“You could get on a bus right now. I’ll come with you.”
I was 16 years old, and I was standing in the gift shop of Chicago’s Field Museum with my best friend, J. She was visiting from out of state for the week, and we were making the rounds doing typical tourist stuff.
But her visit wasn’t a happy one…because I wasn’t happy. A year earlier, I had attempted suicide, and although I had lived, the biggest problem in my life hadn’t gone anywhere.
J knew I was still depressed and hopeless. As we stood in the store surrounded by plastic dinosaur models and archeology books, she tried to convince me to run away. Right then. With just the clothes on my back.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t cut ties with my abusive family members until 7 years later.
Why didn’t I get out earlier?
Well, that’s complicated.
Sometimes people want to oversimplify these types of situations:
- “I would never stay with a man who cheated on me.”
- “She’s not your friend if she treats you that way.”
- “Who cares if you’re related? That behavior is unacceptable.”
Toxic people are those individuals who poison your life with their negativity, gossip, abuse, selfishness, and other evil behavior. And just like a real poison, after ingesting their “venom” you become sick and weak.
If you’ve ever had to deal with a toxic person, you understand that removing them from your life is easier said than done.
That said, it CAN be done.
Here are some steps to help you break free. Obviously, if you are in a truly dangerous situation, please get professional help.
First, are you the problem?
I know, I know. How could I say this? So-and-so in your life is the problem, not you. They’re the terrible ones! I get it, and I believe you, but sometimes we can think that people are being hurtful when really it’s just our misperception.
I tried to fix myself first. I acted kinder to my family members, and treated them how I wanted to be treated. I focused on living a happier future together with mutual respect and love. I did this for YEARS, even after they continued to hurt me. I made an effort, and I realized that I was not the problem.
Then I knew I could continue without hesitation.
Choose your time
Timing can be important. Me running away with J with no money, no food, and no place to stay would have been really stupid. I didn’t want to live on the street. I knew I needed more resources, so I waited.
Because I waited, I was able to finish high school and then graduate college without any student loans. I gained a lot of strength by living on my own in college; strength that I would need later. Some people may think it was cruel of me to bide my time and have my parents pay for my college education in full, and then cut them out of my life. Well, I would gladly return their tuition money…as soon as they return my childhood.
What time is best for you to say goodbye to the toxic people you know? Do you want to avoid spending time with them at an upcoming event? Do you need them out of the way before you can move on to your next goal?
Get as much support as possible
I relied on Chris A LOT after I decided never to see my family again. He was a rock of strength in my life. He knew what I had been going through, and he made it much easier for me to pull myself together and create a happier future.
Warning: there will be people who won’t agree with your choice to remove the toxic person from your life. Expect this to happen and plan for many sources of support.
Do you have support in your life? If you’re ditching a toxic friend, do you have more loving friends to turn to? If you’re removing yourself from a toxic work environment, do you have a support network of friends and family members to help you look for another job? Are you seeing a therapist? (FYI, I’ve been in therapy on and off for much of my life, and there’s no shame in seeing a professional.)
If you think you have no one to support you, remember that you always have me. My life isn’t perfect either. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk.
Decide how you want your life to be now
You could run into other problems once the toxic people are out of your life. You might need to find new friends or activities. You might need to get a job to support yourself. You might need to do some serious soul searching to figure out how you can avoid letting other toxic people into your life.
Take as much time as you need to figure out how you want to feel every day. Do you want to feel happy and respected? Seek out people who make you feel that way.
It’s easy to judge those in a bad situation and say that they should “just get out.” I hope you can understand why people need to remove toxic people from their lives at their own pace.
Want more help ditching those toxic jerks? Check out my free ebook How to Remove Toxic People From Your Life.
How do you handle toxic people? Have you ever had to cut someone out of your life?
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