How to Deal With Toxic People and Better Understand Yourself in the Process

Minimalism is more than just about decluttering your home and your schedule. It can also apply to people and relationships in your life that are causing you stress or harm. So, this week’s post is all about how to deal with toxic people. 

You know the kind of person; they walk into a room and the atmosphere becomes dark and oppressive, almost as if someone sucked the light and energy out of it. They whine and complain, moan and berate. Punch and stamp. The world is a terrible place. They’re always a victim.  It’s always your fault.

But I’m not talking about people who’ve had a bad day once or twice, have a moan and say something they later regret. I’m talking about the people who constantly whine, complain, talk about others behind their backs, take without gratitude, and never ever give back.

I’m talking about people who raise their fist and use fear to gain control over others.

Personally, I don’t like the word ‘toxic’ for these people. Rather, I see them as damaged individuals who may or may nor be conscious of the effect they’re having on others. It’s the behaviour that results from that damage that’s toxic. 

Please understand that I’m not giving these people a free pass to abuse or belittle others – there is no excuse whatsoever and it’s not acceptable in the slightest. I’m also not asking you to feel sorry for them. I’m simply trying to shed some light about what’s really going on with the so called ‘toxic’ individuals. 

For example, a person who spent their whole lives being smacked around by their alcoholic father might go on to abuse others in the same way, or become an alcoholic themselves (I realise that not all abused people go on to abuse!). But the person with that behaviour was once a pure soul who came out of their mother like everyone else. 

Granted, there are people who are born psychopaths, whose brains simply don’t function correctly in certain areas, if at all. But the premise is the same: they’re damaged – albeit in a very different way. 

These kinds of people appear in all walks of life. They’re parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends, colleagues, and people in authority positions. 

At best, they make you feel annoyed and fed up. At worst, they start to have a huge impact on your health and mental resources, or even pose a danger to your life. 

It doesn’t matter how serene or minimalist your life is behind closed doors, if you constantly hang around people who drain you in such ways, your life will always feel like a hellish whirlwind and you’ll constantly feel exhausted. 

Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash

But how do you deal with that kind of person without resorting to nastiness or reacting to their behaviour in the exact same way that you despise from them?  

I know the feeling; you want to finally say something.  To take action. But you worry about feeling guilty, and perhaps hating yourself. Maybe you’re scared.

The reality of having those feelings becomes even more of a worry when you consider that many of these damaged people are also manipulators who know all the right buttons to press to make you feel that way and forgive them , time and time again. 

The alternative, is you play tit-for-tat. Perhaps you shout at them and call them even worse things than they called you. Maybe you threaten them with not doing favours for them in the future, or withhold something from them in the hope that they will change. 

THIS NEVER WORKS. Reactions such as promises to change will likely be based on fear and/or control. People cannot change overnight. They have to want to change themselves, and it takes many months or years.

Here’s the thing: it sounds crazy but you can still forgive these people without hanging around them and further forfeiting your well-being. You can let go of these people while still remaining a friendly and caring person. 

You see, when we hold onto negative feelings for too long; hate, upset, frustration, fury, sadness, despair, helplessness, it becomes emotional clutter that weighs even more heavily than an excess of physical possessions. Eventually, you can no longer function. 

But you don’t have to hold onto to all of those feelings. Here’s some ways to deal with those people who are wearing you down, without playing tit-for-tat. 

  • Gradually reduce the time you spend hanging around these people.  Or massively cut down on the time you spend responding to them on social media or other means.
  • On the more extreme end of the spectrum, cut them out of your life completely. This might be the only option if the person is extremely mentally and/or physically abusive or has worn you down over many years with no possibility that they will change. 
  • If you really must be around them, frequently attempt to change the topic of conversation to something more positive. Refuse to engage in negative discussion, especially if it involves bringing others down or going against your own values.
  • Encourage them to be positive by being positive yourself. Be kind and friendly to them at all times. Be a positive influence in their life. This doesn’t always work and you might find that they re-gravitate towards more negative people, instead. Remember, kindness doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse!
  • Raise your standards of the kind of people you allow into your life. Many times I’ve heard people say “Why is it I only seem to attract assholes?”, “Why don’t people ever treat me with respect?”.  If that sounds like you, consider the Law of Attraction. If you’re negative yourself, orbit around people with toxic behaviour, and you see yourself as that’s all you’re worthy of, I can guarantee without a doubt that you will attract more of the same . The universe will send more people like that your way, and it won’t stop.  Manipulators and other damaged people will sense your weakness and take advantage, even if they, themselves, don’t realise they’re doing it.
  • Simply accept them as they are but put boundaries in place. This doesn’t mean tolerating disrespect and abuse, but understanding why they are the person they are and seeing things from their point of view. Show them warmth and understanding, but have boundaries in place to protect yourself. For example, you will gladly listen to them but under no circumstances will you join in with bad mouthing others, and you will not pick up their messes for them. You are not on beck and call 24/7. Recognise that unless they have a severe mental illness, they are, ultimately, responsible for themselves and their actions.  Again – you do not have to put up with any kind of abuse.

