Why, When, And How To Start Cutting People Out Of Your Life

By ReGain Editorial Team|Updated April 16, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Shemya Vaughn , LPC, CRC

There comes a time in everyone's life when cutting out toxic people becomes necessary. Their negative actions and behaviors may be subtle and insidious, but you always feel hurt, ashamed, and used when around them. The good news is that there are practical ways to remove yourself from this negativity and reclaim your precious time, energy, and joy again.

What Is A Toxic Person?

You Deserve To Be In Healthy, Supportive Relationships
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Firstly, it's important to understand the distinction between someone toxic and someone who is simply difficult, unpleasant, or you don't get along with very well. While it may annoy you to be around those people at times, they are not necessarily toxic. For this group of people, distancing yourself and keeping interaction to a minimum with them will be enough; you don't have to completely cut them out of your life.

It is also worth noting that what some might consider toxic behavior may not be considered toxic to others. Each individual needs to decide which relationships are healthy and which need to be severed from their life, and this can vary from person to person.

A toxic person is anyone, a friend, family member, or colleague, who sabotages, hinders, or threatens your happiness, personal growth, and self-improvement. They may be unconscious or conscious of their toxicity, which may be for several reasons. They may feel threatened by you or be resistant to change, they may feel scared of losing you, or they may believe that your improvement will expose their weaknesses, failures, and shortcomings.

Whatever the reason may be, a toxic person resorts to anger, manipulation, harsh criticism, or resentment to control you or the situation and sabotage your joy, well-being, and success. They drain you and your resources and leave you feeling more exhausted than before your interaction with them.

Signs Of A Toxic Person

A toxic person will have an insidious, infectious effect on your life. Here are some signs you are dealing with a toxic person:

  • They're Takers. A relationship with a toxic person is a one-way street. Healthy relationships have a healthy and natural balance of giving and take, but a toxic person will take as much as they can from you without any regard for your well-being. And, if they are willing to do something for you, it most likely comes with strings attached.
  • They're Not Willing To Admit Their Mistakes And Apologize. When a toxic person messes up or misspeaks, they will rarely own up to it or apologize for it. They do not take responsibility for their words or actions but always seek to be right or better than the next person.
  • They're Controlling. A toxic person will often try to control you due to a lack of control in their own lives. They may incessantly tell you what to do, what to say, or what to think. On the other hand, a healthy person allows you to take full control and responsibility for your own life.
  • They Disregard Your Boundaries. If you have made it clear how you would and wouldn't like to be treated and constantly violates that, then it is a good chance this individual is toxic. A healthy person will respect others' boundaries, whether they like them or not.
  • They Blame Or Victimize Themselves. Toxic people will always make themselves out to be the one who is wronged or oppressed. They do this by blaming others, coming up with an endless amount of excuses, blatantly garnering sympathy from others, and making it seem like they are always in a "crisis."
  • They Aren't Honest. Toxic people tend to engage in repeated patterns of lies and dishonesty, regardless of how many times they have been called out on it. They will also tiptoe around the truth to save themselves from any inconveniences or trouble.
  • They're Constantly Putting Others Down. Those who are toxic will constantly look for and point out weaknesses, failings, or imperfections in others to make themselves feel or look good. Their highly critical nature means people often feel like they're walking on eggshells around them.
  • They're Manipulative. A toxic person will resort to anything to get their way, even if it means trampling over other people to get it. They manipulate, throw others under the bus, play mind games, and resort to gossip to try and come out on top.
  • They're Selfish. Rather than being thoughtful of others, toxic people can be narcissistic and obsessed with themselves. Their desires and needs come first and prioritize; others are secondary and are not as important as theirs.

In general, a toxic person may cause you to experience feelings of shame, sadness, discomfort, anger, and anxiety. You may also find yourself feeling more tired after an interaction with them-a clear sign that you are being drained of your resources and that it's time to cut this person out of your life.

Why And How To Cut A Toxic Person Out Of Your Life

Before you cut someone toxic out of your life, understand that sometimes it is necessary. Having individuals in your life who are encouraging, uplifting, and who support your growth and success is paramount to your well-being and happiness, and isolating yourself will only cause you a myriad of physical and mental health problems.

You Deserve To Be In Healthy, Supportive Relationships

You may think a toxic person will not have a huge effect on the course of your life, but their behaviors are a form of poison and can cause you a lot of pain, both now and in the future. A study has even shown that people with low-quality relationships are at a major risk for severe depression. You may even take on the behaviors of a toxic person because they influence your life, which is how toxicity spreads and breaks down relationships.

Cutting toxic people out of your life is a process that can be extremely difficult and emotional and can and should be done with care to create as little drama as possible.

Here are some steps to take to respectfully and tactfully cut a person who's toxic out of your life:

  1. Process Your Feelings And Thoughts First. Before you talk to the toxic person in question, clarify your thoughts, and articulate what you feel beforehand. This can be done by writing in a journal, writing a letter to the other person with no intention to see it, or talking about it with a trusted friend. If you ever feel in doubt, you can refer to these conversations to remind yourself why you decided to cut this person out of your life.
  2. Have Realistic Expectations. We cannot change, fix, or rescue a toxic person; it is simply not possible, healthy, or sustainable. As much as a toxic person tells you they are going to change or that you can help them do better, this is more often than not empty promises. True change does not come from extrinsic motivation, and when you let go of the need to rescue a toxic person, you can save yourself a lot of heartache in the future. Remember, it is not your job or responsibility to save them.
  3. Talk To Them In A Public Space. This ensures your safety, as toxic people can be violent, eruptive, or belligerent when they don't get their way. The moment you start to feel unsafe, get up and leave. You can begin your conversation with, "I've been doing a lot of thinking…" and explain the situation using "I" statements. Tell them that you need distance from them rather than that you want to cut them off completely. End the discussion by saying that you wish the best for them. Remember that you don't owe them a long explanation of why you are ending your relationship-being succinct but kind is enough.

  1. Set Clear Boundaries With Them. Removing a toxic person from your life may not be a one-time event; it may be a gradual and slow process before they get the message. However, it is important, nonetheless, to set firm boundaries and stick to them. Don't be tempted to argue with them or allow attempts at negotiation if they have repeatedly hurt you in the past. People who are considered toxic often have a way with words and can be charming, so be wary of falling under their spell of promises.
  2. Remove them From Social Media. With toxic people, it's important not to leave any window of opportunity for them to control, manipulate, or hurt you as they will often do everything they can to stay in your life. This means ending all communication, including removing them from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or other social media. It may also be wise to block their number or email address.
  3. Resist Their Efforts To Come Back Into Your Life. A toxic person may resist your efforts to cut them out of your life, even if you have told them several times to leave you alone. If this becomes an area of difficulty and hardship, remember that help is always available to you if you should need it. Consider talking to a trusted therapist who can help you navigate your relationship changes and give you the tools you need to stay strong and firm on your decision.
  4. Surround Yourself With Healthy Relationships. As difficult as removing toxic people from your life is, it also means more room in your life for healthy and nurturing relationships. To maintain your resilience and strength, surround yourself with those you trust, who appreciate and support you, and who make you feel safe. These are sustainable and worth investing in relationships and will serve as a reminder of the treatment you deserve.

The Takeaway

Some people who are poisonous to us tend to be in our closest circles. Toxicity in relationships is contagious and should not be treated lightly. As painful as it may be to let go of them, remember that you are deserving of people in your life who strive for your happiness and success and make you feel cherished.

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