'all. Y'all. If there's one thing that can keep us caught up in the kind of unhealthy, counterproductive and emotionally dangerous relationships that are totally beneath our self-worth and extremely threatening to our purpose, it's allowing manipulation, control or even fear to serve as the motivation for remaining someplace that is toxic—or going back to something that is toxic. That tweet right there is a clear-cut example of how that can happen.
Another example is believing that you have to experience everything the hard way in order to learn what you need to know. That couldn't be further from the truth. Me? I'm a firm believer that one of the most underrated superpowers is discernment. And yes, there are some things—many things, actually—that you can avoid, simply by discerning that they aren't good for you; hopefully beforehand.
That said, if you're someone who has a tendency to constantly get into toxic relationships, have toxic friends or you're always caught up in some sort of drama with toxic family members, here are some telling signs to help you to finally break that cycle for good—whether it's your first time dealing with a toxic individual…or (le sigh) your umpteenth one.
So, how can you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you're about to let a toxic person into—or back into—your life?
Their Personality Impresses You More than Their Character Does
I promise you that if you get this one down right here, it will spare you from experiencing so much unnecessary stress. I can't tell you how many times in my life that I've encountered someone who is charismatic, funny, smart or all of the above, so I let them in more than I should have, only to find out that they were also shady, arrogant and opportunistic as hell. How did that happen? I allowed their personality to be more important to me than their character. If those two things seem one and the same to you—yeah, that's a part of the problem.
Someone's personality is basically what they lead with. By definition, it's "the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others". I don't know about you, but the two words that stood out to me in that definition are "visible" and "impresses". Meanwhile, someone's character is their "moral or ethical quality". For years, I was literally embroiled with a user because while they were charming (personality), they were also extremely selfish (character).
Whether it's someone you've just met or someone you're considering letting back into your life, it will only benefit you to take a moment to make sure that the "gift" (their character) is indeed as beautiful as their "wrappings" (their personality).
They’ve Got a “Pop Off Spirit". Online and/or Offline.
Not too long ago, I was talking to someone who met another individual through me. As they were asking why we weren't close anymore, my response was two-fold. "I don't think that we were ever close so much as we were cool. But as I got to know that individual more, it just seemed like they could never take what they dish out. They also seem to have very little accountability in their life so, when someone brought something to their attention that could help them to become a better individual, they would go on the attack. I just don't really like being around someone who constantly has a 'pop off spirit'. It's draining." The older—and hopefully wiser—that I get, the more that fact rings true.
The Dalai Lama once said, "Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace." Sometimes, the best way to do that is to send love and light to someone from afar. That said, if there is someone in your world who is always combative, always needs to have the last word, and/or always has a "word of wisdom" but can never receive it—whether it's online or off—not only does this show signs of leaning towards being narcissistic, a know-it-all and/or totally self-unaware, it can also serve as a heads up that they aren't going to bring peace into your life. If anything, they are gonna straight-up disrupt it. Often.
They Rarely Take Responsibility or Accountability for...Anything
I've got a family member who—give me a sec because I wanna make sure I am not exaggerating when I say this—has never apologized. Ever. You can catch them in something that is dead wrong and either they will go tit for tat with you on it—you know that, "Well, you do that too" game—or they will go into hard defensive mode, even ghosting you, if need be. Or, they will take the super manipulative route and be on some, "I'm sorry you pushed me to do that." What in the world?
None of us are perfect. This means that there are going to be times in our lives when we're going to need to take responsibility for the things that we've done wrong or we'll need to hold ourselves accountable to the things that someone has said offended them or hurt them in some way. If there's a person you're dealing with who has never done either of these things, even when you have brought wounds that they have caused to their attention, you are, as the elders say, "crusin' for a brusin'" if you keep them in your inner circle. Because, how can someone stop hurting or harming you if they refuse to even acknowledge that they did so? Which reminds me, please check out "If They Are Truly Sorry, They'll Do These 5 Things" when you get a chance. It's a reminder that someone who apologizes for doing wrong is humble and healthy. People who refuse to do so are the exact opposite.
They’re Extremely Prideful
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Devil's Advocate (a great scene is here). If there is a revolving theme throughout the entire film, it's what pride (and vanity) can do to a person if they don't get a hold of it. What are some of the signs of a pride-filled individual? The article "15 Subtle Signs of Pride In Your Life" offers up some real doozies—being unteachable; constantly talking about yourself; being overly-critical; not heeding the advice of others; always needing attention and affirmation; not respecting authority, and name-dropping are just a few of 'em.
