During this past election, many of us had the opportunity to see a side of people you had no idea existed. Old colleagues, school acquaintances, even some relatives showed their support for their candidate with harsh rhetoric and sarcastic memes.
I took this as an opportunity to “clean house”. I started deleting some people who, I felt, went a little too far with their opinions. Anything posted that implied any semblance of racism, misogyny or homophobia warranted a “de-friending” from me. I mean, did I seriously need over 1,000 Facebook friends anyway? With most of these people it was, quite frankly, an opportunity to be rid of those I really had no “real-world friendship” with anyway.
So why stop there? Perhaps there were, in fact, people in my “real-world” who needed to be “de-friended”, as well. As women, we are so imprisoned by our “people pleasing” sensibility. We put up with so many narcissistic people in our lives and allow ourselves to be manipulated on a daily basis…all to avoid conflict or, God forbid, not being liked! I have always been in awe of people who truly do not give a crap about what others think about them. I covet those who set boundaries with people with no apologies. Perhaps it was time I became one of “those people”. In 2017, it’s time that I become the person that I always admired.
The first step, before I even started to re-evaluate some of my relationships, was to come to terms with the guilt and promise not to beat myself up about it. It seems like such a selfish move to “cut people out”. I’ve seen so many people do it and not seem to feel any guilt. Good Lord, how do they do it? How do they feel no remorse? This is probably why I’m not a good business person or negotiator. I have a very hard time being straight about what I want no matter if it hurts someone else’s feelings.
So here was my approach that I would like to share with you in order to help with your own struggle as you “clean your house”.
- Come to Terms with the Guilt: The “people pleaser” in me truly struggles with the guilt.. or the guilt that others impose on me. The accusatory “how could you cut off your (blank)!” is, in actuality, disrespectful towards YOU. This person, that is vilifying you by pointing fingers and judging, is not respecting YOUR peace. Do not allow anyone to be toxic in your life simply because you are paralyzed by guilt in setting boundaries with them.
- Recognize how other’s toxicity affects how you perform in your daily roles: Whether you are a “wife”, “mother”, “accountant”, etc., these roles define you. If you simply focus on the importance of these roles in your life, all the other feelings of guilt and such will be superseded. The bottom line is that if you are not giving your best because of someone else’s toxic energy, then consider “sweeping them into the dust pan”. Don’t be afraid to take back your power.
- Make your initial approach with kid gloves: Let’s face it. Some people can’t get the hint. Unfortunately for me, it came down to me being much more “curt” with people in order for them to identify the boundary I was setting. It’s unfortunate, but you have to give yourself credit for trying. You can start with the simple approach by just distancing yourself – keep contact to a minimum. Then once they come back with the “what’s going on?”, “I haven’t heard from you”, you can respond with the “I’ve just been really busy” or “I just have a lot going on right now”. Have peace in knowing that you tried a soft approach first, and it’s not your fault if someone is too self-righteous to put the mirror back on themselves.
- Identify those who respect your space and those who do not: Once you have tried that initial approach and you are received with aggression or narcissism (where they make it all about them) you can take this as an opportunity to take steps to decide if you truly want to continue this relationship. You will see right away who is respecting your space and the ones who are so self-absorbed they don’t even deserve your friendship. Continue to distance yourself and give them that chance to back off and then hopefully you can revisit the relationship at a later date and instill those boundaries more strategically. Let go and let God, I say. Put the ball in their court to work out their own issues.
- Family can be the most toxic relationships in your life: Because we have been programmed to believe that “blood is thicker than water”, we allow so much toxicity from family members. This can be the hardest area of your life to re-evaluate. However, refer back to #2 and meditate on the roles in your life and how those family relationships affect your performance in those areas. Now decipher what is more important to you. For example, for me, being a mother is the most important thing in my life. If anyone disrespects my parenting or affects my relationship with my daughter, I need to distance them from my life, unfortunately, even if they are family. The guilt will subside once you see how much peace will fill your life by distancing yourself from them. Most importantly, do NOT let anyone make you feel like you are being selfish or cruel. They have not stood in your shoes. Do not allow yourself to be judged. It takes work. It takes courage and strength. But continue to surround yourself with the people who nurture that peace, and you will be a better YOU.
“Cleaning House” can be a struggle, but there can be true liberation in identifying and taking action to rid yourself of toxic energy in your life. Some people may need a “time out” where others may warrant a permanent vacation from your life. This is a good time of year to really see people for who they are and their roles in your life. When we talk about the stresses of the holidays, take a moment to think about “What is it that is truly stressing you out?” Is it the obligation to engage with certain family members? Is it dealing with ”friends” from work at the office Christmas party? Is it feeling obligations to people who you feel are narcissistic? Take a deep breath. Talk to a therapist.
Identify all that negative energy that YOU expel in stressing about these relationships.
You know that sense of relief when that person leaves your house?
That is called “peace”.
You deserve more peace in your life in 2017.
Janice M. Woerner, M.S., OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist, mother, blogger and breast cancer survivor. She is the founder and key contributor of JGH&W.com. Janice is a clinical educator and advocate for those afflicted with cancer and their families.
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