That is a weird looking picture, I know. This was part of the reason I chose it for this blog. You’re welcome…
So I know this sounds backwards, but this format of the sentence also applies heavily to life. The other version is basically reminding you to not take advantage of someone who helps you along the way. In this version with the words flipped around, you get a very different meaning altogether.
This is a tricky topic, and I am going to give a disclaimer that I am not a counselor, a psychologist, or anything else of the sort. This is my opinion, take it for what it is worth, add your own circumstances, and make a decision for yourself what is the best course of action.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business:
Cut the toxic people out of your life. Period.
Yes, this extends to family members. You do not choose your family, but you do have full license to choose who you send time with. Its far more obvious that we should do this with people outside our family circles, but I am an advocate of cutting loose ANYONE that is detrimental to your well-being. It is not easy, it will lead to tension, arguments, and the like. But I believe it is worth it.
Think about it, what is there to be gained from sitting across the dinner table at a holiday gathering from someone you can’t stand to be around? Holding your tongue throughout dinner, trying your best not to explode and make a scene, how is this beneficial? I have been there and done that, and now that I am older, I will tell you this: NEVER AGAIN. I took a stance on this quite a while ago with more than one “peripheral” family members, and the relief I felt afterwards was amazing. I used to dread going to certain family member’s homes for holidays because of who else was there. I could feel the anxiety building up a few days in advance, and then the day of I would literally be sick to my stomach. It was brutal, and life is too short to be in that situation. You DO have a choice, and that choice is non-compliance.
On both sides of my family I have people that I do not want to associate with. As a kid, I didn’t know the reasons why, I just knew I didn’t like to be around certain people. As I grew older and really started to understand things like character and integrity, then I was able to pinpoint valid reasons why. I didn’t base this just on “I don’t like this person” but rather it was that I extended the criteria that I use for every other facet of my life to the family as well. I expect a high standard of the people I choose to spend time with, and I cannot find a reason why family should be exempt. If you break the rules, can’t have a discussion without it turning into a shouting match, pushing toxic or poisonous ideologies that are so far off base that you can’t find a grain of truth or fact in them… I’m out. I wouldn’t waste my breath in a conversation on the street with someone like this, so why would I voluntarily attend a gathering with one or more people like this just because were are related or they are so by marriage? Eventually I will have swallowed a bucket of crap a spoonful at a time may have been more than I should have endured. In retrospect I am kicking myself for putting up with some of these things for as long as I did.
Life is too short to be around people who are toxic or make you miserable. I would get anxiety about every holiday gathering starting about two days in advance. I would dread them, to the point of taking a job that required me to work Sundays, just to avoid the weekly gatherings. We are conditioned to think that you can choose your friends, but family is permanent and there is nothing that should make you stray from this. Guess again…I am not going to tolerate any of the following, all of which have been part of what I am talking about from various family and extended family members:
–extorsion (of sorts)
–manipulation to a very high degree
–clear self destructive behavior, especially when is directly impacts others
–mean, spiteful behaviors that make any gathering an argument waiting to happen
–belittling of others
–extreme judgment and excessive “life advice”
There are lots of other examples, but these are the ones that jumped to mind first. It took me a long time to realize that lots of families have these same dynamics, I am glad I am not alone to some degree. Not that everyone should have to suffer as I did, but rather that I am not a unicorn by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, if I did find out that these circumstances were unique to my family, maybe that would have prompted action sooner. Hard to say…
My takeaway for you is this: critically evaluate your circumstances as best you can, and make changes when needed. Have the hard conversations, make sure you have done everything possible to improve or resolve situations. Once you do, one of two things will happen:
things will improve
things won’t improve
If it is the first outcome, then life moves forward in a better manner. If it is the latter, then when you do take a stand, you can do so from the position of KNOWING you did everything you could to make things better, but they cannot be. Therefore, extricating yourself from those situations becomes more easily justified. Not attending a family gathering (for example) is not the end of the world, despite what others may tell you. If you had to move to a new city for a job, you would not see those same people with the regularity that you are now; totally different reason, but the same outcome. Think about it…
I am not here to tell you how to run your life, but I am telling you that you and you alone are responsible for your happiness and wellbeing, and you need to take steps to improve and protect these two things as much as possible. No one else can.