The most toxic people aren’t always the most obvious

BoundariesHealing From Abuse

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Throughout my therapy sessions over the last 6-8 months I’ve been learning about who the toxic people are in my life and how I need to make some changes to distance myself from those that aren’t healthy for me to be around. What I’ve realized though is that while there can be blatantly toxic people in our lives, the most toxic aren’t always the most obvious ones that come to mind.

A toxic person is one who tears you down, doesn’t validate you, doesn’t care about your opinion, belittles your accomplishments, and just doesn’t make you feel good when you interact with them. Of course those who are physically or verbally violent to you are clearly toxic as well.

There are some people I can think of off the top of my head that I need to put an ocean’s worth of distance between, and I am taking steps to do that. It still isn’t an easy thing to do when you’ve known these people for a long, long time. That reliable old guilty feeling keeps showing itself, trying to make me put the blame on back on me instead of them.

Establishing boundaries for those who are toxic is a must if we are to heal. The reason we need boundaries is not because of anything we did, but because of what others did or do to us.

I think I’m a very intuitive person and I can see right through people most of the time, but trying to decide if some are truly toxic or just not thinking before they speak at times, isn’t as easy as I think it should be.

For example, there is someone I know who on the exterior is very gruff, vocal, loves the sound of his own voice, and just generally thinks he knows everything. But then are times when he’s genuine, real, and actually seems to be concerned for me. Is that a toxic person?

What about people that you joke around with but sometimes they take it too far? What if I’m the one that plays along and laughs about what they say about me or someone else in an effort to not stir up controversy.  Don’t get me wrong, I will stand up for someone or something I believe in, every time.

However, sometimes when I’m around certain people they bring up things that I’ve done in the past, it still hurts inside. Even if I do outwardly shrug it off and laugh.  Are those people toxic?

Is my mother toxic? Maybe that’ just a stupid question based on past posts that I’ve written about her. I’ve talked to some that say she is toxic, like it’s a no brainer. I can certainly see that, but there comes that old guilty monster rearing its ugly head again trying to tell me that I’m an ungrateful son and I should appreciate my family more. I swear it’s a burden that just never goes away.

In some cases I can’t fully get rid of toxic people because I have to be around them regularly either at work or elsewhere. So since I can’t just avoid them I have to make up my mind to take the high road, not dwell on what they say, and keep reaffirming to myself that I’m worth standing up for. I don’t need their approval for anything, I’m fine the way I am.

It’s one thing to confront someone about how they make you feel, and it’s certainly not a bad getting-rid-of-toxic-people-in-our-lives-1-300x272 The most toxic people aren't always the most obviousthing to do. I think you have to pick your battles though. For example, in the workplace you have to be very careful what kind of controversy you stir up because that can get you into a lot of trouble even when you didn’t mean for it to happen.

Same goes for a family member or friend, you can confront them and state your case and ease your mind that you voiced your opinion. Perhaps they take it to heart and change and perhaps they don’t. We can’t control the way that someone will react, and it may very well blow up in our face and because they invalidate us even more.

I guess for me, like I said it’s picking your battles and realizing that sometimes it’s just OK to let it go and know that we are fine and some people just are who they are.

The world is full of toxic people and always will be, both obvious and not so much. If we want to heal we need to be proactive to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. You don’t have to be perfect at it right away, but the fact that you take the time to heal and build your self worth back up, shows that you are on the right track.

We’ve been through enough trauma in our lives. Our minds and bodies have taken more than enough abuse. Wanting to stand up for ourselves and believing we are important and worthy of being treated with respect is not a negative mindset to have. It’s a healthy mindset. We deserve to surround ourselves with people that we respect and who respect us back.

You are worth it, I am worth it, we are worth it!


I always value your comments!


847c5c806b7247eec7709d49a90e694a?s=100& The most toxic people aren't always the most obvious
Blogger-Podcaster-Author-Advocate for Mental Health.

Matt is survivor of childhood sexual abuse & narcissistic abuse, living with Dissociation, Anxiety, & PTSD.

This blog exists to inspire all who have survived the trauma of abuse. All posts, podcasts, and videos are my life as a survivor shared openly and honestly to help inspire as many as possible to speak up, speak out, and not be ashamed.

11 Responses to " The most toxic people aren’t always the most obvious "

  1. Phoenix Kelly says:

    You ARE worth it! I too am struggling with creating and maintaining healthy boundaries with my mother vs respecting her as my mother. I feel guilty about speaking up but here’s the change in my life that’s freeing–I’m speaking up when I never have before, expressing my needs. Great post. Keep working at it!

    • Lyric says:

      Thank You Phoenix! It’s such a struggle. I didn’t even know what a toxic person was until really not that long ago. Relatively speaking of course. Learning to get rid of the toxic influences is difficult especially when I’ve known some of these people for a long time. My mother, yeah that’s a whole other level of confusion and invalidation. So many variables that can hurt many people if I really put the distance between that I need. I’m trying though, it’s a process. You ARE worth it too Phoenix, your voice and your work to heal is incredible. Keep it up friend!

