Congratulations, you’ve done it. You’ve travelled down the path of healing and eliminated all those toxic people from the front row of your life. Those friends, lovers and family members who all played a role, creating and encouraging your dysfunctional feelings and habits, who caused you trauma, who consistently busted your boundaries, triggered you, gas lit you and persisted in crazy making behaviors, are gone. You did it.
You should be relieved and you are, but now your phone isn’t ringing. There are no text messages coming in. There’s no invitations to go anywhere and you’re sitting alone at home with nothing to do, no one to talk to and nowhere to go.
You thought you were doing the right thing. You thought you were practicing self-care, but you didn’t know it would feel like this. So, the battle within commences.
Sure, your friends talked shit behind your back and secretly applauded your failures, but they were good company, at least some of the time and you miss having someone to go out with. Maybe your lover cheated on you. When you found out it was really painful and you felt so betrayed, but enough time has passed and so have those painful feelings. He or she at least made you feel good some of the time and it’s easy enough to convince yourself that they care and hey, you were still at least getting laid.
Those family members that picked on you, criticized your every move and ground your self-esteem into dust are gone and you’re proud of yourself for taking a stand, but now you have no one to spend the holidays with.
It seems like you’ve just replaced one pain for another.
Why Is This So Hard?
Being alone is tough. We’re wired to connect with others, so being alone, in its own right, feels unnatural. When you come from a dysfunctional family and you’re riddled with triggers its exponentially more difficult. There are a number of things working against you and you’ve got to find a way to battle through them.
Feelings of abandonment – if you suffered from childhood neglect, divorced parents, death of a parent, absentee parent… this feeling is likely rooted deep within you. Start with mindfulness and keep reminding yourself that what your parents did or didn’t do, was about them and not you. Perhaps they were not capable of giving you the love you needed as a child. It wasn’t because you were unlovable. It was because they didn’t know how to love in a healthy way.
Focusing on yourself is something new and you just don’t know how to do it – if you’re a codependent, that automatically means you’ve learned to be “other person focused.” Somewhere in your childhood you learned that the wants, needs and feelings of other people were more important than yours. You spent your time and energy making other people happy and you became responsible for their moods and behaviors. . There has always been someone else taking all the attention who required your energy and focus. So, when you’re forced to shine the spotlight on yourself, because there’s no one left in your life, it feels so uncomfortable because you’ve never done it and you were taught that there was something so wrong with you, that you’re afraid of looking at this hideous creature that is you. You are afraid to look at yourself because you’re convinced that you are beyond flawed and you’ve spent your whole life trying to keep these flaws hidden from everyone – even yourself.
Fear of change – doing nothing is easy. Becoming a different person is really hard work. There’s no magic pill for change. The formula is simple – create a plan – execute plan consistently until it becomes habitual. Our lives change when our daily habits change. It’s that simple.
Self-doubt – most people that come from toxic families are riddled with self-doubt. The last thing abusers want is for you to be confident and have a full tank of self-esteem. We all have what is called, “The Critic,” inside of us. This is that inner voice that is always trying to sabotage our progress and lead us back to our old dysfunctional patterns. It’s important to know that you are not this voice. This critic is your programming and the only way to muffle it’s chatter is by constantly challenging it. I have a method I call – Label it, minimize it and throw it away. When you notice it trying to interfere, take a step back and ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way, or thinking these thoughts?” Realize what it is – label it – this is my programming, codependency… or whatever you want to call it. You are not this voice. You are separate from this voice. When you know what it is, you take away its power and you minimize it’s influence on you. Tell it to f’off and go on about your day. The critic will come and go, but the more you challenge it the quieter it will become. Always remember that you do not have to do or believe what the critic says. Challenge it, tell it off.
Remember that you are in a transition period and the period is going to take as long as you let it. Being alone is an important, but temporary stage. Embrace the next several months and really put in the work. Be so focused working on yourself and your goals that you don’t have time to notice you’re alone.
If you need to lose weight, throw everything into it. Write out your plan, get to it, eat better exercise – repeat, repeat, repeat. Get yourself into the zone and power through it.
Become the full essence of the word autonomy. Embrace the notion that – no one is coming to save you and know that there is nothing that any of these people could ever give you, that you can’t give to yourself.
