Untangling the Knots of Life: How to Learn to Remove Yourself From Toxic Environments
Updated: May 7, 2020
Even once we cross that long-awaited threshold of adulthood, we find out there’s still a lot we got to learn, especially when it comes to people around us. It starts all the way back in school days, where were more or less forced to spend eight hours a day with the same circle of people, some of who we’re not so fond of (but then again, no one can get along with everybody, can they?).
As we become adults, this usually transfers into the workplace, where we once again are subjected to the same group for five days a week. When it comes to free time, however, we have full control over what sort of people we want to surround ourselves with, even if it takes a bit of practise.
At the end of the day, everyone is different, which naturally means sometimes our personality traits don’t match those of others, leading to some not so pleasant situations. And yet the need to be loved and accepted can sometimes leave us staying in said situations longer than we should’ve. So, what should you do if that’s the case?
From my personal experiences (and I don’t say that to negatively reminisce about people I met throughout my life, it’s more a reflection of my perspective), there was one thing that was crucial for me to learn, and it was learned the hard way: no matter what you do and how much effort you put into someone, you can’t make others do the same for you if they don’t want to.
It’s easy to start blaming yourself if you feel people who were once close to you starting to slip away. You start thinking what you’ve done wrong – maybe you’ve been too wrapped up in other things, maybe you didn’t listen when needed, maybe you got them a crappy birthday present, maybe... The sad thing is, sometimes no matter how hard you seem to try to be a decent friend, you notice you’re the only one initiating conversation and whenever you ask them to hang out, the answer is always no, and then social media conveniently lets you know they’re all having drinks together.
Now, you could obviously try to save those little crumbs of whatever friendship there might be – after all, it’s everybody’s personal choice. But I found it better for my own well-being to just stop trying. If you stop initiating conversations and you find out you haven’t spoken in almost a year, then maybe they’re not really your friends? And yes, maybe you weren’t the perfect human at all times, but at least you made an effort. And if someone doesn’t want to return said effort, the best thing to do for yourself is to accept it and move on. Why would you want someone in your life that you have to fight to keep, anyway?
This ties into another thing I have recently learned, is that sometimes it’s okay to be a little selfish. Not to the point where it hurts others, obviously, but even so – everyone is selfish to some level, and sometimes it does end up unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings.
Sometimes we, for endless reasons, put a lot of effort into people (and by that I don’t mean just to initiate a conversation), but an effort into listening to them talk about their lives, help solve their problems – all the friendly duties. And yet, there doesn’t seem to be a return in this gesture, as whenever you try to ask for advice for ourselves, the subject seems to derail back to them.
As much as it can, for the lack of a better word, suck, sometimes it’s crucial to put yourself first. Even if you find out you’re standing alone, sometimes it’s better than to give pieces of yourself to people who only take from you. And once you distance yourself, eventually you will find people who treat you equally, and it will be worth waiting for.
Yet another thing is that at times you’ll find yourself just drifting away from someone because you don’t feel like your interests don’t align anymore. It can feel like your friends are all moving on with their lives and whatever that entails (marriage, kids, new careers – there's something for everyone), it can simply not match with aspirations of your own. As such, it can happen that you don’t have much to talk to them about, and end up comparing yourself to them, thinking that maybe they have the right idea and it’s you who’s lagging behind. But you need to remember that in the end, it’s your life and unfortunately, sometimes certain people can’t fit into it anymore.
I’m not exactly sure where I was going with this piece, as I’m not one to lecture anyone on how to live their life. Nevertheless, I still feel like it’s important for each of us to recognise our worth and put our own happiness first. While it can take some time to recognize the people worth keeping in our lives, it’s never too late to learn. At the end of the day, loving yourself enough to prioritize your happiness is one of the hardest things for anyone learn to do, but that makes it even more worth it.