  2. Don says:

    I’ve got those toxic people in my life. I remember reading a book and I believe the title was “toxic parents”. That was before I started piecing all the other stuff together.

    I no longer have contact with my family because they became so toxic that it was the only way I could survive. It was not easy cutting off contact and I don’t recommend it for all situations. Their letters in my mailbox on a daily basis were getting so hateful I could barely function. They have not changed either.

    Its not easy and I’m easily hurt by others. I’m always reading between the lines of what they are saying. Often I hear their intent, not just the words and people have a way of being hurtful to others. Sometimes I read too much into it and make it worse than it needs to be (but I’m still learning on that one).

    One thing I’m learning though is there is very little I can do to get others to change. Like you, I try to state it to them, but if they choose to ignore it, then I put up an extra buffer between me and them.

    I think some of this is just surviving and growing in life (in addition to all the other stuff we experienced). Its not always easy to do!

    • Lyric says:

      I do that too man, I’m an expert at reading between the lines and trying to find out what angle somebody may or may not have. That can so unbelievably frustrating and just causes more stress than needed. “Well they said this but I bet they really meant that”. Try to take something that they say at face value is like, “uummm nope, they’ve got an angle somewhere and I just need to find it to protect myself”.

      • Don says:

        I had to anticipate what was going on with my dad to help minimize doing the wrong thing that would set him off (or so that’s how the scenario goes). It wasn’t just my dad either. If I was able to out think him, sometimes the events that transpired after that weren’t as bad. I grew up not trusting anyone and always reading between the lines. Phone conversations are much harder for me and create much more anxiety because I can’t see the body language to go along with the words. The skill has been useful, but yes, it also causes more stress than I need as well.

  3. I try not to label people as toxic, I think everyone has good and bad qualities and that doesn’t make them a bad person. However, the people I try to distance myself from are the people I am easily influenced by in a way that is not good for me. My family is often unkind to me but I do not try to distance myself from them because the way they affect me doesn’t change the way I am for the worse. However, for example, there have been people I have had to distance myself from who I allowed to influence me to do things that are against my moral judgement every time I was with them. It was more about my bad decisions than it was about theirs or them not respecting me/making me feel bad etc.

    • Lyric says:

      I think the main thing is that you identify the people in your life that you know can influence you in a way you know isn’t right and you make sure not to let them change who you are. That’s a form of boundaries, good for you! For me I know some people are toxic and I have to limit my interaction because I leave them just not feeling good about myself. The family stuff, that’s just a whole other beast in itself that is exponentially more complicated.

  4. Kathy says:

    With regards to your topic on “toxic” people in your life. I agree with you. I think it’s important to stand up for yourself always! There are a multitude of ways one can go about it. For me the best way is to remain calm, keep my tone even and be very matter of fact. I do this at work, try with some of my family, friends and acquaintances. You don’t have to be mean or cutting, just matter of fact. For me it has given me internal strength and the ability to shed new and empowering light into the lives of these people. I mean, like you I choose my battles, but when people start to spew bad, derogatory or “funny” things about mental illness or disorders or health, you can bet you bottom dollar, I’m going to speak up and inform. There is no more room for ignorance when it comes to these issues! Knowledge is power and I will continue to educate so people will understand as much as they can and keep their ignorance to themselves!
    Thanks for the article!

    • Lyric says:

      Hiya Kathy, awesome to see ya as always! This whole toxic people topic really has so many layers and so many moving parts in my life that I’m finding it extremely difficult to get my footing and move forward. I just talked about in a therapy session recently about how I feel like I’m way over on the left side and my entire family is way over on the right side when it comes to my mother. It’s making me question everything that I’ve been working through in a big way and it’s a total anxiety rush. There are some obvious people in my life, those ones still aren’t easy but it’s more black and white…with family it’s all grey right now for me.

  5. Nisi says:

    I believe that there are some people really are toxic. Maybe only to a few, but they are. I have a few toxic people in my life I hardly speak to but do see on occasion. They are family. I write about them in my online journal too often – meaning I am letting them affect me even though I’ve nearly severed contact with them – meaning I am still trying to find ways to not let that happen. I get frustrated from this circle I let continue. Reading posts from others like me has really been a like an anonymous support group and great places to come to as resources. Many thanks for your openness!

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for sharing your heart Nisi! 🙂 I can definitely see your point about how we can let them still affect us by our writing. I know I write about my toxic situation alot, and while I know it helps to write, it still is very difficult. In time I hope that by continuing to be open about it, I can become more confident to take control of the situation as best I can and let go of what I need to.

      I’m definitely here to validate and encourage you friend!

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