As we continue exploring the areas where crap has built up over the years, muddying our vision of our true power, there is one influence that has profound and constant impact on our lives… and ultimately on our sense of identity and power:
The people we surround ourselves with.
As humans, we crave connection, even to the point of not acknowledging when relationships are having a negative effect on us.
In truth, we’re all connected, and that’s a beautiful thing! We have the power to lift each other higher than we can lift ourselves on our own, but the flip side is also true –
A toxic relationship can completely derail our journey… and our sense of ourselves in the process.
I’ve experienced varying degrees of toxic relationships, from overly critical friends to a physically abusive romantic relationship. I’ve been beaten down, abandoned, strung along and judged. But in every instance, I’ve learned, and I’ve found the power within myself to say that I deserve better.
We all do. We deserve to be treated with respect, supported and loved.
Yet toxic relationships do have value, in that they bear lessons, often some of the most important lessons we will ever learn. Perhaps a lesson in forgiveness or boundary setting, or perhaps a chance to go back and take that little girl inside us by the hand and finally convince her that she is safe and loved.
I want to share with you one of the most effective exercises I use in my 1:1 coaching for gaining clarity and chipping away at the toxic people in our lives.
We all have an inkling when a relationship isn’t serving our highest good, but we make excuses, overthink, blame ourselves, and on and on… for why we need to “put up with” this person.
But here’s a trick: The next time you find yourself “putting up with” or tolerating someone who is cutting you down on some level, picture yourself as your 5 year old self (or if this is too challenging, picture your daughter or another little girl you know).
Imagine the person in question behaving toward that little girl the way they behave toward you. How does that make you feel?
Really let your mind create the image of the situation in detail – FEEL the feelings of watching this happen to this little girl. Stand back in your mind and watch the whole thing play out.
I recently used this exercise myself, to deal with a friendship that had become unhealthy. This friend would come to me when they needed something from me, over and over, then go completely silent when I needed them. Full on ghost mode. Here’s the kicker – my two biggest triggers are silence and abandonment. So guess what – every time this friend ghosted me, it was like a blow to the gut. Over and over.
I “put up with” this for years, making every excuse as to why it was ok. But recently, I took my own advice and imagined my innocent little 5 year old self being treated this way. My heart broke for her, and I felt IN MY BONES that she deserved better. And she does. I do.
So how do we cut cords with people who are sabotaging our true power?
In the case of this friend, I decided that the little girl inside me needed time to heal, and she needed protection from the repeated heartbreak of abandonment, so I cut all ties. Not forever, just until balance can be restored, if that’s possible. In this instance, I knew that if my friend reached out in need, I would drop everything for them, as I always had, and would end up hurt again when they abandoned me. So I blocked all email and phone contact.
That might sound harsh, but when it comes to people I care about, I suck at saying no, even when I know I am being taken advantage of. I know this about myself, so I know that I need to set this boundary.
This process of getting back to US is about chipping away at things that undermine our sense of our true power, and toxic relationships do exactly that.
Of course, we can’t cut out everyone who rubs us the wrong way, and I don’t think we’re meant to. Remember, some of the most important lessons come from the most challenging relationships.
But the relationships that affect us at our core – the ones that sidetrack us, derail us or cut us off at the knees – these are the ones we need to reevaluate.
Sometimes cutting all contact is necessary, but sometimes that’s not possible. In these cases, I find it helpful to keep that little girl in the forefront of my mind. How would I want her to deal with these people? What would make me shout with pride, “You go girl!”
I would want her to set boundaries – non-negotiables. I would want her to turn and walk away from people that cut her down. I would want her to speak up when she’s disrespected.
And at the end of the day, I would want her to remember that she is perfect and powerful exactly as she is, and that the actions and opinions of other people can never change that.
You see, as women, most of us find protecting a child much more natural than protecting ourselves. We tolerate treatment of ourselves that would horrify us to see toward a child.
That’s why these exercises are so powerful.
SEEING ourselves as that child reminds us that we are STILL perfect and powerful, and that the actions and opinions of other people can never change that.
If you know someone who needs this message today, please share it with her.