There’s much to be said for self-care. I talk about it a lot. If you hadn’t noticed. Self-care can take so many forms and it is relative to you. Something I’ve noticed more as I’ve put my own self-care higher up the priority list, is how many toxic relationships we allow in our circle. These can be family relationships, friends, intimate relationships or even the relationship you have with your job. Toxicity in a relationship isn’t always something that presents physically. It can be easy to condemn a physically abusive relationship because there are physical symptoms. The emotional scars from a toxic relationship, not so much. Now I’m don’t want to get into abusive relationships here, either physical or emotional, they are a whole other topic that thankfully I don’t particularly have first hand experience with. What I’m talking about are the relationships that don’t serve you, that clash with your values and that don’t help you on your way to being your absolute best. We have all been there. Friends that only want you around when they don’t have a partner and then drop you like a hot rock. Partners that subconsciously treat you more like the house maid, leaving you to do every household chore there is. Partners and friends that seem to abandon you when you are at your most vulnerable. Jobs that leave you dreading Monday every single Sunday. Friends that are the emotional vampire with their constant complaints that just suck the life out of you. Family members that constantly criticize your choices, your clothes and how you look. You don’t deserve any of that. The good news is, that you can do something about it.
For me, self-care when you have a toxic relationship in your circle (or a few of them), is about setting boundaries. Setting them up for yourself in the first instance without letting the person know, can sometimes be enough to adjust a behavior. You may need to have a hard conversation with them. I’ve done that in a couple of different ways and I’ve found that the subtle approach really doesn’t work with a person that isn’t self-aware of their behaviors or sees an issue with their behaviors. Sometime being direct as a jack hammer doesn’t do it either. Only you can judge what is going to work for you. You may even need to go to the extreme of telling the person that while this behavior continues, you cannot allow them to be a part of your life, and walk away from the relationship. If everything else you have tried hasn’t got through, you are left with no choice but to leave the relationship with compassion for yourself and for the other party. I have used that approach and I’m grateful the person was self-aware enough to be able to look a bit deeper into themselves and realise that behavior wasn’t actually serving them either. Our relationship is now the best it has ever been.
But it doesn’t always work out that way and sometime it needs to be a clean break. It can be hard to be the one to instigate the break. It can be easy to go back to the way things were especially if the other party goes into what I call “fix it” mode. They do everything you ever needed them to do for a few weeks just to make you think you were over reacting and for you to go back on your decision. Remind yourself that you are worthy to be treated well all of the time, not just when it suits the other party. If you find yourself always on the verge of a difficult conversation to remind someone of your worth, then perhaps you are better off without that relationship. This can be challenging if the toxic relationship is family. When I read “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” my big takeaway from that was to not let social norms dictate my circumstances. The expectation of what family relationships are supposed to be shouldn’t be dictating what my family relationship is, if it is causing me grief. The idea that family relationships are always close and you are obligated to behave a particular way, in short is bullshit. Regardless of the family connection, no one has the right to treat you badly just because they are family. They may say they are doing what they are doing out of love, but if it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a place of love for you, then it probably isn’t.
Having a difficult conversation may be a little more complex when it’s a job that is the toxic relationship. In that case, you just have to go find yourself another job that excites you in an organization that fits your values. The people might be great, the work can be interesting but if it leaves you stressed, angry or otherwise not in a good way, then it is time to move on. Only you can make that choice. If your job isn’t adding to your quality of life, physically, fiscally and emotionally, it’s time to find a new job. Two of my favorite sayings apply to this “Life is all about choices” and “If you don’t like where you are, move. You are not a tree”.
Humans are interesting creatures. We tend to get comfortable in situations and to some extent, fear the change that might be needed. That fear can stem from self-worth and what your internal meanie poo poo head convinces you that you’re “only” worth what you’ve got or less. Remember as a kid you had dreams? Dreams of an amazing job, world travel, functional, fulfilling relationships. You are still allowed to have those dreams as an adult. In fact, as an adult, those dreams are probably more attainable because have experience, skills and ability to go and get them. After my divorce, I found making decisions on my own a little bit scary to start with. I no longer had someone to consult with to verify I was making a good decision. I’ve had to make a bunch of decisions on my own since then ranging from where my next overseas holiday was going to be, to buying a house, and the most heart-breaking decisions of letting my fur babies go. It has been hard but I’ve also learnt to back myself. Sometime the term “what’s the worst that could happen” gets thrown around entirely too much, but it has led to some amazing adventures. Adventures I am worthy of.
Toxic relationships hold you back from so many things. But mostly they hold you back from being the most amazing person you could possibly be. The saying that goes something like “Your circle should want you to win. Your circle should clap the loudest when you have good news. If they don’t, then get a new circle” is pretty true. There is a tribe of people out there for you. There are probably multiple tribes of people out there for you. A tribe that’s going to support your fitness goals, a tribe that is going to support your life changing decisions. A tribe that is always lifting you up, reminding you of your worth and is ready to take on anyone who tries to unnecessarily bring you down. It’s those people you need to surround yourself with. Life is too short to surround yourself with people and organisations that don’t particularly give a shit about you. You are worthy of good things. Remember that.