How to avoid narcissists, how to avoid toxic people

Life Coaching

New year, new decade, new resolutions. We usually promise ourselves that the next year (or decade) will be better than the previous one.

One of the most common reasons for being miserable is having toxic people (or narcissists) in our life. These people play a significant role in a downward spiral and can make our lives even more miserable.

On the upside, they accelerate our race to rock bottom so that we can make more healthy and positive choices in our life. That said, life IS more pleasant without them around.

Narcissists and toxic people teach us lessons, especially about how to maintain healthy boundaries and respect ourselves. Until we have learnt these lessons, it’s likely that we’ll continue attracting toxic people. So, why not learn the lessons now and get it over and done with?

Debating whether someone qualifies as toxic or a narcissist is, in my view, irrelevant. The question is: do they exhibit one or numerous toxic behaviours? If so, are they frequent? Intense? Or both? At the end of the day, do these behaviours suit you? If so, knock yourself out. If not, what are you going to do about it?

Remember: it’s your life. You choose who you let in and who you remove depending on the type of life you want to have.

So, without further ado, here are the top X ways to be narcissist free in 2020 (and beyond).

That’s right. No lying. Lying makes us weak. Toxic people can create situations where we are afraid to speak the truth because of how they might react.

Another person says “2+2 = 5, doesn’t it dear?” We fear confrontation and don’t want to say “no”? Then we still can say “I am not comfortable agreeing with that statement”.

Toxic people LOVE creating fights. We might assume it’s an open minded conversation where we exchange ideas to see which ideas are the best. But they are playing to make us lose.

Do you feel someone is creating a fight for the pleasure of the fight, or the sulk, or won’t admit when they’re wrong, or won’t let go? No one is forcing you to play.

Why this sentence? Because we end of covered in mud. And the pig enjoys it.

Remember too that people play games. In a healthy game, we both enjoy the process and want the best person to win.

In an unhealthy game, the game is rigged and one person will be upset if they lose – and they’re willing to cheat to make the other one lose.

Offence culture is easily used to drag people into discussions:

Someone says to you “I feel offended therefore you wanted to hurt me”? Do you feel the need to clear your name?

Instead of “wrestling with a pig”, you can reply: “you have the right to believe that. I respect your right and I regret your choice. Since you believe that I am the kind of person who would want to hurt you, there’s nothing much I can say”.

Hard to do. As children, we’re taught that there are always judges: our parents, our teachers, the authorities, whatever divinity we believe in.

And when we grow up, it could become our partners and friends. We care about their judgement because we want to be liked.

But if we want to tell the truth, we will naturally not be liked by everyone. Some people will really dislike us. Especially those who want us to lie to them, for whatever reason (does it really matter?).

If we tell the truth as we see it and someone doesn’t like it, that’s their problem. Does that mean they want us out of their life? Ok, that’s their choice. If we really lose a friend because of a difference of opinion, it possibly wasn’t such a strong friendship to begin with. So be it.

We tell the truth and let the universe judge. Either we will find people like us with similar values. Or, if we spend a long time on our own or lose friends on a regular basis, we can ask ourselves why.

We often are wrong. We often are clumsy. To some extent. And rarely fully wrong.

When someone attacks us for being wrong, we can listen to their words and assess what part of it is truthful.

When someone wants to replace our perception of the truth with their own perception of the truth, they’re assuming that they are judge AND they are controlling us. Or trying to. A non-controlling person would offer a suggestion and leave it up to us to decide on the outcome.

Systematically assuming that we are wrong leaves us vulnerable to people who will use that in order to get what they want. They seldom are nice people.

Imagine my hand is on a burning frying pan. Can you feel the pain? Yes? Well… that pain is only in your head.

We’re taught that having more empathy is better. That depends: better than what? Some is better than none. But being distraught because of someone else’s pain might not be better. Especially because, in this example, it changes NOTHING to my pain. And, you don’t know whether the frying pan really is hot, or how hot, or whether I’m not hearing a protective glove.

Narcissists and toxic people like to gain sympathy and control others by playing the card of “look how much I have suffered” or “what would you expect from someone who’s been through what I’ve been through?”.