Since I grew up in somewhat of an entertainment industry home and I then became an entertainment writer, I spent a lot of years not realizing just how prideful a lot of the people in my space actually were. The fallout from that is, you can't constantly be around folks with the "pride flu" and not catch some of their symptoms after a while.
On this side of self-awareness and healing, if there is one thing that I loathe and try to avoid being around (and being), it's pride. Aside from all of the other traits that I just shared, a prideful individual takes more than they will ever give. Not only that, but between them and their ego, there's not much room for real friends. Only fans.
You Can’t Immediately Name Five Ways They Benefit Your Life
A couple of days ago, I was sharing with a friend and his co-worker Aristotle's theory about all of us needing to have utility (work), pleasure (kick it) and good (character) friends. As they were discussing what they thought they were to each other, things got a little uncomfortable when my friend said to his co-worker that he saw him as a pleasure friend, not a good one. When his co-worker asked why, my friend (being the tell-it-like-it-is Gemini that he is) simply said, "My friends are people who make me a better person. Sure, you and I have a good time, but you're actually someone who tries to get me to do things that I'm trying to stop doing…like drinking." When the co-worker asked why they weren't at least utility friends, my friend followed that up with, "Dude. Since I've known you, I've covered you more times than I can remember when you come to work late. I've lost track of how much money I've lent you. You're good for a good time, but that's about it."
It's another message for another time, how many of us remain in unhealthy relationships with folks, and it's all because there's a disillusion that things are one way when they are totally different. But the main thing that I want you to get from this particular point is my friend didn't really share anything truly beneficial that his co-worker brings to his life—well, other than fun and being a "vice trigger" (if you consider that to be a good thing). Their lil' convo is a good reminder that if you can't think of the ways someone will influence and inspire you to be a better person (other than perhaps them being a cautionary tale in your life), this is just one more sign that they could very potentially be a toxic individual to you instead.
If They’re from Your Past—Nothing Seems Much Different in Y’all’s Present
A word that's oftentimes used when it comes to recycling is repurposing. An example of doing this is back in the day when I used to turn my jeans that were too short at the ankles or too tight around the thighs into a jean skirt. Anyway, the older that I get, the more I like to apply repurposing to my relationships as well.
It takes a lot of introspection and patience to come to this conclusion, but the truth of the matter is some folks don't need to be "cut out of our lives"; sometimes, time needs to be allowed for maturity, growth and maybe a little bit of forgiveness so that you can explore repurposing—"adapt for use in a different purpose"—the connection. A good example of this is how some people can remain friends with their ex or they're able to even consider bringing a former friend back into their lives again.
Repurposing is cool. So long as the new purpose is mutually beneficial. On the other hand, if you reconnect with someone and you see the same red flags in their being that caused the two of you to go separate ways to begin with, why in the world would you want to get back on that hamster wheel of toxicity?
I'll be honest. Something that I hate about social media is how folks tend to not extend the kind of mercy that they'd like to receive. What I mean by that is I know that I was a different person 10 years ago. To not allow me the space to evolve out of how I thought or acted a decade ago is…really sad (pretty unrealistic too). So no, I'm not of the full belief that because someone was once making poor choices or wasn't a good friend or partner that they are doomed to remain that way forever. Oh, but hear me out when I say, at the same time, while I try to extend the mercy to see if things are different, if I notice that they aren't, then I am being boo-boo the fool for allowing the toxicity back into my life. The motto isn't "once a cheater always a cheater". It's more like, "Once a cheater shows that they are still a cheater then I'm cheating myself to remain."
Same goes for you. If a once-upon-a-time toxic individual tries to enter back into your world, you are not weak, crazy or stupid for considering taking them back. Just make sure that you function from a place of guarding your heart, setting boundaries and allowing time to reveal what it needs to. If you see that they are still up to the same ole' same ole' but you romanticize or flat-out ignore this fact, not only is it a sign that you're allowing toxicity back, there is a chance that they will do more damage than before. Use discernment. Proceed with caution. Choose wisely. To a certain extent, the quality of your life depends on it. Real talk.
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