When I was a counselor, I used to teach a Life Skills group. I found myself talking about toxic relationships quite frequently. I was a drug and alcohol counselor, and some of what we teach is being careful of who you surround yourself with when you are striving for a successful recovery. I was constantly pointing out the signs of toxic relationships in hopes to help our clients better recognize when they were in one. Those signs were things like toxic communication, jealously, constant stress, ignoring your needs, patterns of disrespect, and lack of self-care.
It was amazing to see how people never even noticed how unhealthy their relationships were and how it contributed to lack of success in recovery. This made me want to go further with some clients and ask them to think about why they allowed this and why they remained. Majority of the time, I realized that they were in toxic relationships not just with their significant other but with THEMSELVES!!! They didn’t know how to treat themselves, no wonder they didn’t know how they should be treated by others.
Recently, I found myself pondering on this topic again, and I thought this is not just an issue with the women who were seeking recovery. This seemed to be a theme for most women, in general. Many of us are in toxic relationships, but with ourselves!! Ask yourself. Do you engage in toxic communication with yourself? Do you find yourself filled with feelings of jealousy? Are you ignoring your needs and have lack of self-care? Are you constantly stressed? If the answer is yes to the questions, then let’s talk about it. It seems like we spend more time investing in other people (and things) more than we do investing in ourselves which results in us ending up in toxic situations.
I know I am jumping on the “love yourself” train because everyone is preaching this to women all over the world, but so much falls into place in your life when you begin to understand what it means to truly love yourself. I think many women struggle with loving themselves because they do not know what it is or what that looks like. So, I am just here to try and put it simple. Love is not a feeling, it is a behavior. You can tell how much someone loves someone or something by their behaviors towards it and the time and energy they put into it. So, ask yourself, what I am doing for myself to show me that I love me? What are you saying to yourself? What are you putting your energy into? Think of what you do when you find yourself crushing on someone you find attractive. Your main goal is usually to get them to like you as well, so you spend a great deal of time making sure you look good, smell good, say the right things, and show them your best you. You find out what their interests are and try to become interested in those things as well (or at least pretend to be). You spend most of the time wanting to be with them and getting to know more about them. So why not do the same for yourself? Start crushing on you. Put that same energy into you. Get to know you. Who are you? What do you love to do? How do you like to smell? What outfit makes you feel good? Tell yourself the things you want to hear. Spend time with you!!! Just as you find that person you are chasing worthy of your time, you, TOO, are worthy of your time, energy, and love.
Others can tell your love for yourself, by how you present yourself. Not physically, but in general. They will listen to how you speak (are you a Debbie Downer?), what you say to yourself, the words you say to others, and even how you deal with stress in your life. If you are unable to take a compliment, constantly putting yourself (or others) down, speaking negatively or is a pessimist, or always allowing things to get the best of you, you can easily come across as someone who is struggling with loving themselves. This, then, turns into other toxic traits which will attract toxic situations because trust me, there is always someone just as toxic (or even more) looking for company. Get my drift?
Sometimes it takes some digging down deep to find out the root cause of your lack of self-love and that may even mean looking into seeing a therapist (and that is great, also). Take the risk and do some self-evaluation. Why is it that you insist on maintaining this toxic relationship with yourself? Is it fear of rejection? Is it the inability to create boundaries? Whatever it is, get to the root of it and get the help you need to resolve it.
Understand that the people you are connected to are a reflection of you and vice versa. So, start investing in you. Speak love to yourself. Set boundaries with people. Stop being so understanding that you begin to allow people to be ok with dismissing or disrespecting you. Say “NO!” to things that no longer serve you. Stop being a people pleaser because half the time they aren’t worried about pleasing you!!! Put yourself first, and make sure you are good. Dance around naked. Laugh at yourself. Buy those shoes you like. Cry in the shower (it frees the soul). Be ok with your feelings. Stop taking yourself so seriously. Be patient. These are all self-loving behaviors. When you give yourself the permission to just love on yourself, others will see this and will have no choice but to do the same. So, I ask again, are you in a toxic relationship? If so, get out and be free!! Be blessed.