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This New Year’s It is Time to Take out the Trash

A helpful guide to detecting toxic people so they can be left in 2017

New Year’s is a good time to take down the trash. What better way to start off the new year fresh and renewed then to get rid of stuff you don’t need? It is merely baggage that weighs you down – but this baggage does not just come in the form of an old ugly sweater you haven’t worn in the last five years – regardless of whether it is tangible or not. Much intangible emotional baggage is brought about by toxic people, and that I why I propose leaving toxic people in 2017.

What exactly entails a toxic person? The correct answer is that there is no universal formula for determining if a person in your life is, indeed toxic, but there are certainly tell tale signs. Before I go on to list some of these key indicators, I would like to emphasize that the most important factor in determining if someone is toxic is how they make you feel. Do they make you feel uplifted, content, and peaceful? Or do they make you feel hurt, angry, and worthless? In the latter, you need no other justification or analysis to know they need to be left behind In 2017. Sometimes, toxicity is much more nuanced – that is to say more opaque and difficult to discern – requiring you to think a lot more about how they affect you. In this case, I hope that the following check list can be of some assistance:

1. Are they always talking about themselves? This is a clear indicator that they see their problems and successes as more important than you’re and likely believe that you should to.

2. Are the vast majority of their statements cynical and pessimistic? The world is not perfect and it is more than justifiable to make the odd complaint. But there is a fine line between realism consistent and overbearing negativity and it is dangerous line to cross. Being around negatively consistently prevents you from seeing the many good things (admittedly, among many that are less than great) and consequently reduces your overall happiness.

3. Do they consistently belittle you or have a condescending attitude towards you? It is important to realize that there is a huge difference between constructive criticism intended to help you improve yourself and comments meant to make you feel worthless. Hearing repeated destructive comments about oneself inevitably leads to lower self esteem.

4. Are they controlling? A controlling person will often not only try and control you overtly (by dictating what you can and cannot do) but also in the way they express their opinions. Constantly making negative remarks about things you enjoy, whether it be cheesy romantic comedies, a certain type of socks, an abundance of cats or anything in between, is a form of subliminal manipulation. This is an attempt to control your actions by attempting to persuade you that what you like is not good enough. The purpose of this is to get you to act in a way they would prefer, while simultaneously making you less likely to engage in the things you enjoy.

5. Do they have a temper? If a person continuously blows up at you it is time to remove them from your life. Constantly being physically, verbally, and emotionally abused is not healthy, and you should never have to be subject to it. However, it is also important to observe whether those in your life lash out at other people, even if they do not directly lash out at you. When someone is relatively new in your life (like a new romantic partner), it can be hard to tell exactly what their character is, and thus much can be learned by how they treat others that have possibly been in their lives for a longer period of time. If a person shows that they have a temper by lashing out at someone else, this is a telltale sign that this temper may eventually be directed at you. Save yourself the grief and get out while you still have a chance.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is one I have found quite useful in detecting toxic people in my own life. Determining who the toxic people are in your life is a great first step to setting yourself up for a fresh start in the New Year. If these traits sound like anyone in your life just walk away. You’ll be glad you did.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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