Updated: May 7, 2020
Why do we allow toxicity to hold power over our thoughts, behaviors, and well-being? The world is changing, so let's use this as an opportunity to change with it.
If you haven't already checked out the episode, head on over to The Lunita Podcast and give Episode 7: "Socially Distancing" Yourself from Toxicity a listen. Remember to subscribe to the Podcast, leave us a review if you like the show, and give us a follow on Instagram for updates and conversations with the community.
On this episode, Nina and Justin discuss toxicity -- toxic people, toxic relationships, toxic behaviors, toxic everything -- and how to acknowledge, accept, understand, and release that toxicity so that you may live up to your highest potential.
The team provides helpful "pro tips", examples from their own experiences with toxicity, and offer a fresh perspective on how to rid yourself of the toxicity in your life that may be holding you back from the growth you are capable of. What better time to work on yourself than during this age of social distancing?
Creating Positivity from Uncertainty
Things are tough right now. It's April of 2020, and we are in the middle of a global pandemic. For those of us who have the privilege, (for those of you on the front lines of this pandemic, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts), of going inward right now, we encourage you to see this time as an opportunity to examine what no longer works so you can release it for good. This is a chance to re-evaluate our priorities and focus on our own mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being.
The world is changing, so let's take this as an opportunity to change with it.
Defining and Examining Toxicity
It's important to define and recognize the toxicity in your life, because you can't begin to grow if you don't know what to water.
Our definition of toxicity is anything in your life that prevents you from being the best version of yourself or living up to your highest potential.
Toxicity can be found in various aspects of our life, and it's important to know what you're looking for and where it may be hiding when talking about toxicity.
So, Where do we look? What are some toxic areas in our life that we may need to examine?
People: People that only bring negativity to the table are toxic people. They're never supportive of anyone or anything, they lack gratitude in almost every form, and they just tend to suck the air out of a room. FX's What We Do In the Shadows nails it on the head with their "energy vampires".
Relationships: We separated this from toxic people because it does not require a toxic person to create a toxic relationship. Some people, no matter how good of people they are, just bring out the worst in others.
Societal Pressures: This can be anything about the way we as a society are made to feel about topics like happiness, relationships, success, love, etc. Sometimes the issue is caused by the pressures or expectations other people in our society have placed on our shoulders.
Memories and Experiences: We all have negative experiences in life. They become toxic when we are not able to see past them, let go of them, or move forward. When we are stuck in the past, or in a place of pain, we are unable to heal. Remember that while we may have gone through difficulties in our past, that is exactly where pain, negativity, and sadness belong -- in the past.
Thoughts: These are sometimes the most difficult to pinpoint as we may not always be fully conscious of them. We all have toxic thoughts, but allowing them to take over our self-image, identity, and hijack our self-esteem is not only incredibly damaging but a form of emotional abuse.
Behaviors: Basically, toxic behaviors are ones that do not align with who you WANT to be. They may cause feelings of shame or embarrassment, and they may even create situations that cause pain for others.
Signs There May Be Toxicity In Your Life
When it comes to potential toxicity, it is important to not only be aware of how you feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but also to look at how you behave in its presence.
Physical Signs: Exhaustion, anxiety, nausea, general discomfort -- your body knows when something is off, and it will do what it can to let you know when something is wrong.
Emotional Signs: This could be feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, lower self-esteem, or just not feeling like yourself.
Spiritual Signs: Maybe you don't feel SAFE in a space or with a specific person; you might feel a lack of purpose, you may feel empty, or you even believe that you're above self-growth or you've healed "enough".
Behavior: Toxic behaviors are ones that may have you questioning WHY you did something in the first place; you may feel shame or embarrassment over your behaviors; or you may feel a lack of control over certain behaviors. It's important to be aware of behaviors that do not align with who you WANT to be.
Well, What Can We Do About It?
Here at Lunita, we've come up with FOUR STEPS to help bring the toxicity to the surface where one may begin to examine and eventually release it and move on with their best life.
Step 1: Acknowledge The Toxicity In Your Life
You may not always be fully conscious of who or what is toxic in your life. If you think there is toxicity in your life, try to reevaluate the people, behaviors, and thoughts that are most prevalent.
Acknowledging that there is toxicity in your life can be downright terrifying. It is often a catalyst for change, and it's normal to feel resistant to it. This is a monumental task and may leave you asking yourself, "well where does one even begin?"
Acknowledgement is simply listening to yourself, acknowledging how something or someone makes you feel, and being honest about those feelings. Acknowledgment is facing your toxicity head on and realizing that allowing it to continue to exist in your life does not bring you closer to your highest self.
Step 2: Accept That It Exists
Some things in our lives, including people, may never change. That is ok. It is important to grasp this. However, the one thing you are capable of changing is yourself. That requires reexamining your expectations. Sometimes we hold onto the hope that things will change, knowing fully well that it's not likely.
To fully make progress and grow, we must accept the past and painful experiences associated with us. Denial will not help you; nor will sweeping the problem under the rug or ignoring your feelings.
