Updated: Apr 24
Have you ever walked away from a conversation or a catch up with someone and felt as if the life had been drained out of you? If so, chances are that you were around someone who is toxic.
We are conditioned by society to ‘be nice’ and ‘be kind’ to others, with very little thought to ourselves. This can encourage behaviour from others that can manifest in various ways, including verbal abuse, gaslighting, manipulation, and controlling behaviour. Many people, unfortunately, find themselves putting up with such behaviour from friends, family members, colleagues, or romantic partners. While the reasons why people tolerate toxic behaviour are complex and varied, below are some of the common explanations:
Fear of the consequences: People may be afraid of the consequences of confronting the toxic person, such as being ostracised, losing their job, or facing physical harm. The fear of what might happen if they speak up can be paralysing and prevent them from taking action.
Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem may feel that they don't deserve better treatment, and that the toxic person's behaviour is a reflection of their own inadequacy. They may believe that they are not valuable enough to be treated with respect and dignity, and therefore put up with toxic behaviour.
Emotional dependency: Some people may feel emotionally dependent on the toxic person, and fear losing them if they stand up for themselves. This can be especially true in cases of romantic relationships where the victim may believe that they cannot find someone else who will love them.
Belief that the behaviour will change: People may hold out hope that the toxic person will change their behaviour, and that their relationship will improve. Unfortunately, toxic behaviour is often deeply ingrained and difficult to change, especially if the person does not recognise or acknowledge that their behaviour is toxic.
Cultural and societal norms: In some cultures and societies, toxic behaviour may be normalised or even celebrated. People may not realise that what they are experiencing is toxic behaviour, or they may feel pressure to conform to societal expectations and put up with the behaviour.
Lack of awareness or education: Some people may not be aware of what constitutes toxic behaviour, or they may not understand the impact that it can have on their mental and physical health. Education and awareness-raising can be crucial in helping people recognise and respond to toxic behaviour.
It's important to note that none of the above reasons excuse or justify toxic behaviour, and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness. If you find yourself in a situation where you are tolerating toxic behaviour, there are steps you can take to protect yourself:
Set boundaries: Be clear about what behaviours are unacceptable, and communicate your boundaries to the toxic person. Be firm and consistent in enforcing these boundaries, even if it means ending the relationship or cutting off contact. I discuss these in more detail below as it the area most people find difficulty in implementing.
Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional about what you are experiencing. They can offer emotional support, guidance, and practical advice on how to cope with the situation.
Practice self-care: Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Make time for activities that bring you joy, practice mindfulness or meditation, and prioritise your mental and physical health.
Educate yourself: Learn more about toxic behaviour, its impact on mental health, and strategies for dealing with it. This can help you recognise toxic behaviour in the future and respond more effectively.
Remember that you deserve better: You are worthy of respect, kindness, and love. Don't let toxic behaviour convince you otherwise. You have the power to make choices that are in your best interest and prioritise your well-being.
Now that you’ve identified toxic behaviour and you are taking steps to protect yourself. How can you set effective boundaries with toxic people? Toxic people can be draining and exhausting to be around, and it's important to set boundaries to protect yourself from their negative behaviour. Whether it's a family member, friend, or co-worker, setting boundaries is an essential part of maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with toxic people:
Identify what you need
Once you recognise toxic behaviour, identify what you need to feel safe and comfortable around that person. This can vary depending on the situation and the relationship, but some common boundaries include limiting the amount of time you spend with them, not engaging in certain topics of conversation, and not tolerating disrespectful behaviour.
Communicate your boundaries clearly
It's important to communicate your boundaries clearly and assertively. This means using "I" statements to express your needs and expectations. For example, you might say, "I need to limit our conversations to work-related topics," or "I would like to be treated with respect at all times." It's important to be firm and consistent in enforcing your boundaries.
Stay calm and composed
When setting boundaries with toxic people, it's common for them to react negatively or become defensive. It's important to stay calm and composed during these interactions. Remember that you're not responsible for their behaviour, and it's okay to remove yourself from the situation if necessary. If the toxic person continues to violate your boundaries, it may be necessary to cut ties with them altogether.
Setting boundaries with toxic people can be challenging, and it's important to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional. Talking to someone who understands your situation can help you stay motivated and focused on your goals. Additionally, a therapist can help you develop strategies for coping with toxic behaviour and setting boundaries in a healthy way.
There are many reasons why people put up with toxic behaviour, but none of them excuse or justify such behaviour. It's important to recognise when you are experiencing toxic behaviour and take steps to protect yourself. Setting boundaries with toxic people is an essential part of maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. By recognising toxic behaviour, identifying what you need, communicating your boundaries clearly, staying calm and composed, and seeking support, you can protect yourself from negative influences and focus on your own growth and happiness.
You are also not alone which is another reason some people find it difficult to speak up, because they think they are the only ones going through something like this or being treated in this way. If you would like support in any way with boundaries and boundary setting, please book a consultation call with me.