Here at Peaceful Dumpling, we’ve talked about best ways to calm anxiety naturally or tips to reduce stress and build resilience. We’ve also come up with best mood-boosting foods and practicing gratitude, and even therapeutic effects of being in nature. Of course, there is very little that can’t be beat by a good run, yoga class, or a hot supper and relaxing bath. But not every stressor is the same, and some are much less within your control than others. Piling chores, bottleneck traffic, your favorite jeans coming out of the dryer a size smaller (after your well-meaning but clueless boyfriend “helps” with laundry), late charge on your credit card payment–all of these cause major stress, but you can plan ahead to avoid them or change your response to them. But the most important cause of everyday stress is also the one that is least manageable through relaxation techniques alone: Toxic people.
Whether it’s “friends” who mysteriously disappear when you need them, a demented Toxiboss, or passive-aggressive in-laws you can’t stand, toxic people are different from other external stressors because they exert their negativity on you no matter how you react–and because they are usually difficult, if not impossible, to simply avoid. Unfortunately, people who are caring and compassionate by nature (aka Peaceful Dumplings) are also most affected by the games that toxic people play. Nice people tend to assume that everyone else is also nice; and when they get hurt, they believe they must have done something to deserve that treatment. This, of course, leads only to more uncertainty and anxiety about oneself, in addition to the unhappiness caused by the toxic people. The worst thing about this response is that it doesn’t just end there, but only encourages toxic people to extend their influence over your well-being and self-esteem.
In order to deal with the negative influence of toxic people, you need to do more than just work on yourself internally. Here are the 5 steps you should take to build an active defense system against T.P.
1. Get rid of your self-doubt.
As a caring, kind, Peaceful Dumpling, you tend to give people the benefit of doubt. You’re thus susceptible to blaming yourself rather than others for how you feel. You might feel guilty for thinking that T.P. are bad people–and you might even internalize their negative feedback about your value. Do not fall in that trap! Believe in your amazing beauty, talent, goodness, and never, ever prioritize other people’s opinions about you over your opinion about yourself.
2. Acknowledge their toxicity.
You are probably an idealist. (You are vegan, after all). So you project your goodness on others and assume that people are all fundamentally good. But in reality, people are not at all same in their intentions. Barring unintentional faux pas, their hurtful actions were done on purpose. It’s not enough to simply say, “but that’s just who they are.” In other words, it doesn’t make sense to say that it’s okay for some people to be mean because they’re mean. (See the circular logic here?) Though it might be hard to understand the mentality of people who enjoy hurting others, accept and acknowledge that these sickos exist–and that nothing you do or don’t do will change their toxic behavior toward you. You can’t be responsible for their basic human decency–so don’t waste your energy trying to manipulate them into positivity.
3. Avoid them if possible.
Now that you’ve accepted that toxic people are not good, the next step is to avoid them as much as possible. That “friend” who somehow invited everyone except you to her birthday party? Don’t answer when she calls to talk about her problems. Your manipulative ex who texts you late at night? Block his phone number. Your back-stabbing co-worker asking for help on his project? Pretend you’re busy–you probably are, anyway, being awesome and all. Be strong, and don’t feel bad that you’re cutting these people out.
4. Decide to not give them the power to affect you.
There will always be toxic people whom you cannot reasonably avoid, like bullies at your school, family members, bosses, and co-workers. In this case, the best way to protect yourself is with a mantra: “I will not give them the power to affect me.” Resolve not to let these people sway you emotionally and psychologically. These T.P. don’t deserve the power of affecting your mood and sense of well-being.
5. Build yourself up emotionally, physically, spiritually.
The only way you can combat strong negativity is to build up strong positivity. Nurture yourself emotionally, physically, and spiritually with the same care that you would show a loved one. Be gentle to yourself and remember that you deserve only the best intentions. Take care of your body with regular exercise and feel-good foods. Surround yourself with positive people (and animals!) who make you smile. And in worst situations, try this trick to fortify yourself instantly: imagine a moment when you were perfectly happy, radiant, and calm, whether it was on top of a mountain, looking over the valley, or next to the fireplace surrounded by your family, or the first time you did a handstand. Take that feeling with you to the present, remembering that the person you were at that moment is your essence that no one can touch. In yoga, it’s the fifth and innermost level of self–Anandamaya Kosha, or Bliss. (The others, from the outside, are: Body, Energy, Mind, and Wisdom). What you have here, no external negativity can harm. It is who you truly are, happy and pure.
Photo: Tor Paulin via Flickr