By Mark Thomas at healthguidance. org
‘Do not blow out my candle to make yours burn brighter’ – that was something they taught us in school, and one of those odd random things that sticks with you growing up. It is a simple message that very aptly describes what a lot of people do, some people without realising that they are doing it. Who are these people? Toxic people.
So what does this saying actually mean, what does the metaphorical candle represent? Well the candle really is just your achievement or anything that you do, and essentially by ‘blowing out’ your candle these toxic characters are belittling your achievements and trying to step on your ambition in order to make themselves feel better.
Al lot of people you see aren’t getting what they want out of life. Now mostly likely the reason for their failings will be down to them, and it is probably just that they are scared and fear is a common factor in a lot of toxic people.
Their failings or choices may be all fine and they can still make a good friend. However whereas the good friend will congratulate you for your successes, the toxic person will simply point out how you could fail. Again this helps them feel better about their inability to act. These people are likely to protect themselves from relationships – another scary big step – by claiming that every woman or man they meet is far below their standards and probably by lying about their real love life. Thus it is only a matter of time before you bring home a stunning blonde bombshell or a six foot Italian stud, only for them to bad mouth your new partner behind your back or to your face or to show a general lack of interest. As you can see here, it is not that they are targeting snide remarks at you personally, but instead they have convinced themselves that 99% of the population is below their standards so of course they are not going to be impressed by your woman or man.
The problems then start when you then dump your partner because you believe what the toxic personality has told you. You assume that they are being honest and that they are right for laughing at you, and so you throw away what should have been a great achievement. This then will also make the toxic personality happy as they will then have another friend who is single like them which will make them feel better about not asking anyone out. They can then again be the ‘cool’ one instead of feeling unsuccessful. They will do the same in every area of your life too – because they’ve genuinely caused themselves to believe it and because they want to tie you down so that you do not ‘leave’ them. This means they will be able to stay king of the hill and create their own little universe where the people who know what’s best for them do not progress. They will then tell all your joint friends how you will fail and try to colour their perception of what you are doing (‘why does that idiot think they can do this or that...blah blah? They are always making ridiculous claims’). They might even outright lie and tell you they’ve lived there. The same will happen in your career, if you try to change jobs or get a promotion then they will bad mouth it and tell you your doomed to failure to keep you in your current job where they do not feel too threatened.
At the same time they will target you in a different, non-specific way, almost like ‘maintenance’ to keep your self esteem at the same level as theirs. They will pick on an aspect of your personality or your physical features, or just call you ugly, and it will seem to be in jest but over time it will be so relentless as to deflate your personality and to put them psychologically on top in your relationship. If you are overweight they might call you ‘podgy’ as a nickname – even if they are fat yourself. You’ll also notice that they bitch about everyone else that you know and about everyone else that they see. Again this comes from their own insecurities and is done simply to make themselves feel better. It is just blowing out your candle. And the very frustrating part of it all is that you know if you called them chubby back they would react oddly, shrug it off and focus on you again, or fall out with you or make a big deal of it. Their ego you see simply would not be able to take it, and by saying it you’ll have lived out their worst nightmare.
So how do you deal with a toxic person? A lot of articles and self-help gurus will tell you to cut these kinds of people out of your life, to simply avoid them, but it is not always that simple. The thing is these aren’t really bad people, and they are likely to have a lot of good qualities too. They simply have a problem – a lack of esteem and therefore ambition – and unfortunately that has a habit of spreading like the plague. It does not mean you’ll want to never see them again, and what if that toxic person happens to be your brother for example?
No the key word here is deal and there are fortunately some tricks you can learn to deal with them. You need to first of all become thick skinned and to focus tirelessly on your own ambitions and whether you think they are worthwhile. Here you’ll also be learning a useful life skill – people will try to knock you down in life and if you can take it you’ll be a lot more successful. In that respect they will have done you a favour.
The one way to gain this hardiness is to focus tirelessly on your ambitions and be single minded in your progression towards them. Keep telling yourself it is what you want and do not stop reaching for it. At the same time though, realise where the criticisms come from, from their own fear and lack of self esteem, and then just realise how pathetic that is. This way you should find you do not let it bother you as much as you know where it is coming from, and you can answer criticism as such: ‘What are you doing going self employed? You are not a businessman you idiot!’ can be answered as ‘Just because you are happy working in a supermarket. Why do not you try doing something with your life for a change?’. Here you have completely undermined their statement and anyone else within earshot will know that you are right and they are wrong. This is also again something they really do not want to happen as their esteem is probably already so low, and it should make them back off. If you do not want to be so patently offensive however you can more subtly just put the focus on them. For example if they say ‘Your girlfriend’s not exactly a looker is she mate?’ then you just ask ‘So how is your love life going then buddy?’. It works with insults too – if they call you ugly then just hit on one of their insecurities right back. Only do this in direct retaliation and they will quickly learned not to test you for fear of having their insecurities targeted.
If they continue their jibes and put-downs however (and toxic personalities do tend to be rather relentless) then you can also use this as a kind of motivation just to prove them wrong. If they try and tell you and others that you will not be happy moving to a new home, or will not be able to, then just make extra sure to do so then to move as soon as possible and then to rave to them every time you see them about how great it is. Then ask why they do not do something similar.
The rest of the time though it is best to be as nice to them as possible, as full of praise as you can, and just generally everything they are not. This can be very frustrating obviously as you will not get anything back in return, but bear in mind that doing so is the best chance you have of actually changing them for the better. Encourage them wherever you can to improve themselves and to strive to achieve something, and try to empower them to believe they can. Meanwhile try to set them up with people you know and help them find a job – once they are happy they will hopefully stock knocking you down.
As one final tip – do not allow yourself to get surrounded by toxic people, as if you do you will find they bounce off one another and gang up on you which can be very disheartening. At the same time they will cause each other to become more negative and trapped by their damaged self esteem. Try to meet these people one on one or when in a larger group of more positive people.