Dwelling on negativity only allows negative people, thoughts, and experiences to rob you of a happy life. Being unable to let go is essentially the same thing as being unable to forgive. To fully accept, we must not only forgive those who have harmed us but also ourselves.
"Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different." -Oprah.
Step 3: Try to Understand the Root of the Toxicity
There is always a root to the cause. Toxicity exists in many forms and part of freeing yourself from it means understanding where it comes from or why you continue to allow it into your life.
Perhaps the toxic relationship you are in with your partner comes from seeing a toxic relationship played out with your parents.
Perhaps your substance abuse served as a coping mechanism for the abuse you endured as a child.
Getting to the essence of the issue is often the most difficult stage. It takes serious soul searching, empathy for yourself and is often a long road with plenty of obstacles. Remind yourself of how far you've already come, and understand that toxic behavior is a symptom of a deeper issue.
Regardless of what type of toxicity is in your life, part of the journey to mental and emotional health includes understanding why it exists and what lessons it has taught you so you can nip it in the bud for good.
Step 4: Release It!
Ridding yourself of toxicity often involves mourning its loss. Many of us are far more addicted to toxic behaviors than we realize. Releasing it means making a commitment to never return to old ways or patterns that are destructive, no matter how familiar they are.
Oftentimes, we hold on to toxicity because it is what we know or are comfortable with. We may also be afraid that if we remove it from our lives by changing our dynamics with people or our thought process, that we will not know who we are anymore. We are afraid of feeling lost or even empty.
This does not mean toxicity has a right to take up space in your life. The key here is understanding that you can then replace the "hole" that is left behind with more light, love, and positivity.
There should be no shame or guilt for wanting a better life for yourself. There also should be no shame or guilt connected to your past. Understand that sometimes toxicity is bred out of survival. It may have at one point served a purpose in your life to be emotionally distant, or smoke a pack of cigarettes a day.
The more you forgive yourself for its existence, the easier it will become to remove from your life. You are more than your struggles, and releasing toxicity is about showing yourself and the world the person you ARE, not the person you WERE.
1: Write a letter about a past experience or to someone in your life that has been toxic for you, and then burn it.
This letter may even be to a part of yourself you wish to change. "Dear self-hatred," or "Dear, anxiety..."
Be sure to be as detailed about your feelings, experiences, and thoughts as you can. Let it all out so that you have nothing left to say. If you are really feeling up for it, pay attention to how long the letter takes to burn, it can often be an indication of how deep-seated the toxicity was.
2: Set Better Boundaries
This can be tough. When it comes to toxic relationships, sometimes people need to be put on an information diet; they do not deserve to know the intimate details of your life if they have proven to you they will use it to cause you harm. It's important to remember that you deserve to put your well-being first.
3: Focus on the Future Not the Past
Many of us in toxic situations or environments hold tightly to the past, living more of our lives there than in the present. The future can feel unachievable because we are so focused on what happened before.
It's OK if you are at this stage; it takes time to move forward, but the less time you spend living in the past, the easier it gets to visualize the future, and visualizing the future allows you to begin behaving as the person you WANT to be instead of the person that you used to be.
4: Examine your definitions of Success, Happiness, and Love and then redefine them.
Sometimes ridding yourself of toxicity is as simple as changing your perspective. Our society is still stuck on associate success with monetary gain and power. While this is one type of success, it is not the only one.
Focus more on how you want to FEEL rather than what you think you need to OWN. These things look different to everyone, so find what works for you.
Don't allow other people or societal pressures to hijack YOUR definition of Success, Happiness, and Love. Each of us have our own versions of all of these, and you're allowed to live YOUR Happiness... YOUR Success... YOUR Love.
5: Give Yourself Credit
If you have made it this far, then congratulation! You have already made progress.
Change takes time, and releasing what no longer serves you is a process that requires patience, empathy, and self-awareness. You are doing a wonderful job. Remember, one step at a time.
Negative thoughts, feelings, and relationships exist in all of our lives. When it comes to a point that it has become toxic, suffocating, painful, or distressing, it has also become unsafe for your mental and emotional health.
When it comes to change, remember that it takes time. Growth is often uncomfortable and tiresome, so be patient with yourself, allow for moments of regression, and remind yourself that you are working toward the person you want to be.
Making the conscious decision to heal from your past traumas and remove toxicity from your life only brings you that much closer to living as your highest self. Remember to take self-care breaks, seek help if you need to, and breathe. You can do this, you will get there, you are worth it.
Lastly, down below, you can find a list of resources mentioned in the episode and that we have found helpful and informative. Thank you for reading, remember to subscribe to the show if you haven't already, and sign up for our monthly newsletter to get updates on what is new at Lunita.
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
TED: 8 Signs of a Toxic Friendship - Sharon Livingston
Love Is Respect - Learn more about healthy relationships
National Domestic Violence Hotline: If you or someone you know is experiencing violence of any kind
Lunita Foundations of a Healthy Relationship - Make sure you have the foundations down