You’ve seen the headlines:
’10 signs you’re in a toxic relationship.’
‘The top 5 signs that someone is an energy vampire.’
‘How to deal with toxic people.’
More than listicles, these articles are usually self-help affirmations that you are right and a particular person who is irritating you is all that is wrong with life and people.
Not content to accept this confirmation for yourself alone, you will post this article on your social media channels. You might even throw in a passive aggressive meme that explains what true friendship or love looks like and how you will NEVER EVER let Bad People into your life again.
When relationships of any kind fall apart, we look for blame. Some of us will blame ourselves, but a lot of the time, we will find fault in others.
I get it. You’ve been used and you are just so darned hurt that you let someone take advantage of you … after a lifetime of people taking advantage of you.
Out damn pattern, out!
The truth of it is that we are inherently self-centred. This is why we take any sort of resistance or tension as rejection. This is why when relationships of any kind fall apart, we look for blame. Some of us will blame ourselves, but a lot of the time, we will find fault in others.
Yet, I rarely hear people talk about the simple fact that their personal growth has seen all that is no longer compatible exit their lives. People forget how easily we can change. Why are we so shocked when everything else around us is then affected?
I do mean that quite possibly your faults are just something you need to navigate and not the end of everyone else’s world as they know.
If you are one of those people who does not take the actions of others personally, then congratulations: you’ve figured out that 99 per cent of all the crap you suck up energy-wise in your day usually belongs to other people and that you don’t need to take on more stress and hang-ups.
I don’t mean you are a perfect human being without fault. I do mean that quite possibly your faults are just something you need to navigate and not the end of everyone else’s world as they know. You are not right and ‘they’ are wrong, or vice versa. In fact, these words have no meaning or place in relationships. There is no right and wrong, just lots of different, interesting perspectives.
And this is where we truly suffer when our relationships come to an end, sometimes unexpectedly. When someone gives you the list of everything you ever did to them, instinctually you will listen and think, ‘Wow, I am a horrible person’, even though, chances are, you’re not a horrible person – you were just being yourself and this did not gel with this other person’s narrative.
People, like situations, become dumping grounds for all our angst, fear and worry. That something isn’t right in our lives. That we’re unfulfilled. That we’re under-achieving. In a social media-saturated world with an in-built showing-off system (#blessed #grateful #mylifeisbetterthanyours #foodporn #etc), we’re highly attuned to feeling inadequate. To do inner work and not latch on to everyone else, to explore your own wreck without projecting everything you discover onto others requires effort.
Who has time for that?
But I’m going to reveal something that you know in your innermost being: when someone tells you that you are wrong in ways that seem off, it’s their truth, not yours. And similarly, when someone ends a relationship, possibly literally with the words ‘It’s not you, it’s me’, that is also the truth.
People break up because they are no longer compatible, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a platonic one. Even if that person blames you and wants to break up with you, the person they see as wrong and faulty and at blame for stuff going wrong in their lives, their separation from you is inherently about them.
The good news is, you can learn from these relationships that force you to sit outside of yourself, walk on eggshells (you know those ones) and be inauthentic.
I’m going to reveal something that you know in your innermost being: when someone tells you that you are wrong in ways that seem off, it’s their truth, not yours.
They’re exhausting and a waste of your energy. It is also not good for the other person involved, who if they’re in a blaming funk, probably cannot see that you are only a projection board for their own troubles.
The place we feel most helpless is in the workplace, where complete strangers are forced together. Sometimes it leads to long-lasting, beautiful friendships and even romantic partnerships. But bullying is rampant in the workplace because there is nowhere to run. Low self-esteem in the real world can turn you into a lion at work. Low self-esteem in your daily life can also enhance the victim narrative.
I don’t mean to suggest that nothing in this life should feel good or bad, based on the idea of different perspectives. But have you ever noticed how there are some people who just really don’t give a shit? About what others think of them? About how others treat them? You might find such people unpleasant. They may appear grossly selfish and conceited. But they’re onto something. They are in an intimate relationship with themselves.
They are not comparing themselves to others. They are running their own race and dealing with their own life gunk.
So next time you feel challenged by how someone perceives you or treats you, pause and ask yourself what this says about the both of you – is this person judging you rather than allowing you to be who you are? Or are you getting your back up because you crave complete acceptance?
In every moment, you have a choice. You might not have a say in what or who enters your life, but you usually have complete choice in how you deal with them.
How liberating is that?
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The ground-breaking new six-part documentary series, Look Me In The Eye, will debut on SBS on Wednesday 6 September at 8.30pm. Each episode will be available to view on SBS On Demand after broadcast.