Now that we have worked on clearing out the toxins in our bodies, it’s time to look around at the other areas of our lives that might do with some cleaning up.
One of the things you might notice when you make positive changes in your life – whether it’s choosing healthier foods, beginning an exercise program, losing weight, or deciding to pursue a dream you’ve held but were too afraid to take on – inevitably, at least one person in your life will feel threatened. Sometimes this is because the person simply fears change. The dynamic of the relationship is changing, and the familiar is being replaced with the new and different.
Sometimes this is because the person does not want to look at the areas in their own life that should be addressed or may even feel that your new interest somehow makes a negative statement about what they are doing. These people often become defensive about their own choices when they learn about the different choice you are making.
All of the sudden, people we thought we knew are attacking us – either to our faces or behind our backs – from unkind or snide remarks to outright sabotage. Most of us know at least one person who throws backhanded compliments or outright insults at others in their lives who make positive changes, and anyone who has worked in an office knows whenever someone announces they are on a diet, the amount of sugary fats brought in by certain co-workers sees a dramatic upsurge.
In all cases, it’s about them, not you. However, that’s small comfort when someone is trying to make you feel bad about yourself, whatever the reason.
Who they are to you makes a very big difference in how you handle the situation. If it’s an acquaintance or co-worker with whom you aren’t very close, it’s easy to discount the feedback you receive from them that is less than constructive. Tuning out or turning down their offers to sabotage you is much easier. However, it can be much more difficult when the person is a close friend, relative or even a spouse. Frequently, ignoring small comments or attempts to throw you off the new path only escalates their efforts. If what they are doing isn’t working to bring back the “old” you, then they feel it’s time to “turn it up a notch,” to borrow a phrase.
What they are doing in response to your change(s) determines how drastic your reaction needs to be, of course. Perhaps your friend is insecure about her own choices and feels that anything you do to better yourself only shines a spotlight on her deficiencies, so she makes jokes about your new and healthy eating habits when you join her for lunch. Maybe your mother continues to stock your pantry with bags of potato chips and Oreos, and continually offers you your old favorite fatty foods, knowing full well that you now want to make better choices for yourself. Or it’s the spouse who not only staunchly refuses to learn and grow with you, but makes disparaging comments and openly challenges your decision to improve your health or another aspect of your life.
Sometimes, simply asking the person for their support as you plot this new direction in your life is all it takes. In some cases, it’s just a matter of setting clear boundaries in the relationship and being clear that disrespect isn’t acceptable to make the other person stop undermining or criticizing your efforts. In these cases, the relationship isn’t truly toxic, but just slightly off balance momentarily. A meeting of minds is all that’s needed, and a good heart-to-heart can solve the problem in an afternoon.
In other cases, something more drastic may be necessary. If you’ve pointed out to your friend or relative that you don’t appreciate their unsupportive behavior or outright sabotaging and they refuse to stop, or you consistently feel drained and are left feeling bad about yourself or your choices when you see or talk to them, it may be time to end the relationship – or, at least, take a break from it for a while.
When a relationship reaches this point, there is usually a long-standing underlying issue that either hasn’t been addressed adequately or at all. If the other person isn’t willing to respect you, whatever form that might take, it’s probably time to sever it and make room in your life for more supportive relationships.
Ending a relationship isn’t easy or fun, even if you know it’s the right thing to do. A truly toxic relationship may end badly no matter how delicately you try to extricate yourself. It’s especially difficult if the relationship that needs severing is part or all of your family, a long-time friend, or your spouse. However, when we are on a journey of health and healing, we need support more than ever and cannot afford to waste energy on those who would rather belittle our choices than to make positive changes in their own lives.
If you find yourself in this situation, know that cutting the other person out of your life need not be permanent. Often, a loud critic or passive-aggressive saboteur will curb their toxic tendencies with just a little time and distance between you. This is especially true if the other person wasn’t conscious of their defeating ways.
Try not to harbor bad feelings against the person, regardless. We all have to find our own way, and some are slower than others to accept positive change. Know that you can’t fix someone else, only yourself. Either way, be sure to seek out others who are supportive of both you and your healthier choices. Find a local group that shares your newfound interests and make a point to attend their events. Surround yourself with whatever you need to ensure your success. Ultimately, the other person may come around. When others see the positive changes - you’re feeling and looking better, have more energy and are enjoying yourself – they are likely to be inspired to make the same changes themselves. Lead by example and enjoy your own journey.