Why, When, And How To Start Cutting People Out Of Your Life
There comes a time in life when cutting out toxic people is best for your mental health. Their negative actions and behaviors may be subtle and insidious, but you regularly 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?
It's important to understand the distinction between someone who is toxic and someone who is simply difficult, unpleasant, or hard to get along with. 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 lives,.
A toxic person is anyone – whether a friend, relative, 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 occur 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 sinister, 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 rather 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 they constantly violate 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 number 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 continually 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; others’ needs 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 worn out after an interaction with them, which can be a 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. Isolating yourself can cause a myriad of physical and mental health problems.
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 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 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 toxic person out of your life:
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 let them actually see it), or talking about it with a trusted friend or a professional counselor. 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Resist Their Efforts To Come Back Into Your Life.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 relationships are sustainable, worth investing in, and will serve as a reminder of the treatment you deserve.
- Surround Yourself With Healthy Relationships.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.
A ReGain therapist can help with any mental health concerns that may have been impacted by your toxic relationship, help you learn to set boundaries when dealing with toxic individuals, and help you create a plan if you have concerns for your safety. Therapy has been found to help with relieving and recovering from mental health concerns related to toxic relationships, as well as help patients prevent repeated toxic relationships.
Online therapy, such as through ReGain, has been found to be as effective as in-person therapy in many situations, and provides you with more options or therapists, communication methods, and counseling times. For many, it’s also less expensive.
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. Let ReGain help you get on the road to recovering from toxic relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is it OK to cut someone out of your life?
It is okay to cut someone out of your life. Sometimes, it is necessary. Although it isn’t particularly easy, there comes a time in almost everyone’s life where there’s a person one needs distance from or that one needs to cut out of their life for good. People change, but when it comes to a toxic person, it’s not something to wait around for. You don’t know when or if the change will come, and if someone truly is recovering from toxic behavior, they will grow to understand and respect your boundaries and distance.
When should you remove someone from your life?
While this is by no means an extensive list, here are some reasons you might remove someone from your life:
- They are toxic for you. Look at the signs of a toxic person above to gain insight into if a person might be toxic. If you recognize that someone is toxic for you, put boundaries in place and don’t feel bad for doing what’s best for you. A toxic person may try to guilt you or cross your boundaries once you cut them out, and this is all the more reason to do it.
- They overstep your boundaries. If you’ve set boundaries and someone oversteps them in life, reply by reinstating your boundaries. If they show continuous blatant disrespect or refusal when you confront them, you might decide to distance yourself.
- They are abusive. If abuse of any kind, whether that’s emotional, physical, or otherwise, is occurring, it is not your fault. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or go to their website for the live chat option, information about abuse, help create a safety plan, and other resources.
Ultimately, you will know when you want to remove someone from your life - or when you need to. If you don’t want someone in your life anymore and know that they’re bad for you, that’s the only real criteria for cutting someone out. You may navigate it a little bit differently depending on the relationship and the severity of a person’s behavior. For example, there are times when going no contact may be necessary, wherein in other cases, you’ll be able to communicate with the person and use the steps to cut a toxic person out of your life listed above. Toxic people don’t often give you room to get anywhere with them or work things out. When you try, you may experience manipulation, blame, berating, or worse. If you’ve tried to talk to them and the cycle continues, this is a situation where it’s time to go.
How can you tell if someone is toxic?
There are a number of ways in which a person may be toxic. One person’s behavior may be more overt than others, and manipulation can disguise a person’s toxicity in some cases, so that is something to keep in mind. Here are some signs of a toxic person:
- Lying or dishonesty.
- They are manipulative.
- You feel bad about yourself after talking to them.
- You feel drained after spending time with them.
- Your overall self-esteem is affected, and it leads back to them.
- They put you down, whether subtly or overtly.
- They overstep your boundaries.
- They seek to embarrass you.
- They put you in precarious or risky situations.
Often, toxic people love to make you feel less than. They might make little jabs to put you down, or they might make really big ones. Since manipulation can and often does disguise toxicity, it’s vital to listen to your gut. Maybe, you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells, this person makes your heart race, and you’re always nervous about the next explosion, jab, reaction, or impulse. Perhaps, they often put you in bad or simply precarious situations, or they embarrass you on purpose. Other people in your life, better-adjusted people, don’t make you feel this way. This is your gut telling you that something’s off. When you cut these people out of your life, stick to it, and make sure that you have a support system in place.
What are red flags in a relationship?
Here are some red flags in a relationship:
- Belittling your intelligence.
- Discounting your feelings.
- Overstepping your boundaries.
- Controlling behaviors, whether that’s financial control, distancing you from friends and family, or something else.
What happens when you cut someone out of your life?
Often, you’ll come out stronger and will feel a whole lot better after you cut toxic people out of your life. That said, it can be an emotional process, and things aren’t always better right away. Toxic relationships can impact a person severely, and it can take time to heal. Toxic people can exist within a friendship, romantic relationship, familial relationship, or any other type of connection. In time, you will build those areas back up after cutting the toxic person out. That might mean making new friends, finding people to be part of a chosen family, or working through the impacts of a toxic romantic relationship and moving forward with a healthy one when you’re ready. There are many people in the world, and you can have healthy, happy, uplifting relationships. Healing from toxic people can be a process. If you need help moving forward from this part of your life, don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor or therapist who can help.
When should you cut people off?
How do you start cutting someone off?
Is it OK to cut people out of your life?
How do you cut someone off without hurting them?
How do you politely ditch someone?
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