Whether your mother-in-law is a constant complainer, your boss is an angry cynic, or your friend is a pessimistic downer, dealing with toxic people can sometimes be unavoidable. But the way you respond to them is your choice. If you're not careful, toxic people can negatively influence the way you think, feel, and behave. They can introduce unnecessary stress into your life and cause chaos that will drag you down.
Here are 9 telltale signs that toxic people are getting the best of you:
1. You talk about them a lot.
Grumbling to co-workers about your rude boss or complaining to your spouse about a self-absorbed relative takes time and energy. Talking about toxic people when they're not around gives them more power over your life.
2. You lose your temper.
Whether you're dealing with a master manipulator or the office gossip, toxic people can stir up strong emotions. If you're not careful, your frustration can easily turn to rage. When a toxic individual gets the best of you, you may feel like you're not in control of your emotions.
3. Your self-esteem dwindles.
Toxic people are often rude, insulting, and downright degrading. Sometimes, it can be tempting to think things like, "My father makes me feel bad about myself." But your self-worth is up to you and should never be dependent on someone else.
4. You blame them for your behavior.
If you fall prey to a toxic person's manipulation, you may be tempted to blame them for the choices you make. Placing blame for what's going on in your life, however, is a clear sign that a toxic person has too much power over you. Accept personal responsibility for how you spend your time and whom you spend it with.
5. You dread spending time with them.
Feelings of dread can consume a lot of your time and energy. Whether you're going to a party with a toxic relative, or attending a meeting with a toxic coworker, allowing that event to ruin the hours—or perhaps even days—leading up to it is a sign that a toxic person is all-consuming.
6. You stoop to their level.
If you've started thinking, "If you can't beat them, join them," you may start behaving in a way that isn't in accordance with your values. Stooping to a toxic person's level often comes as a last resort, but it isn't an effective coping strategy. Ultimately, it will only create more chaos in your life.
7. You don't set healthy boundaries.
A toxic individual's manipulative and aggressive tactics can make it difficult to set healthy boundaries. You may be taken off-guard by a co-worker's audacity or left speechless by a friend's harsh words. Without healthy boundaries, it's impossible to protect yourself emotionally from their grasp.
8. You resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Pouring yourself a drink or indulging in an extra helping of comfort food may make you feel better in the moment. Over the long term, however, those unhealthy coping strategies can cause more problems. If you're resorting to quick fixes to help deal with the stress, a toxic individual may have power over your life for years.
9. Your relationships suffer.
Yelling at your kids to release your tension, or arguing with your spouse because you came home in a bad mood after dealing with a toxic individual, can cause serious damage. If you're not careful, one individual's unhealthy behavior could infiltrate your other relationships and cause them to suffer.
Limit a Toxic Person's Influence
If toxic people are getting the best of you, it may be time to make a change. In some cases, that may mean refusing to waste time thinking about that person. In more serious cases, it may mean cutting a toxic person out of your life.
Want to know more about how to take back your power? Check out my bestselling book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
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This article was first first published on Inc.