An appropriate response would be: “you have my sympathy. And, nonetheless, your behaviour isn’t working for me. So what do you suggest that could work for me?”

We’re often taught that being selfish is a bad thing. This, actually, is a rather effective (and horrible) way of controlling children, as it touches on their feelings of guilt.

It is also symptomatic of the toxic binary through structure: black or white, and nothing in between.

Yes, indeed, 100% selfish will make it hard for us to make friends. But 0% selfish? We’re vulnerable to ill-intentioned people (toxic people).

So, yes, be selfish. But not only selfish. Remember that you choose if you want to place your hand on a burning frying pan or not. And when someone says “but my hand is on a burning frying pay”, remember that “putting your hand there too” won’t change their pain, it will just increase unnecessary suffering.

So, how selfish should we be? Maybe the best rule of thumb is “start somewhere in the middle and fine-tune based on experience and feedback.”

Yes, look AT people. Don’t only focus on their words. Look at their expressions. Do they sometimes have a big smile at a moment where you suspect they might be lying? That might be duping delight!

Are they showing contempt or disgust when your arguments seem better than theirs? That relationship is close to being over.

Do they choose absolutely the worst moments to have difficult conversations? That might be on purpose.

So observe. Step back from your emotions. Ask yourself: “if I loved myself, would I want myself to spend time with someone who behaves like this?”

As long as we are afraid of something, we are easy to manipulate. The best way to protect ourselves is to embrace the truth? “You don’t like me? Tell me and we’ll either work something out or we’ll end it.”

As long as you are not willing to imagine a scenario without someone, they can control you.

If you’re unsure of what’s really important, try a long silent meditation retreat with minimal belongings. You’re soon realise that material things are nice – and most are not essential. This will also create more space to confront your own fears.

When we see where we spend our time and money, we know what truly is important in our eyes.

How does our annual spiritual growth budget (both time and money) compare to our annual alcohol, coffee or social media budget? Is it REALLY that much less important?

Why is this important? Because the more we learn to listen to ourselves, the more robust we become. The more we trust ourselves. The more we shed our fears. The stronger we become. The less patience we with with energy vampires. And, also, narcissists and toxic people HATE when their prey get empowered, because they lose their grip and control.

Whether you start meditating, journaling, attending workshops, working with a psychotherapist or a coach, whether you try energy healing, reading more books and reduce your screen time – this will help you get more in touch with yourself.

Remember, the investments we make in ourselves are the investments that pay off multiples very quickly. And sometimes the most immediate benefit is that the people around us can either be inspired to be less fearful – or it can become clear that they are not interested in us feeling better.

We can love people for the image they send back to us. But this love is conditional.

When we are grateful to people for who they are and to the lessons they teach us, we are more accepting and we don’t try to change them.

You’re vegan and your parents eat meat? You can still love them and learn to truly love people who thing differently. You’re becoming an activist and your siblings don’t care? You can still love them.

Remember that healthy personal development wants to help people get closer to themselves and closer to their family and friends, accepting and loving people as they are, unconditionally.

Anything that claims to be personal development but that results in people becoming more distant from their family and old friends has toxic characteristics akin to narcissistic personality disorder.

And gratitude is the most beautiful antidote.

We are very lucky to be on Earth, regardless of our situation. Yes, some do objectively have it worse than others and it is easier to be saying this in a nice and clean hotel room. However, often people who have far less than others are the ones to remind us that material things are not the most important, that happiness does not depend on material situations and that, whether rich or poor, we all breathe the same air and we can all experience joy.

When we have someone in our life whose presence makes our life worse than it was, over a longer period of time, that person objectively is detracting from the quality of our life.

It is a mistake to believe that everyone who is suffering wants to be better. Some pigs want to continue to roll around in the mud and keep their trotters in a burning frying pan.

Remember, pigs trotters probably don’t have as many nerves as a human hand.

Oh, and if you do want to help someone, think of my friend Faith.

Faith is one of the loveliest and most positive people I have met. She is a single mother of two little angels, she lives in Nairobi, Kenya, works in a guesthouse for under $200 per month. In case you’d rather help someone out than have a coffee and would like to send her money, contact me 🙂

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