Create that plan for your life. Write it out. Write out baby steps that you can take everyday that will put you in the right direction.
Develop that mental toughness. Become unbreakable.
Read, watch videos, listen to podcasts – get inspired – my favorite book so far this year is, Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. Check it out. It’s really powerful.
You’re becoming a new person, with new eyes, new boundaries and new expectations. You’re creating a whole new life and you’re becoming a whole new person. So, spend this time getting to know yourself. Become the warrior.
Find a mentor, someone who is walking the path you want to walk. Watch what the do, how they act. You are essentially teaching yourself how to be healthy and the best way to do that is to find someone that is healthy and do what they do.
Take up healthy activities – yoga, gym, cycling, book clubs anything that gets you out and moving and around people who are of the same mind.
Try on new people for size. Be bold ask someone you just met out for coffee, dinner, a movie.
It’s not the time for dating per say. This is the time you want to spend on getting to know yourself and becoming the best version of you, you can be, so that you will cease to attract further toxic people in the future and even if you do, you will have built such a strong foundation that they will not get passed the first date.
Remember that there is nothing more important and valuable than your inner peace. Anyone in your life that is emotionally damaging you on a consistent basis needs to go. You might not want to toss them out of your stadium all together. You might move them several rows back, but save the front row of your life for those who value those seats.
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Photo courtesy of Kinga Cichewicz at unsplash.com
Whilst accepting that he dragged himself out of a very bad place, by means that suited him, I’m struggling with David Goggins because I feel I’m looking at toxic masculinity. I can’t relate to Hell Week and the fact that men who failed the extreme physical challenge deemed necessary to qualify as a navy SEAL had to mark that by ringing a bell and laying down their helmets. There didn’t seem to be a place for women, apart from his mother who seems blamed for providing the comfort breakfasts which he had to forego and his wife who said that if he went ahead with the training she would leave.
In sail training, have argued that it isn’t a valid challenge for a man to show he is able to raise a mainsail by himself. Both men and women can do this job as a team. Perhaps the navy might benefit from looking at that and maybe they have done by now.
Hi Milie, I have always been intrigued and inspired by mental toughness. Anyone can argue the merits of military training, though that was not why I recommended the book. This guy mastered his mind. He had every reason not to be a success, but he battled his demons and was triumpant. Any runner will tell you that their brain is screaming at them to stop running all throughout the race. It takes a strong mind, discipline and sheer will to get past it. Many of us struggle with controlling our mind and our emotions. I found him inspiring and he certainly spurred me into action.
So happy to see your post? Will order that book at the library but would buy one from you!
Yeah. All of the above. Had a strange feeling recently: that I was really happy! Didn’t have to imagine it into being like you have advised. it was just there.
It’s still hard to believe that successful, non toxic people want to know me. I was invited to coffee, then to dinner at a beautiful house thinking why would they do that? But they do and I will invite them back to my equally beautiful although rather smaller house since they are new in the same town as I am.
I don’t believe I need a partner to make me complete. Have no plans to date. A well meaning nurse promoted HRT for my shot insides but, at 66 (young I know) friends will do nicely thank you.
This is a great article but I cannot share it with some people I know who are recovering from eating disorders because of the strongly-worded recommendations about “If you need to lose weight…”
The timing of this article could not have been better very insightful thank you so much !
Another great article! I went through all of those steps and felt exactly what you wrote. I identify more as a codependent and had to find my confidence and strength. I gave, or gifted, myself time to process all of my emotions from my childhood up to my current situation at that time as I went through my divorce. I squashed that criticizing, negative inner voice ( that sounded like my parents or my ex) and slowly built myself back up into an independent confident, strong, and happy woman. I did date but found my old wounds and patterns got in the way. I chose the wrong partners and saw myself become that codependent again. So I chose ME and decided I needed that time alone to heal. I have been on my own for 8 years. It was a long journey for me. It wasn’t easy, but the end result is wonderful. This year I bought my first house on my own in the country and I got a dog. I don’t feel lonely. I feel free and independent.
Thank you I’m struggling especially with the holidays coming up. Changing my self defeating habits is a constant battle. I hope I win.