Breaking Away from Toxic Patterns

You don’t have to let other people define your happiness.

There is something to be said for being able to break away from those who drag you down. I’m pretty confident that there are people all around you who may fit into this pattern. The trick is to not treat people badly and yet not let them take you down their dark paths. This can often be easier said than done especially when you genuinely care for someone who may be going down a path you don’t need to follow.

One of my closest friends is fighting this battle right now. She has genuinely cared for a man who has helped her through some of the darkest times in her life but he has little to no ambition, uses drugs as a crutch, makes her feel as if she doesn’t matter and yet she is struggling to keep her distance. This is a woman who has been a power player the whole time I’ve known her and this man has managed to make her feel unworthy, unloved, ugly and desperate. Talk about toxic. Up until recently, he controlled her. Now, she is seeing her worth and that things are beginning to turn around for her. I’m glad. Because she is one of the most capable women I have ever encountered.

It’s really hard to break a toxic pattern when you don’t recognize that you are in a toxic environment. In my life, I’ve had relationships that I would have gladly done anything for without realizing I was being used or abused. When others don’t respect you, it becomes easy not to respect yourself, if you allow them the power to make you feel that way. I should know. When I was in previous relationships, I conformed to what I thought that person wanted me to be. Now, I’m just me. And I like me. I like being free to go hike if I want or to travel the world, or go to a movie without feeling like my choices are not what others want. I love to go shoot pool. Billiards has been a favorite sport of mine for years. I used to love bowling until I developed carpel tunnel. The point is, that after years of conforming, I have learned who I am and that conforming to someone else doesn’t paint the picture of who one really is.

Within every one of us, lies the overwhelming need for love. In many ways, we are always being led by our hearts to find what we think we seek. Sometimes, we get promises from those that can’t deliver. Broken promises are something that we learn to live with. There’s even times where those same promises lead to something more sinister than we can imagine. What I mean by this is when those we love try to control us, it takes strength and courage to stand on our feet and not allow the negative energy take us down.

Recognizing a relationship’s toxicity can often lead to making healthier choices.

There was once a time in my life where I worked for a local hospital system. It was a very cliquish world. I didn’t fit in and yet was trying desperately to not only fit in, but to make a living. Many of us have taken jobs where we didn’t feel we belonged. The same thing happened to me. I wanted so badly to please the people I worked with, that I became a target for bullying from one of the women I wanted to be friends with. In hindsight, I should have known that it was a toxic environment but I wanted to keep a stiff upper lip and learn to cope within an environment that I wanted to be a part of. That mistake was on me. I think I’ve done this more in my life than I care to admit. I like doing a good job and I also like recognition. It’s really difficult for me when I strive to do good work and just can’t seem to fit in with those that I work with. This is where I had to realize that it’s okay to be different. What isn’t okay is to allow those who you admire to make you feel inferior.

One of the hardest things I had to do when breaking free from the toxic folks in my life was to admit that I was in a toxic relationship. It’s so easy to deny yourself the truth. When the feeling of acceptance is needed, we tend to convince ourselves that things will get better and to be fair sometimes it does. But most of the time, we set ourselves up. Look around you. Are you able to walk with your shoulders back, a genuine smile on your face and in your heart? Are you able to confide in others without feeling judged? Do you find yourself binge eating or drinking? Are you a smoker who constantly needs that smoke? If you find yourself struggling with any of these things, you aren’t alone. I can guarantee you that there are more people on this earth who deal with insecurities. Find your center.

Make a list of the pros and cons. If you can focus your energy on what needs to be changed in your life and surroundings, then you can start to create a plan for yourself. I used to scoff at the notion of making goals. I was in denial about how setting goals for myself would achieve a better success rate for myself. I learned that outlines and plans are imperative for us to change our lives for the better.

Deal with your emotions. Let’s get real. It hurts when people hurt us whether it’s physical abuse, mental abuse, lack of consideration, lack of recognition, etc., but if we don’t allow ourselves to cry, to deal with our frustrations and to get a handle on our emotions, we don’t usually as a whole, make good decisions. Any time we make emotional decisions, we don’t think clearly. That’s why it’s really imperative to look at the circumstances and situations around you and make objective decisions regarding your environment. There are some folks who may feel like there’s no way out of their current situation. To them I say, find someone you can talk to. You may be able to receive help for things that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. It could be a counselor, a stranger, or even a very close friend. We all need people in our lives that we can vent to. Sometimes when our heads are cloudy, there are others who can make the sun come out again.

Be good to yourself. There’s always going to be folks in this world who want to tear you down. Don’t be one of them. Every person on this earth is unique. Even identical twins and triplets have things that are different about them. Give yourself credit. You are beautiful. You are fun. You are worthwhile, and more importantly, you are a gift. Just know that there is no one like you in this world. Be willing to be open to growth and learning and you can break out of any toxic realm thrown your way.

Last but not least, love yourself enough to see your value. You don’t have to be the best person in the world to accept yourself and your faults for who you are. True friends won’t judge you. They will accept you for who you are and support you through your darkest days. I made a lot of mistakes. I helped a lot of folks out both financially and emotionally, even when I couldn’t afford it. I believed so much that in helping them, I was helping myself. What I didn’t realize at the time was I didn’t love myself because if I had, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to be used the way I was. I believe in second chances. I also believe in the growth of the human soul. I don’t believe that anyone is better than someone else. I could care less if someone is rich or not. They breathe the same air the rest of us do. I dream of the day that we can all find ways to coexist without all the violence we see daily. No one should ever be abused and it happens every day. No one should be made to feel like an ant at work and it happens all the time. No one should ever have to feel like they don’t matter or that their voice isn’t important. What does matter is that we try our best at whatever we do. It matters that we show kindness and compassion. It matters that we reach out to those who hurt. We matter. Everyone one on this earth matters.

Believe in yourself. There are so may people in this world that get their kicks off of making others look bad. Be willing to step up. How do you know what you can achieve if you never try? Let’s say that you have a promotion that you are up for and you haven’t gone for it in the past because you didn’t think you are good enough or didn’t deserve it, do you not want to change your circumstance? Are there others that make you think you don’t deserve the opportunity? Getting out of toxic environments often requires us to change our mentality. Be willing to adapt. Life never stays the same. We are all faced with difficult choices and situations. Trust your instincts. You know what you are okay with and what you aren’t. It may be scary to go for the things that you don’t have but sometimes we are given incredible opportunities just because we tried and were open. Life is complicated. Choices are complicated sometimes but they don’t have to define who you are. What defines us is how we handle those choices. Our actions say a lot about our character.

Sometimes walking away is the best way to maintain a healthy environment.

As we go into a New Year, I hope each and everyone of you sees your worth and potential. You all change lives and have an incredible amount of influence over the folks you interact with daily. Never let anyone make you feel inconsequential. The truth is that we may never be rich or famous but we can be rich in our lives with healthy choices. That’s worth more than money can buy. Happiness does come from within. Enjoy this holiday season. Step out of the toxic relationships and find your inner peace.

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