Navigating Toxic People: Learning to Love Yourself

One of the hardest things about being human is navigating the complexities of interpersonal relationships. No matter the situation, everyone viewing it is going to have a different perspective. Feelings are not rational. Words have power. Everyone has an agenda. The truth can be twisted to serve those agendas. No matter what we do or how we move through the world, there will always be other people who see us in a negative light. People filter reality through their own mythology, and that means they cast you in a role in their movie. You don't get to decide how they cast you.

Regardless of the truth, which is a murky concept really, you can't control what other people think about you. You can't control what other people say about you. You can't control what other people do.

You can, however, control how you treat others and how you react to what other people think, say, and do.

The hardest thing for me personally is accepting that people can be cruel, competitive, and even dangerous. I know, that seems like a silly thing to say because...well...duh. Of course I know this in a bigger picture sense, but even people who pose as friends or allies can have dangerous agendas. This is harder to accept. It is my nature to want to see the best in everyone and to want to believe that everyone is moving from a place of good intention. The capacity for great good or great evil lie in all of us. I see that capacity for good in people and it can sometimes blind me to the opposite. I have a pretty strong bullshit detector, and I usually get a sense of people immediately, yet sometimes that initial reaction gets clouded by my desire to seek the best in even the worst of people. I think, well, maybe I can help change this person. This is a dangerous thought process, because we cannot change people. When we think like this, we're casting ourselves in a savior role and that's also a myth.

People are complicated, which sometimes makes it hard to make clear distinctions. Someone may have a host of redeeming qualities, but be a toxic person nonetheless. Toxic people can be very potent, powerful, and attractive. Sometimes the toxic people are in positions of power, they can be our bosses, our colleagues, our spouses, our relatives, our spiritual advisors, our teachers, or people who are popular in our social circles. When we see through their facade and we point that out, it often comes back on us. Toxic people are such good actors, we may be the only people to see them for who they really are. That's the gift and the curse of the empath.

Over the years, I've been in multiple situations where a toxic person glommed onto me, and pretended to be a friend or ally while casting me as the bad guy in their movie. Even when I saw right through them, the people around us did not. The toxic person made a point to play their movie for other people and to create a reality where I was seen by others as the bad guy. I posed a threat to them, and they diffused the threat systematically. I'm loud and intense. I don't back down or play small. I put myself out there. I speak the things out loud that other people are afraid to speak. That makes me a target for toxic people, a perfect scapegoat for deflecting attention away from their toxicity. This is the way that sociopaths operate, by finding an empath and using them as a deflection and distraction. This has nothing to do with intellect, and everything to do with personality traits and manipulation.

Toxicity can be insidious and subtle. Sometimes people we think of as friends or people in our own family are slowly undermining our self-confidence. They are stealing our joy incrementally. We may not see it clearly because it's lurking under the surface. This is an even more potent form of toxic behavior because the perpetrators worm their way into our inner circle, create connections with other friends or family members, and slowly chip away at those relationships through gaslighting, blame shifting, and other toxic behaviors. This requires a higher level of awareness and self preservation, but if left to fester, it can destroy the very foundations of our reality.

I am not a victim, I own my reactions and actions. In every case, the alarm bells went off early and I know something was wrong. Ultimately, I can only blame myself for ignoring my gut reaction and proceeding. On countless occasions, I've found myself second guessing that reaction and that is my fault. By ignoring my gut reaction, I chose to participate.

It is my goal, this year, to change this dynamic. It is my goal, this year, to put myself and my well-being first. I can't progress if I'm stuck in the same cycles, and the truth is this is an abusive cycle. I allowed these toxic people to have control over me and my life. I have over the years, been in this situation multiple times and it has been devastating. I left graduate school because of this, I lost a lucrative on-air job because of this, I lost two careers and tens of thousands of dollars four years ago because of this, my bands both broke up because of this...

I am, quite frankly, tired of this.

My goal for this coming year is finding a way to be kind and compassionate while giving that same kindness and compassion to myself.  I am going to trust that gut reaction when navigating toxic people. I am going to stop letting myself be hurt. When the warning bells go off, I will heed them and act accordingly. I am going to tighten my circle and surround myself and the people I love with light.

I am releasing attachment to the things I can not change, surrounding myself with positive people, and opening myself up to joy.



  1. i agree with this. over the years ive had to dump too many toxic people, a lot of family and some so called friends. unfortunately i seem to attract the crap. i am learning to let go of them and recognise them sooner. i just need to find more friends who are not toxic and out for themselves.

    1. Follow the link to the article on empaths and sociopaths, it is very enlightening.

  2. Wow, this is so what has gone on in my world lately. So sad when I finally wised up. But live and learn and move on. Thanks for the share.

  3. Wow, this is so what has gone on in my world lately. So sad when I finally wised up. But live and learn and move on. Thanks for the share.

  4. So glad you are on the other side! My pleasure.

  5. I remember a few years ago when you e-chatted with me about this, as I had experienced such a thing and my usually great toxic radar detector hadn't gone off. I'm also trying my best to rid my world, my space, with these entities. Not worth it, and me and my psyche are worth more! Love you!

  6. I got a chill reading this! It really resonated with me. Particularly this:

    "This is an even more potent form of toxic behavior because the perpetrators worm their way into our inner circle, create connections with other friends or family members, and slowly chip away at those relationships through gaslighting, blame shifting, and other toxic behaviors."

    WOW. Just completely parallels a toxic friendship I recently walked away from. I'm vowing to trust my gut and listen to my inner voice more in the future! I ignored SO many red flags, made so many excuses for bad behavior, and questioned my own judgment SO SO SO many times. I hate knowing that you and so many others have gone through similar experiences, but I also take comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one who attracts people who want to steal your soul. Thank you for writing this.

  7. Really good message! Feeling the same way. I am a guy but feelings could be similar.

    Not sure why I am a member? Reaching out and trying to learn even at this age


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