No contact: How to protect yourself from toxic people

no contact, toxic people, boundaries

Have you ever had to go no contact with someone? Or wished you could?

Maybe you’re stuck in a relationship right now that’s causing you a great deal of pain. The person treats you in emotionally damaging ways.

Every interaction leaves you feeling ashamed and confused. They behave in bizarre ways, then hold you accountable for your normal reaction to that behavior.

You may be dealing with what we call a toxic person or relationship.

Here are three ways to deal with toxic people.

1. Tell them how you feel.

Let them know you come away from them feeling bad about yourself. Give recent examples of things they have said that hurt you.

Ask them what they meant when they said those things. It’s possible the person will respond positively to your query.

They may not have known how their words hurt you. Or they may be willing to do some work to understand why they behave the way they do.

Your courage to confront can be a great catalyst for personal growth for both of you. Yay, you!

Unfortunately, this scenario is rare when difficult people feel challenged. Bringing your concerns to the person, no matter how lightly you tread, may not work.

Truly toxic people have no interest in changing. They point the finger at others and never at themselves.

Truly toxic people have no interest in changing. They point the finger at others and never at themselves. Click To Tweet

They will say you are too sensitive, imagining things, or lying about what they have said or done.

A toxic person turns around and unfriends you because you had the gall to stand up for yourself. She slings mud about you to mutual friends or family.

This brings us to the second way to deal with toxic people.

2. Go no contact.

You’ve done your part by making the brave move of confronting the person. They’ve refused to acknowledge your feelings. Or the chance they could have done anything wrong.

It’s clear they care more about holding onto a false image of themselves than their relationship with you. The obvious answer is to leave the person.

You may decide to tell them of your decision to end the relationship. But based on their response to your truth-telling, you my choose not to.

Why expose yourself to more of their negativity and blame?

This will be excruciating if you’ve become enmeshed or codependent. You will need support to follow through with your decision.

Stop phoning, texting or emailing them. When they contact you, refuse to reply. It might be easier on you if you block their emails and phone numbers on your devices.

There’s no need to tell anyone of your decision. But if you have trusted friends or family that would understand, enlist them to help you stay strong.

Resist the urge to explain. You’ve done nothing wrong and don’t need to defend yourself. Focus on moving forward rather than revisiting this dead relationship over and over.

But what if it’s a close family member bringing the toxicity? Getting up and leaving may not be the optimal solution. In this case, no contact feels extreme or impossible.

You want to leave the door open to a possible reconciliation. Or avoid a family crisis over the issue.

Caveat: if someone is threatening you physically or emotionally, then it’s time to get help or make plans to leave. This post deals with situations that don’t have you in immediate danger.

3. Limit contact.

An alternative to estrangement can come in the form of a psychic adjustment. It means relating to a friend or family member in a new way.

Rather than deal with the fallout of a severed tie, would you be willing to spend one or two hours with this person in a controlled environment?

Perhaps meet them in a coffee shop and make small talk. This might sound superficial. But it keeps alive a relationship that’s not so simple to dissolve.

It also buys you time to decide whether to continue the relationship for the long haul. You get space to arrive at a healthy conclusion about whether you can tolerate this person in your life.

If you’re dealing with the pain of a toxic relationship, I’ve created a free resource to help. Simply enter your email below and I’ll send the 4-step guide to your inbox.

Simplicity definition and how to live a less complex life

Photo by Jovan Vasiljević on Unsplash

Do you crave simplicity but are unsure how to achieve it? Maybe you’re not even certain what it is.

The dictionary describes simplicity in a few ways:

1. Freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts.

The last bit intrigued me because it speaks to integrity. When you achieve simplicity, you’re no longer separated into parts but embody a cohesive whole.

You’re aligned with your authentic self, your values.

You’re no longer pulled in different directions, or doing things that aren’t you. You show up as yourself all the time, uncompromising and whole, not fragmented.

2. absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.

I love how this definition combines material and psychological elements of simplicity. Status objects and fancy things are conflated with a pretentious mindset.

When we’re not sure who we are, we rely on things to give us value. Of course, it never works.

It’s a cover up for a lack of fulfillment. Misalignment with values is the usual culprit.

3. freedom from deceit or guile; sincerity.

I love this one best of all. I want to print these words in lovely lettering and hang them on my wall. Simplicity equals sincerity.

And here we come back to the integrity piece. Knowing who you are, and letting the words of your mouth and meditation of your heart reflect that.

Setting healthy boundaries that let other people know where they end and you begin.

Healthy boundaries let other people know where they end and you begin. Click To Tweet

There are four ways to achieve this beautiful simplicity in your life. To build a life of integrity that keeps you whole rather than in pieces.

A life in which your value is not found in the things you own. Where you trust yourself and others trust you, too.

