Is it possible to have positive relationships with toxic people?

toxic

At some point in our lives we all have encountered toxic people. Perhaps it has been a parent, best friend or romantic partner. It can be very difficult to maintain positive relationships with people who seem to go out of their way to make your life more difficult. How can you have a positive relationship with a parent who consistently makes cutting comments in the guise of preparing you for the real world when their comments only break your spirit? Is it possible to call a friend a true friend when they belittle you and don’t support your dreams? Can you trust the declarations of love from a romantic partner who goes out of their way to undermine your self-worth?

These are questions that I have been asking myself while navigating life as a divorced mother who must exist in the world with a co-parent who seems to delight in making things as challenging as possible. When my six-year-old looks me in the eye and asks me “why life has to be this way” after the latest purposeful disappointment from her father, I find myself attempting to explain to her that we can’t control other people’s behavior we can only continue to be kind even in the face of disappointments.  I see loved ones who are being taken advantage of by their parent’s then being quilted into relationships that I know will end with pain for them while their parents will continue to live guilt free lives. I have seen people betrayed by those that they considered to be close friends only to have those people use the inside information that they gained through the friendship to cause them harm.

Most people on the outside considering the above-mentioned situations would say the best thing that you could do for yourself would be to cut all ties to these people. However it is not always as simple as that. It is not easy to walk away from parents, close friends or romantic partners. Instead you have to define what those relationships will look like and how they will function. Based on my observations I have composed a toxic relationship checklist to help determine if a relationship can be maintained as is, improved or must be released.

I’ve seen people maintain relationships with toxic people out of obligation. Usually they will make excuses for accepting this subpar treatment or even blame themselves for the situation. These one-sided connections often lead to lowered self-esteem and expectations and can lead to a warped view of what is acceptable behavior and what they are willing to accept from other people.

Relationships can be improved if, and only if, the behaviors that have caused pain have been identified. Then an open and honest dialog needs to be had. That person then needs to acknowledge what has been said, apologize and make a real effort to not make the same mistakes. Then and only then can that relationship be maintained. Often it is better than it was before because communication and expectations have become clearer.

If the person who wronged you refuses to acknowledge the issues you have raised and instead chooses to deny or deflect then this relationship will need to be released. Once a person has recognized and identified toxic behavior and has attempted to reach out to the perpetrator but receives pushback and gas lighting, then it is a sign that this person has no real intention of being fully present in the relationship in a way that is mutually beneficial and that is not someone that you should maintain close ties with. As I have mentioned before it is not always easy to sever ties with people you have known for long periods of time or that you care for deeply. If you don’t want to completely sever ties with your mother, for example, it would be better to limit your contact with her. Modify the amount of time that you spend with her and in time you will find that it the peace that you feel away from that toxic relationship will far outweigh any thing else.

When it is all said and done we are in control of who we allow into our space. The world will try to overwhelm you with connections, opportunities, expectations and trials that we have very little control over. It is in our best interest to try limit our exposure to people who bring us more pain, anxiety and sadness than joy, peace and love. The choice is yours, choose wisely.

Discovering Your Purpose

purpose

The most difficult question you will ever be asked or that you will ask yourself is “what do you want from life”? I know that I have struggled with this question for many years and I know that many of my friends and associates have as well. We often answer this question with what we think others want to hear, what is socially acceptable or what we know we can achieve without too much effort. The truth of the matter is that we will never find true contentment and joy in our comfort zones. The reason many of us shy away from our true desires is because they often lie in unknown territory surrounded by obstacles and the possibility of failure. No great achievement has ever been made from within our comfort zones. We don’t pump our fists and shout with glee when we complete a task that didn’t require much effort. I still remember the insane rush I felt when I finally solved a rubix cube and that was about 30 years ago. I can still vividly remember the elation I felt when I went up and then back down the Templo Del Sol in Mexico July 4, 1999 because I am terrified of heights but I climbed that pyramid and basically crawled back down because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and I’m so glad that I did.

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can fulfill my purpose in this life and the thoughts that kept coming back to me were all of the negative things that others have said to me over the years. Instead of dreams of helping women achieve their goals and become their best selves I was hearing the words of my ex-husband telling me that I was a failure, the words of well-meaning friends who tried to discourage me from stepping out and trying new things or I was imagining what other people would think of me if I tried something new. Our minds are wired to protect us at all times and at any cost from danger both real and imagined. This is great if you are trying to avoid being eaten by mountain lions but not so great if you are trying to figure out how to use your gifts and talents in ways foreign to you.

Many times we get bogged down by the idea that our purpose has to be something over the top or grandiose in order to be a worthwhile endeavor.  That is the kind of thinking that has held me back from pursuing my goal of building women. So many time we look at the super successful people that we admire and think to ourselves “Wow I’d love to have that type of success but I’m not as talented, pretty, well-spoken, connected, etc. as that person.” We also talk ourselves out of our purpose because we may have failed or had setbacks in our lives. Maybe we have failed at previous attempts to start a business, go back to school or maintain a romantic relationship and because of these perceived failures we deem our goals as unworthy of our efforts.

For me the switch flipped when I removed myself from the equation and instead thought about how much I could help others then my focus became clear and my fear began to recede. I began to focus more on how I could best be of service to others and that is when the path became clearer. I dipped my toe into my purpose by starting this blog to help readers learn from my life experiences as well as to, hopefully, inspire people to grow beyond their pain and see beauty in all of the things that happen to us. The positive feedback and encouragement from both friends and strangers reignited the flame of my purpose.

Now you may be saying “Well that’s all well and good for you Morena I have no idea how to get started discovering my purpose.” Here are some helpful tips that have worked for me.

Instead of thinking of it as a purpose think of it as your Why.

Why do you want to start that business? Why do you want that promotion? Why do you want to be a better husband? Why do you want to be a better mother?  Then grab a piece of paper and write down all of the reasons and you have found your purpose.

For example if you want a promotion your List of Why might look like this: To have more money =>To be more comfortable financially=>To be able to save for retirement=>To be able to travel more=>To have a good savings cushion. Once you have made your List of Why then you will have the fuel you need for the next step.

What are you willing to do to walk out this purpose?

Sure having more money sounds great but what are you willing to do to get it? Will it include lots of overtime? Will you need to talk to your boss about a raise? Will you need to find a new job? Will you need to go back to school? Write these things down as well.

Connect to a support system

Finally you will need a support system. Who in your circle can you talk to who is supportive and willing to brainstorm with you? Talk to that person and have them be your accountability partner. If you don’t have people in your life who are supportive of your efforts then now is a good time to find some like minded people. The internet has made it easier to find minded people via social media or by searching for local groups who are interested in the same things as you. Reach out to them and build your circle and start living your best life ever.

If you have found yourself struggling with your purpose or have been feeling unfulfilled in certain areas of your life I encourage you to sit down and follow these steps to help clarify your purpose. Don’t think that this exercise can only work for professional goals. I have found this process to be very helpful in both my professional as well as personal life. If you try this exercise I would love to hear how it has helped you. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments.

Happy Discovery!