Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Remove Yourself from Toxic Environments

Certain experiences aren’t good for our mental or physical health. When we find ourselves in a situation, a workplace or even a friendship that is having a negative effect on our mental health we owe it to ourselves to remove ourselves from that environment.

Trust me, I know that leaving toxic environments is tough. And it often requires a level of self-worth and self-respect that doesn’t come easily to a lot of people, including people with a mental illness.  
But there have been many times where I have had to make the decision to cut negativity out of my life. Here are some examples of why I had to and how I did it.

A couple of years ago I started work in a small office with other people around my age. I loved my co-workers, we all got on so well, bonded by the one thing we had in common – dislike of our manager. Feeling undervalued, unappreciated and often subject to tirades, rants and inappropriate and sexist comments I began to resent my job. The only thing that got me through each day was the close friendships we quickly formed. But friends weren’t enough to make me want to stay. I’d come home at the end of each day exhausted, feeling worthless and belittled. I started to believe what my manager was saying to me – I was inexperienced. I would never get a job anywhere else.
But with some encouragement, I started trying to prove my manager wrong. I started applying to other places, to recruitment agencies. I had an interview that didn't go so well. I thought, 'my manager is right, I can't do this job.' Two days later I got a reply about another position. The next week I had an interview, and the next day, a job offer. 
Making the decision to leave that negative work environment allowed me to find other, better-fitted-to-me, opportunities. It also made me a much happier person. While my new job had challenges and learning curves too, I was in a supportive environment that allowed me to develop confidence in my own ability.

Friendships and Relationships
I used to define myself by my relationships with other people. In school, I felt like an outsider because I wasn't friends with the popular groups. And when I did find a group, I didn't fully fit in. In college I wanted to prove my world in the dating scene. To be happy, I thought, I needed a boyfriend.
So when relationships and friendships began to fail I clung to them. They were all I had. They were how I determined my self-worth. When uninvited to nights out with my group of friends, I pretended it didn’t bother me. When I hadn’t been privy to the news of who in the group had a new love interest, I tried not to let it show. When I was told that I was just an ‘intermediary’ until something better came along, I pretended I must have imagined it. No one could ever actually say that, could they?
If your self-worth is low, it’s difficult to realise when you deserve more.
Sometimes friendships can fall apart naturally. But sometimes for the sake of your mental health you need to remove yourself from toxic people and terminate a friendship. Here’s what I’ve learned are signs you’re in a toxic relationship/friendship:

  • There’s a double standard – you only ever meet up on their terms. They make the decisions. They lead all topics of conversation.
  • After spending time with them you feel emotionally drained and irritable.
  • You feel unsupported – like you can’t discuss your own problems with them.
  • Your success isn’t important to them – you don’t even get a congrats or good luck message.
  • You feel judged – your experiences can become a source of ridicule or throwaway comment.
  • You do things to make them happy or impress them that leave you feeling ashamed.
  • You’re made to feel guilty for not dropping work or other plans for them.
  • You feel in any way used.

Leaving toxic environments isn’t always easy, and I haven’t always been sure it was the right decision to make. But over the years, with a lot of hard work, I’ve been able to build up enough sense of self value to know what I deserve and what’s good for me. And because of these past experiences I am better able to appreciate how important healthy, positive environments are.

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Work somewhere that respects and supports you. You are worth it. You deserve it.

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