Because your decisions align with your true desires, not attempts to people please. Interestingly, they all involve saying no.

1. Simplicity means saying no to social pressure

Mom, resist the pressure to enroll your children in too many extracurricular activities. Two at a time is a good rule of thumb.

More than that and you’re running around, missing dinners together, and imposing unneeded stress on yourself and your family.

They don’t need to play the sports everyone else does. Why not find an activity unique to them?

My daughter, now grown, used to take horseback riding lessons. That was unusual in our suburban environment as the stables were a half hour away in the country.

She did something uncommon, an early alignment with her values. And time in nature with those magnificent animals had a profound impact on her.

Say no to the latest fashion trends and gadgets, both for yourself and your kids. This goes back to the second definition: refuse to derive your value from the things you own.

Teaching your kids how little those things matter is a wonderful gift. As a result, their character will grow as they embrace your value of people over things.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves or envious of others, they will feel called to something higher and more meaningful in their lives.

2. Simplicity means saying no to constant contact

Some people feel compelled to show up on every social media platform and run themselves ragged keeping up with them all.

Could you focus on one or two and delete the others? Simplicity means streamlining. Remember the first definition about wholeness and freedom from complexity.

You might feel obliged to answer every text or email as soon as it comes in. Guess what? You don’t have to. You can let that phone ring and answer that text later, even tomorrow.

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Click To Tweet

Simplicity means being intentional with your time. Rather than reacting to every demand for your attention, set aside certain times in your day to sit down and mindfully reply.

This way, you remain in control of your life and teach people what to expect from you.

3. Simplicity means saying no to things that counter your values

Have you figured out your values? If not, now is the time. Say no to things that don’t align with them.

For instance, if you value solitude, say no to too many social events. Guard your time alone because your wholeness depends on you standing up for your needs.

Or maybe you value spontaneity. Say no to a rigid schedule marked in pen for the rest of the year.

Some people swear by a daily planner, but that feels confining and even depressing to you. Honor your need for surprise in your life.

When we say yes to things that don’t align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. That leads to self-soothing in unhealthy ways like overeating and drinking too much wine.

When we don't align with our values, we feel unfulfilled. Click To Tweet

When aligned with your values, you feel “full” and don’t need to turn to artificial helpers. In this way, simplicity keeps you both physically and mentally strong.

4. Simplicity means saying no to busyness

Busyness is different than productivity. Busy distracts you from what needs to change in your life.

Busy builds walls and keeps us from connecting with one another in meaningful ways. When you run into someone and ask how they’re doing, do they reply, “busy”? Do you?

What are you avoiding when you run down a litany of things you have done and have to do? You’re missing an opportunity to connect more deeply.

Do you have a feeling of pride over being busy? Be honest. Does it make you feel needed and important?

Are there other more authentic ways you could achieve that same need for significance?

Or maybe you feel inadequate because everyone seems busier than you. Refer to the dictionary definitions above. Your choice to embrace simplicity is a rejection of pretentiousness, deceit and guile.

You’re not deriving your worth from the things you do or own or plan. Your activities are driven by your values. That’s why you’re not overly busy.

You refuse to let life run you over anymore. Now, you live intentionally and that means doing less because you say no more often.

You experience the freedom and spontaneity of life without meaningless obligations. You know who you are and what you want and your life reflects that.

What have you decided to say no to?

How to know when you can trust someone: 3 ways

Do you ever have the feeling you can’t trust someone but you’re not sure why? Something about that person makes you close up and refuse to share.

Or perhaps you’re never sure whether plans with them will materialize because they’re unreliable. I’ve had friends like that.

Brene Brown started researching the topic when her daughter experienced a betrayal at school.

She told a couple of friends a secret which they then proceeded to spread around the classroom. The daughter proclaimed she would never trust anyone again.

Searching for a definition, Brown discovered this one: “Trust is choosing to make something important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else.”

Trust is choosing to make something that's important to you, vulnerable to the actions of someone else. Click To Tweet

And its opposite she described this way: “Distrust is when what I have shared with you as important to me, is not safe with you.”

Maybe you’ve experienced the pain of sharing important information with unsafe people and having them betray you.

To help you avoid that pain in future, here are 3 ways to determine whether you can trust someone.

1. Trust people who are there for you.

It takes time to count on someone and trust is built on a history together.

If someone is there for you when times are good, but disappear when you’re going through something hard, you lose trust in them.

Have you had friends who dismiss you or change the subject when you’re not relentlessly positive and upbeat? Have they abandoned ship when you’re going through a crisis?

Trustworthy friends show up to your father’s funeral even when they didn’t know him well. They’re willing to inconvenience themselves to support you.

Comfort is not the first priority in their relationship with you. They show up even when it’s not easy and you’re not as much fun to be around.

