Written by: Allie Stark, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Healthy living as well as healthy leading requires a top to bottom evaluation of every aspect of your life, including the types of people you are associated with. Whether it is in your professional, social or home life, your world may be filled with toxic and unsupportive individuals. If you’re not careful, certain colleagues, friends and even family members can instrumentally affect your life in negative ways.
A healthy leader needs to know when it’s time to remove or detach from an unhealthy relationship. The question becomes both, how do you recognize that someone close to you is toxic and how can you remove an intricate person from your life even though you know they are negatively affecting you personally and/or professionally?
Being a leader means having to make hard decisions on a daily basis. Good decision making involves firmly knowing your goals and objectives, appropriately weighing the pros and cons of the situation, having effective time management capabilities, access to a strong and trusted support system, and feeling secure in reaching out to them when needed. There is an ancient African proverb that states;
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The people you choose to surround yourself with can be one of the most important decisions you will make. While colleagues, friends, and even family members can be a positive influence, they can also fill your head with doubts, negative images and toxic thoughts, especially those who do not have your best interest at heart. When you hear negative comments often enough, they become ingrained in your mind. By no means is this a suggestion to surround yourself with “Yes Men,” but when you are encircled with toxic people, the words and thoughts that you invoke and share will tend to be negative. Find the people who value your contributions, thoughts, and opinions, even though they won’t necessarily always agree with them. There is a marked difference between people who are genuine and people who are just telling you what you want to hear, and people who are toxic.
In some cases removing these distractors from your life will be as simple as hitting the “unfriend” button. But, when it involves people close to you, “removing” will look more like “detaching”.
Detaching is an emotional concept that has little to do with physical or social distance. It involves not reacting, not taking things personally, and most importantly, not feeling responsible for someone else’s feelings. You need to emotionally detach so that their comments and opinions have no bearing on your mood, attitude or decision making.
Healthy relationships energize you, they inspire you, they lift you up. Toxic relationships will suck the life out of you, which can take a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and potentially even be harmful to your physical health.
Some examples of how to tell when it might be time to detach from a toxic person, or what I like to call “Energy Vampire,” are; if after spending what should have been a nice time together, perhaps a collaborative brainstorming meeting, a lunch date or a family gathering, you walk away feeling mentally and physically exhausted instead of energized. You often worry about their thoughts, feelings and needs over your own. Or, you engage in a conversation to discuss something that happened specifically to you, but the conversation quickly turns about them.
You should regularly leave interactions, especially social interactions, feeling happy and inspired. You should be able to lean on someone's shoulder occasionally without feeling like a burden. If you're feeling tired after being around them and have little to no feeling of contentment or joy after having interacted with them, it probably means they’re not putting as much into the relationship as they are getting out of it.
Toxic people will always pull the attention onto themselves, rather than it being a reciprocal back and forth. They will belittle your achievements and find faults in everything you do, no matter if it’s a personal achievement or a professional one. They will turn everything into a competition, often trying to “one-up” everything you say or do. They often will try to lift themselves up by tearing you down. Their mistreatment will vary from exclusion, ignoring, and subtle but hurtful remarks to even stronger verbal abuse. You might also hear comments from them such as, “You’re too sensitive” or “You need to learn to take a joke.”
A toxic person will rarely celebrate you. They will seldom be happy for you. Even if, on the surface, it might appear they share in your enthusiasm and happiness, there will typically be an undercurrent of jealousy. A true support system will celebrate milestones and achievements. They will genuinely be happy to see you succeed and be the first ones to say “congratulations” or send kudos.
However, not every person who expresses negativity is necessarily toxic. Some may initially be negative out of fear that your new role will change you or your relationship. It’s also possible that they might not see the value of your position at first, so they will be unsupportive until they see some success in it. These people might later become very supportive of you and your instinct to detach will be short-lived.
Most of us have likely had moments of selfishness and lack of self-awareness, where you can look back and recognize that you weren’t your best self. But, if you are seeing a pattern of behavior where someone is continuously taking more from your relationship than giving and/or repeatedly putting you down in order to make themselves feel or look better, then that is truly harmful.
Whether you have chosen and worked diligently towards the path of leadership, or it has been thrust upon you, there will always be people who believe that they are much better suited for the spotlight. They will consistently try to diminish your achievements and work behind the scenes to convince others to do the same. These people do not warrant your attention. Every bit of your energy is important. Detach yourself from toxic relationships and focus on the people who you can trust, who are genuinely happy for your accomplishments, and who routinely show up for you.
Finally, after removing and detaching yourself from negative and toxic relationships, actively seek out communities of like-minded successful people with similar goals, who will inspire you, and empower you to grow into the best leader and person you can be.
To become a member, go to Moxie and join other successful women in business who are already making connections.
Allie Stark, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Allie Stark is the Founder and CEO of Moxie. Inspire. Empower. Grow., a social network designed specifically for women in business. Moxie brings women from across the globe, together on one app, to support, inspire, and empower one another with the goal of helping its members grow in business and beyond. Allie is passionate about forging meaningful connections and also an administrator of several women’s friendship Facebook groups across the United States and Canada. Allie holds degrees in Psychology and Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and for nearly four years, has helped thousands of women make significant and worthwhile connections. Allie resides with her husband and two teenage children in Gilbert, Arizona.