If you’re deeply worried about a person and what they might do without you, or they make threats of suicide, either call the emergency services to protect them, or provide them with helpline numbers and services they can contact. As tempting as it might be, try not to play the part of the rescuer unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use common sense and trust your judgement, but don’t be manipulated. 

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

For those of you who aren’t sure what to look out for in a manipulator, some signs are:

  • threats of suicide if you leave them or don’t do as they ask
  • Sudden bouts of aggression or dramatic weeping when they’re denied something or don’t feel in control.
  • controlling behaviour e.g controlling who you talk to 
  • gaslighting and making you doubt your reality
  • constant phonecalls/texts/social media communications 
  • saying or doing things to make you feel guilty, either by saying something to make you feel sorry for them or by buying expensive gifts. 

Please take what I say as a guide only. How you choose to deal with the people in your life will depend on many factors including: your situation,how long it’s been going on, mental health, the ages of the people involved, their relationship to you, and your beliefs. 

Whatever you take away from this post, let it be this: you are a worthy human being who deserves love and respect. Learn to love yourself and don’t let others devalue you. 

That being said, if you frequently suffer from depressive thoughts and feelings, or can’t seem to pull yourself out of a slump, talk to your GP, or consider therapy such as counselling. 

Now, if you’re reading this with two fingers down your throat pretending to vomit, I urge you to consider why that is. Do you feel vulnerable?

It’s hard to admit but it makes me feel vulnerable whenever a sappy scene plays in a movie or game. I sometimes recoil and make immature comments or start acting silly in general. 

It used to make me feel vulnerable when my husband acted sweet and romantic towards me (he still does, although I’m now much more mature and accepting about it).

Why? Because it might expose my feelings. Because others might ridicule or judge them, and therefore, ridicule and judge me. 

But why, in a post about dealing with ‘toxic’ people, am I telling you this? 

Because by becoming better in tune with who you really are and what you really want out of life, you can start to recognise and deal with the toxicity around you.

With that, I leave you with a few questions to think about. 

Who are you and what do you stand for? 

Who and what do you want in your life and why?

How do you want to spend your time and who with? Why?

How do you want to be treated? Why?

What kind of person don’t you want in your life? Why not?

How don’t you want to be treated? Why not?

How don’t you want to spend your time? Why is that?

What’s the worst way you can imagine yourself or anyone else behaving? Why?

If you allow yourself to be treated as less than human, why is that? Are you scared of being alone? Do you feel unworthy? Why? 

You may have noticed that the above questions contain a tonne of ‘whys’. So many they might just be driving you nuts. The reason is because without a ‘why’ it’s next to impossible to understand yourself and others. Without a ‘why’ you’re more likely to give answers without much thought. It makes it easy to avoid difficult truths and feelings.  

Remember: never settle for less than you’re worth (you’re always worth far more than you think) and always be kind. 

How I Learned To Slow Down And Wake Up to The Present

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I was reading Bing to my son the other night, when I asked him, “How come you still love the books but don’t watch it anymore?” 

He replied, “I’m too old for Bing now, mummy, I like to play my games more now.” 

I was shocked, but it wasn’t the first time he’d told me he’d outgrown something. Apparently, he’s also too old now for his Paw Patrol wallpaper and wants Spider-Man, instead. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because time is precious, and it passes by faster than a falling raindrop. 

Despite that fact, many of us fritter that time away behind phone screens, behind ‘busyness’ and working to accumulate bigger, better stuff. All the while, our children grow up under our noses, our friends and family age or move away, people pass away. But it happens so subtly that we don’t see these things until they’re suddenly upon us. 

I was chatting to a colleague the other day, and they said “At the end of the day, once you’ve retired, you’re just another person.” That stood out to me because so many people base their lives on having a particular status, or working all hours to afford stuff that bring them more status. 

Some people work so many hours, or place so much emphasis on acquiring more stuff and staying busy, that they’re shell-shocked when they finally stop and see the changes in their reality. Some even forget to look after their health in the process. 