2. Trust people who take responsibility.

We’re all human and we all make mistakes. People you can trust own up to their mistakes.

They apologize for their wrongdoing and try to make amends. They don’t expect you to get over things too quickly.

They’re willing to wait until you’re ready to let them in again. They know an apology is not enough. It has to be backed up with a sincere desire to return to your good graces.

That might mean making some changes. Again, they are willing to sacrifice comfort to keep your trust.

A husband, for instance, who has an affair might allow his wife to check his texts until she feels ready to trust him again.

It’s his way of showing he’s willing to do what it takes to make her feel safe.

3. And who are vulnerable.

You can trust people who share things with you that make them vulnerable. That’s why it feels safer to share our own imperfections with someone who’s already told us theirs.

Trustworthy people don’t need to appear like they have it all together all the time. They are more interested in connecting with you than presenting an image of perfection.

Trustworthy people don't need to appear like they have it all together all the time. Click To Tweet

Vulnerable people are willing to ask for help. They know the art of give and take and are willing to receive from you when they need it.

It’s hard to trust people who only want to give and never receive. It starts to feel like a power play, as if they enjoy feeling strong when you are weak.

In her research, Brown quantified the elements of trust, using the acronym BRAVING.

This helps you understand why you mistrust a certain person when the feeling is so hard to define.

You can also use the metric on yourself to ensure you are someone people can trust!

trust

Intentional living: How to stop abandoning yourself and live a more authentic life

intentional living

You may have heard the phrase “living with intention” or “intentional living” bandied around lately. But what does it mean, really?

At its essence, intentional living means doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

You will find fancier explanations on the internet, but if you drill down, that’s a good working definition.

Are you doing more of what you want than what you don’t want? If so, you are living an intentional life.

Let’s examine three strategies that will help you live a more intentional life.

Notice it’s not about doing only what you want, but more of it. If, on balance, you derive satisfaction from your life events, you are living an intentional life.

1. Understand your values

In order to live a more intentional life, you must know what matters to you. If you are not clear on what you value, you will be tossed to and fro, rather than standing firm on your beliefs.

To live a more intentional life, you must know what matters to you. Click To Tweet

For example, if relationship with God is your highest value, your life will reflect that. You might decide not to schedule things on Sunday because you go to church.

Intentional living requires sacrifice. For example, many children’s sports leagues schedule games and practices on Sundays.

You and your family would miss out on those because you value God more than sports.

I once heard a mother in the schoolyard boast about telling her kids never to do anything they don’t want to do.

Now, it’s important to teach children about boundaries. Very important, in fact, because their safety depends on it.

However, coaching your kids to do only what they enjoy imprints them with a spirit of hedonism. Hedonism says the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain are the only goals that matter in life.

Spoiled Heidi Montag GIF by The Hills - Find & Share on GIPHY

Intentional living says instead, “I take care of my own needs while also caring for the needs of others. I accept my responsibilities and balance them with my unique longings.”

For example, most kids don’t like homework, but they do it because it’s required to succeed in their classes. They study for tests even though it’s unpleasant because they want the reward of a good grade.

On a deeper level, they’ll take time out to bring homework to a sick friend, or visit them in hospital. They spend time helping at a homeless shelter rather than doing something more “fun” with their friends.

2. Set good boundaries

If you never learned how to set boundaries, you might suffer from people pleasing. You were raised to put others’ needs ahead of your own. So, standing up for yourself feels wrong and selfish.

Intentional living requires letting go of that mindset. Examine why you say yes to things you don’t want to do.

Are you motivated by fear of rejection or disappointing someone? These are external rather than internal drivers.

External motivation is not always bad, but it’s worth asking whether it is the main one in your life and how that’s working for you.

If you feel depleted and unsatisfied with life, that’s a good sign you are in self-abandonment mode.

If you feel depleted and unsatisfied with life, that's a good sign you are in self-abandonment mode. Click To Tweet

If you’re turning to wine or other artificial soothers to help you feel better, that’s another sign you’re living without intention.

Here are two questions to ask yourself any time you’re unsure if you’re abandoning yourself this way.

i) “For what reason am I making this decision?” If the answer involves guilt, shame, fear, or other negative emotions, you might be in abandonment mode.

ii) “If I were the only person on earth, would I still want to do this?” This question removes other people’s influence from your decision-making, so you can determine how you really feel.

If you’re a conflict-avoidant person, it seems easier to say yes to things. You’ll suffer for a short time to keep the relationship, or avoid disappointing someone.

You’ll do it simply to sidestep an uncomfortable conversation.

But this mindset ensures you suffer and over-give in the long term. It never puts your relationships to the test.

Boundaries in relationships help you discern whether someone takes an interest in your needs, or only wants you around for what you can do for them.

Refusing to set boundaries is tantamount to pushing your head in the sand. You ignore reality and nothing changes, moves forward, or grows. Especially not you.

