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Letting go of toxic people

Author: August Clarke

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” – Maya Angelou

I am a strong believer in forgiveness and second chances, often to a fault. It is true that people can change and grow and that we should not always punish people for honest mistakes, but when people in our lives mistreat us and make us feel sad, insecure, and diminished time and again, there is a problem. Unfortunately, it’s not always an easy one to solve.

To outsiders, the solution often seems so obvious:

“Why would you let someone treat you like that?”

“Just cut your losses—you deserve better.”

These things can be hard to hear, because a lot of the time we know that we are in an unhealthy relationship, but that doesn’t always make getting out of it an easy thing to do. The reason why is because we let people get close to us for a reason, and the people who hurt us the most are also often the people that we love. Despite this, I cannot stress enough how important it is try and create distance between yourself and toxic people. The following are some tips to ideally make the separation a little easier.

1. Physically distance yourself

It’s a lot easier to move on after ending your relationship (friendship or otherwise) with someone if you put physical space between you and them. It can be really tempting to text them and try to seek reconciliation, or to respond when they do the same. I once dated a guy who managed to convince me that he had “changed” and promised me he would “do better” over and over again. It took a long time to realize that by agreeing to talk to him after we had ended things was only continuing a toxic cycle that never really did change for the better. If someone you have recently cut out of your life attempts to reach out to you, it is important not to respond with hostility (anger generally only makes things worse) but it is also important to be clear that you need some space to gather yourself, at least for a little while.

2. Get rid of reminders of them

Aside from gaining physical distance, it is also imperative to gain emotional distance as well. Having constant reminders of someone who used to be in your life and what they once meant to you can be really harmful. If you have any pictures of a toxic person in your life on display, consider taking them down. I’m not saying you have to burn them or anything like that, but it might help you accept their absence in your life for awhile.

The same goes for social media. If you think that unfollowing them or muting them will be beneficial to you, then go for it! Removing someone from your social media can be scary, but odds are they won’t even notice that you unfollowed them and it can do a lot of good for you in the long run. If unfollowing seems like too permanent a move, it might be a good idea to at least try to avoid checking their status on social media as much as you possibly can.

3. Take off the rose-tinted glasses

It can be tempting to reminisce on all the good times that you used to have with people in your life who used to be important to you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead to problems if you start to forget their bad traits. Try not to ignore all of the parts of the relationship that weren’t so great (and the reason that you have cut this person out of your life now). This helps to maintain reality, and provide you with the confidence that you have made the right decision for yourself and your personal emotional and mental well-being.

Letting go of people we care about—no matter how poorly they may treat us—is far from easy. As long as you keep taking lengths to put more emotional distance between you and that person, as well as to remind yourself of the reasons that you have made the choice let go of them, the pain should fade with time. I hope that some of these tips were helpful for you!

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