Like with my son growing up in a few blinks, it’s the same with other milestones in life. They’re here before you know it. And if you’re not mindful of how you spend your time, you’ll look back wondering just where the hell it all went, like you’ve passed by on an out-of-control rocket. 

Photo by Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash

One of the most prominent incidents in my life that have shown me the importance of time was when I visited my uncle in the hospital. 

He was a popular and well-loved man, always laughing and making others laugh until their faces and sides hurt. We were close, but then the day came when he was an old man and ended up ill in the hospital. Even then, he was laughing and joking around. The nurses loved him. 

While I was visiting, I did talk to him and laugh at his jokes – but it felt forced because I wasn’t fully present. At the time, I was going through a terrible drama in my young adult life, my mind kept drifting, and I was texting on my phone every few seconds, trying to sort it all out. 

I didn’t see his time on Earth flickering like a dying candle. I didn’t see that our time together was shortening to a stub. 

Some naive, childish part of me thought he would be around forever because, to me, he was invincible. Nothing seemed to get him down. 

The next time me and my family visited him he was in an old people’s home. He was upset from losing his independence and it was the first time I’d ever saw him cry. 

My uncle with the spirit of an excitable child, who was the embodiment of joy itself, was having to come to terms with how frail he now was, while I stood there surveying the surroundings, feeling dumbstruck and helpless. 

I never got a word in during that visit. And that was the last time I saw him before he passed away.

That’s when I got my first taste of how precious time really is, and of how important it is to give people your all when you visit them. Show them how important they are and make memories because you never know how much time is left. 

Although I grieved for a long time, what tore me apart the most wasn’t his death itself, but the immense guilt from not being fully present with him in the hospital room that day; the last time we would laugh together.

When I got the news of his passing, suddenly, the life issues I’d had while I was visiting him seemed as important as whether or not I was out of teabags.  I would have thrown my phone into a pit of fire and never owned one again if it meant I could relive that day how I should have done. 

The thing is, you can’t change how you’ve spent your time and you can’t get a refund on it like with an impulse purchase. So don’t waste time worrying about how you’ve used it in the past. Instead, be mindful of how you spend it from this moment forth. 

The sad thing is, that all too often it takes a sad or shocking event, or a big slap in the face from the universe to wake us up to what’s in front of us. 

So, if you’re one of those people on that rocket,  just remember you can get off and walk at any time. You can stop and see the sights. 

My husband enjoying a beautiful sunset

Do it now. Enjoy the time you have. Do something you love. Share it with the people you care about before it’s too late. 

Time can’t ever be beaten, but it can be savoured and enjoyed.


How To Level Up Your Life By Taking Time Out

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

It was a sunny Sunday at the tail end of summer. I was at home on my computer, when my husband suggested we walk our dog, Yuki, together. We’d already been to town earlier, but something made me say yes. And I’m glad I did. 

As we walked in the sun we talked about our desires for the future, our goals in life, and things we wouldn’t have spoken about at home where responsibilities often get in the way and then, exhausted, we go off to do our own thing. 

Anyway, we walked to the field that is usually overgrown with grass and wheat. I call it The Blackberry Field. It holds a special place in my heart because it’s where dad used to take me blackberry picking as a child and is also where we used to walk the family dog I grew up with. 

This time, the grass and wheat had been cut down, leaving a wide, open expanse of rolling hill on which the blackberries were still growing down one side. The view from the top was breathtaking; all greens, yellows and browns topped with the crystal-blue sky.

You see, we live in a town that is undergoing heavy development. Everywhere you go there are new buildings springing up and huge cranes looming over the streets. Hammering, clanging, and sweating.  But here, in The Blackberry Field, there was none of that.

The sky was clear, save for a few interestingly shaped clouds that seemed to stretch to infinity. From the top of the hill, we could see rows of trees, a village in the distance, and other fields that were miles away. I watched as the shadow of a cloud passed over one of those fields like a curtain. I’d seen nothing like it before. I’d never taken the time. 

Photo by Sam Knight on Unsplash

It was such a relaxing, and awe-inspiring sight that we sat down at the top of the hill and took in the feeling of complete freedom. It was as if time didn’t exist. 

And here’s the important part. We hadn’t taken our phones or even a watch.

Everything was just as it was in the moment. 

Just us and nature. 