3. Recognize your unique needs

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? A highly sensitive person? Your unique personality will influence what you need and how you relate to the world.

If you’re a person who requires solitude, let people know. Don’t feel pressured to say yes to every social event just because it fits into your calendar.

Pencil alone time into that calendar before you schedule anything else.

On the flip side if you require variety and stimulation, take care of those needs, too. Spend time on hobbies that feed your passions, and projects that fulfill you.

If doing less makes you feel bored, then incorporate more exciting ventures into your life.

People don’t know what you need until you tell them. And if you’ve lived a life for others, you may need time to discover your unique personality.

if you've lived a life for others, you need time to discover your unique personality. Click To Tweet

You’ve buried your desires for so long, you have trouble remembering what they are.

In this self-discovery phase, you’ll spend more time journaling and writing down your likes and dislikes.

You might decide to vacation alone if that’s feasible for you. Or go on a retreat with like-minded women.

Feed your longing for creativity with some art projects. Take a class. Read books that inspire you.

Spend more time with God. He made you and knows exactly what you need.

When you learn about yourself this way, you’ll stop doing too many things you don’t want to do.

Your have-tos will seem far less burdensome when you take care of your want-tos as well.

Goals: How to accomplish more of what you want by doing less

goals do less
Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

I once had a super ambitious classmate who loved setting goals. His need for achievement compelled him to constantly overextend himself.

He complained about how much he had to do and how little time he had to do it. Then, one day, he announced he had signed up for a stress-management class.

My friend and I exchanged glances. Later, she said she couldn’t help thinking he’d just added one more thing to his long list of things to do.

I had to laugh. He’d missed the most obvious solution to his problem of too much to do. He could have easily reduced his stress by doing less (and it rhymes!)

We’ve all heard of decluttering your physical space. That means getting rid of things you no longer use or love.

But have you thought about de-cluttering your schedule? That means intentionally opening up white space in your overstuffed calendar.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Rather than reacting and rushing around, you have time to decide what’s important to you.

When you stop filling every moment with productivity, you gain control over your life. Click To Tweet

You begin to discern how best to spend your precious moments. Put simply, you do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

When you’re more intentional with how you spend your time, you might actually get more done.

You become more focused on your goaIs, while avoiding distractions that take you away from them.

Here are 3 steps to decluttering your schedule. A guide to getting more done by doing less.

1. Ask, does it align with my goals?

Before engaging in a task, ask if it will bring you closer to your goals. Eliminate the busy work that does nothing to move you forward in your life.

This includes time spent on social media. Why not set a timer for 15 minutes, respond and engage with your followers, then turn it off?

You’ll be more productive in that 15 minutes than hours of mindless scrolling.

Whittle your to do list down to the bare essentials, three to five items a day. Some suggest only one item per day.

They say you write down the most pressing task at the beginning of the day. After that’s done, you cross it off and replace it with the next most important thing on our list.

The sense of accomplishment will keep you moving forward. And you’re always working on the most important thing first.

2. Use a values filter

Take time to understand your values. What’s important to you and gives your life meaning?

In general, when your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. You won’t need to use substances like wine and food to feel good.

When your life is aligned with your values, you feel fulfilled and on the right track. Click To Tweet

It helps to write down your top five values and use them as a filter through which you accept or reject invitations and commitments.

If you value service highly, your calendar will prioritize volunteer or ministry work. If you value solitude, you’ll need to incorporate stretches of alone time in your schedule.

If there’s a huge mismatch between your schedule and your values, it’s time to reassess your priorities. Start saying no to the things that have little to do with what lights you up.

3. Stop people pleasing

When we clutter our calendars with obligations that don’t match our goals or values, we might have a problem with people pleasing.

In this case, it’s time to set some boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself.

It's time to set boundaries and risk disappointing people. That could mean reversing a lifetime of putting others before yourself. Click To Tweet

If you’re not used to it, saying no takes a tremendous amount of courage and will provoke some guilt.

Start by saying “I’ll get back to you,” instead of giving an answer right away. This buys you some space to decide whether to accept the invitation or not.

Often, the people we’re pleasing fail to realize how their demands affect us. They’re thinking of themselves, not you, because that’s your job.

Sad to say, some benefit from your refusal to put yourself first. They won’t take kindly to your saying no. Be prepared for that and stand firm in the face of their objections.

Resist the urge to explain your no. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

Final thoughts

goals do less

Shedding excess activity from your calendar lets peace and quiet into your life and gives you space to breathe. Instead of treading water, you take strokes that propel you forward.

Rather than making decisions based on others‘ demands, you’re crafting a schedule that reflects your values, goals, and desires.

You begin to make choices more closely aligned with who you are and the direction you want your life to go. Instead of putting out fires you’re creating a life you love.