Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


How to Pull Away from Toxic People, and Who to Replace Them With

Happiness and success may depend on surrounding yourself with nontoxic people.

Source: johnhain/Pixabay

While it is important to recognize and avoid toxic people, it may be even more important to recognize and attract what I refer to as "nutric" people. The Latin word nutricis, loosely translated, means to nourish, to support, and to foster growth and development.

Research has shown that human resilience (one’s ability to bounce back from adversity) is largely a result of being supported by someone else (cf. Everly & Lating, 2019). It seems to me that it is no quantum leap of faith to accept that one’s happiness and success in life is often related to having someone who supports you, someone who nourishes you, someone who supports your hopes and dreams, and perhaps most importantly someone who helps you feel good about yourself. That person would, therefore, be the opposite of toxic, rather we could simply shorten the Latin nutricis and call that person nutric.

Toxic People

Just as the environment has its toxins, humanity includes people who consistently do toxic things. Recognizing and avoiding toxic people is an essential skill to learn as early in life as possible (cf. Everly, 2009). Toxic people can spread unhappiness and personal suffering. They can poison things with which they come in touch: other people, careers, businesses, marriages, and even children.

Specifically, toxic people undermine your confidence, remind you of your weaknesses, and dissuade you from doing anything that might promote your happiness and your success. They may even take advantage of you to further their success, often working in stealth so as not to be revealed as the toxic people they are. They are “users," certainly not nurturers. Sound familiar?

Toxic people are easy to recognize. They are unhappy and insecure, though they may try to mask their unhappiness with arrogance. They say things that are hurtful, but quickly say they were “just kidding,” or that you are being too sensitive. They drain your energy and leave you feeling emotionally exhausted questioning yourself and your desires. They may even sabotage your efforts at happiness or success. If caught doing so, they will say they were simply trying to save you from disappointment.

Oh, and don’t think you can change them. Their insecurities are legion, far beyond your ability to alter. But you are inclined to try, so you get pulled into the great abyss of their toxicity. Just remember their toxicity can be contagious.

Source: Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay

“Nutric" People

Nutric people are the opposite of toxic people. Nutric people nourish, support, and foster your growth and development. They help you realize your dreams. They are uplifting people who help you build your self-confidence. They believe in you. They motivate you to be better than you thought you could be!

Nutric people are easy to recognize. They will encourage you when you have self-doubt. They will support you when you need assistance, asking nothing in return. They are happy more often than not. They often have a smile on their face. Their happiness makes you feel happy. They leave you feeling energized, motivated, and feeling more self-confident. The personal characteristics of Nutric people read like an acronym of the word itself.

Nutric people are:

  1. Nurturing. They are supportive and encouraging. They are motivating but not demanding. They seem to truly want you to be happy and successful.
  2. Understanding. They seem to understand you. They are perspective-takers able to understand your point of view on most things. When they disagree, they present their point of view without insulting your perspective.
  3. Trustworthy. You can trust them without any fear of betrayal.
  4. Reliable. Reliability is the key to trust. They act and think in a pattern that is usually predictable and this puts you at ease.
  5. Honest. They evidence integrity and ethics. They seem to follow a moral compass.
  6. Confident. They are confident in themselves and their confidence is contagious. Studies on interpersonal attraction show that self-confidence is a key factor in attraction. Do not confuse confidence with narcissism and arrogance, as these two traits are characteristic of toxic people.

How do you attract nutric people? Aspire to be one, or at least close. Nurture others; be a compassionate and supportive presence. Be reliable. Don't make excuses, take responsibility for your actions (a rare quality). Follow a moral compass. Exude a confident humility. Try as best you can to see the world through the eyes of another. You will be surprised by what you discover. These things said, never lose yourself in the process.

While it is important to recognize and avoid toxic people, it may be even more important to recognize and attract nutric people. Nutric people nourish, support, and foster your growth and development. They help you realize your dreams.

(c) 2019, George S. Everly, Ph.D.

Facebook/LinkedIn image: fizkes/Shutterstock


Everly, G.S., Jr. (2009). Resilient Child. New York, NY: DiaMed

Everly, G.S., Jr & Lating, J.M. (2019). Clinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response. New York, NY: Springer.

More from George S. Everly, Jr. PhD, ABPP, FACLP
More from Psychology Today