We let Yuki off the lead and she ran around the field like a wind-up toy while the grass blew gently around us in the breeze. It felt like we had entered a dimension cut off from the hustle and bustle of the world. All we could hear were the birds tweeting from the surrounding bushes, and Yuki as she panted her way back up the hill towards us.  

We were present. We were at peace. And we were connecting with each other. 

Seeing the fields stretching before us and houses the size of thumbnails made me feel like I was part of something much bigger. A tiny person in this massive world of infinite possibility.

My mood sky-rocketed. I felt happy and at peace, even when I had to go home and prepare dinner (I hate cooking). When you consider the tonne of scientific research which shows how beneficial and therapeutic nature is to humans, it’s no surprise that I returned home feeling renewed. Being in nature also has positive effects on depression and stress, as well as being a great way to practise mindfulness.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Too many of us fly through life not stopping to feel the ground beneath our feet or experience the surrounding calmness. We’re used to infinite busyness, the endless buzzing of notifications, and hurried conversations. Rinse and repeat.

Before we know it, we’ve gained a few more grey hairs and have accomplished nothing. Relationships are strained and people are more stressed than ever before .

There’s pressure to always be available online, to perform at work, to check our notifications, to look a certain way, to be a perfect parent, to be more successful, to make more money, to own the latest stuff, to keep up with the hottest trends and all the latest news. Feel exhausted yet?

There’s only so much of us to go around, and we can only focus on the most important things in our lives.

But if we learn to stop. If we take the time out to enjoy the present, even if it’s only on a weekly basis, it will boost mood, alter perceptions, and give way to clarity for the direction we are heading in life.

You will find yourself thinking about things you probably didn’t think about in the chaos of everyday modern life. See things in a way you had, perhaps, never considered before.

I’m sometimes guilty myself of being so focused on cooking dinner, cleaning the house, and being eager to escape at the end of the day, that I barely look at my husband when he gets in the house from work.

I cook dinner straight away, wash the pots, get my son ready for bed, then we’re exhausted and anticipating more of the same the next day. On days where both of us are working, we can both end up too eager to escape to distractions instead of each other. 

It’s too easy to pass each other by like cars on a motorway.

In the field where time stood still, I remembered why we put rings on each other’s fingers.

Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

But I also remember back when we were renting a house together for the first time. We were a very close couple for years, but somehow got into a routine of getting home from work and completely ignoring each other. I thought living together would strengthen what we already had. I was wrong.

I got immersed in writing or playing a game while he was busy playing an online game with friends. Then I would get up to cook dinner, and somewhere along the line we stopped eating at the table together, eager to get back to whatever distraction we were at before. We started arguing about silly little things and before we knew it; we were talking about calling it a day. 

Our once perfect relationship was almost destroyed, all because we didn’t take the time to connect with each other. Away from technology and away from ‘busyness’. Away from our own self-absorption. 

Know what fixed it?

Spending time at the dinner table again. Putting down the distractions to talk face to face.

The more we talked, the more we realised that conversation was moving away from hints about splitting up, and more about what we loved about each other, and where we wanted to be in life. 

We realised what had happened and decided from that moment on to always eat at the table together, and to go on occasional dates, whether that be a walk into town, an evening at the pub, or a night spent watching our favourite anime together – no phones or tablets within arms reach

I’d be so confident as to say our relationship became even stronger than before. 

The other day, I was chilling on my computer and my son said, “Mummy, come off that for a minute,” and took my hand. I followed him and he took me to the window and showed me the most beautiful sunset, then he smiled and gave me a kiss. That moment will stick in my memory for a long time, but it’s one I would have missed out on had I stayed glued to my computer.

A sunset outside of one of our windows

It’s not just our relationships with others that are in danger of being extinguished if we don’t take the time to nurture them. We are in danger of losing ourselves. And it can be hard to find again. In fact, it can be so hard to get back, that many people give up and wonder why they’re as unfulfilled or as miserable as they were ten or twenty years prior. 

In trying to impress others or keep up with the constant rush of life, we forget who we are.  We forget our values, what we like, what we dislike, who we love, who we admire, what our dreams are, why we want what or who we do.

We become part of the fast-flowing river, doomed to enter the sea of mediocrity before repeating the same tired old cycle again and again. 

So, instead of worrying that the battery is running out on your phone, worry about your time on Earth running out faster than the sand in an egg timer. Instead of slaving over notifications on your screen, take notice of the real life things right in front of you. Instead of ticking off one task after another, take the time to rediscover yourself and rekindle, build, or make new relationships. 

Make time for today.

For all you dog lovers out there, here’s a picture of my dog.