How to Repel Toxic People

I spent 7 years in a toxic relationship. It was 7 years of belittlement, gaslighting, and explosive anger being directed at me. After getting out of that relationship and starting to rebuild my self-esteem and self-confidence, the thing I was most afraid of was ending up in another toxic relationship. I never wanted this to happen to me again. I spent time thinking about my experience and realized that I had learned a lot about the way toxic people operate in those 7 years. From that, I was able to come up with a blueprint for repelling toxic people and keeping them out of my life for good.


“how you love yourself is

how you teach others

to love you” — Rupi Kaur

If you’ve spent any time in the self help aisle, you know that self-love pops up everywhere as a solution. That’s because it is.

I was told that you only ever accept love from someone else that matches the love that you have for yourself. If you constantly criticize yourself, it will seem normal when others criticize you as well. If you don’t love yourself, you are constantly searching for someone else to love you instead. You will be hustling to earn other people’s love and acceptance.

This plays right into the game toxic people play. They need someone who will allow them to criticize them. They need someone who is hustling to earn their love. They need someone who is searching for external validation. This is a person who can be manipulated and controlled.

If you truly loved yourself, when someone else comes along that is not offering that same kind of true love, you would not even be interested. You would reject the toxic person right out of the gate because they are not offering anything that would complement what you already have.

Toxic people are not able to engage with someone who loves themself fully because when you have that kind of love for yourself, toxic people will feel off to you. You will sense that their vibe is off. You won’t want to be around them let alone even entertain the idea of being in a relationship with them.

If you are not chasing external validation, you won’t be tempted by anything a toxic person tries to offer you. You will recognize it as empty. When you know and experience true love for yourself, you can recognize when love is fake. Once you know the real deal you can’t be fooled with cheap substitutes.

Toxic people wouldn’t have any interest either in someone who truly loved themself. This is not someone who will allow them to demean them or will allow themself to be manipulated. Someone who truly loves themself is simply not available to play their game and so toxic people will usually move on to someone who will.

In a society that constantly tells you how you are not good enough, self-love can be a hard thing to cultivate. But it is so worth it. Even without worrying about toxic people, it is worth it to cultivate. There is literally no down side to loving yourself. The world can only become a better place if it is filled with people who love themselves.

Healthy Boundaries

“You get what you tolerate.” — Henry Cloud

A toxic person can only prey on someone who has weak or inconsistent boundaries. Toxic people will start out by testing your boundaries. They will feel out what you will tolerate, what they can get away with. I think so many of us are socialized to always be nice and appease others, even at the cost of ourselves. We are not taught to apply boundaries in protection of our mental, emotional, and physical space. I am not going to go into here what constitutes healthy boundaries and how to apply them. I have an article written here on that topic. Rather, I would like to discuss what is at stake when healthy boundaries are not applied.

Without healthy boundaries in place, you are allowing others to treat you any way they please. Without enforcing your boundaries, there will be no consequence in place for behavior that is detrimental to your health and safety. This is what allows a toxic person to really get their hooks in you. They often start evaluating people by testing out their boundaries, seeing if they enforce their boundaries, seeing if they can get them to break. This is where they test you out to see if you will play their game.

When I first started dating my ex-husband, he would say something mean and when I would express my dislike of what he said he would reply that he was ‘Just joking’ or ‘Can’t I take a joke?’ I would then let it go and tell myself I was being too sensitive. This would have been a perfect place to have a boundary in place. If I had removed myself and stopped hanging out with him anytime he made a mean comment about me, he would have had to either change his behavior or find someone else who would tolerate that. As it was, he knew that he could keep saying mean things to me without consequence, which is exactly what happened.

Prioritize Self-Care

“If you want to help her, you need to help yourself first. No one serves their friends by grinding themselves into dust on the altar of compassion.” — Seanan McGuire

I think especially as women we have been socialized and conditioned to believe we should take care of others’ needs before our own. We are taught that it is virtuous and selfless to put others needs before ours and selfish if we prioritize our own needs. I would argue that not only does this philosophy put yourself at risk of being victimized, but it is also fundamentally untrue. Who takes care of their family better: someone who is run ragged or someone who takes the time for themself and can pour from a full cup? I would argue that there is nothing kind about catering to other people when you don’t want to and building the inevitable resentment that it will bring. I also think there is a big difference between putting your own needs first and putting your own needs first at the expense of others and it is important not to confuse the two.

It is like being at a buffet. You don’t want to be the person who jumps first in line and takes half the casserole onto their plate, but you also don’t want to be the person who never gets to eat because they let everyone cut in front of them over and over again. Show up and take care of your needs and then pour from a full cup. The people in your life who matter will appreciate the full version of you more anyways.

The only people who won’t appreciate the full version of you are toxic people. They thrive on this mentality of wanting to be selfless because they are takers. They will take and keep on taking until you have nothing left. Someone who prioritizes their own self-care is difficult to take from. A toxic person cannot take as much as they want because this person takes the time to recharge themselves. Someone who prioritizes their own self-care watches out for themselves. They know when someone is draining too much of their time or energy. They know how to step back and reclaim their energy. Toxic people don’t like this and will lose interest very quickly. They prefer people who are always giving so they can always be taking. Protect yourself and those you truly want to be able to care for by not allowing takers to drain you of your precious energy.

Toxic people just don’t like people who have a healthy sense of self. They can’t play games with people who love and take care of themselves. They avoid those people. They get bored with those people. Toxic people don’t have a healthy sense of self themselves so they cannot tolerate anyone who does. It bothers them on a deeper level. So if you want to be the most uninteresting thing on the planet to every toxic person out there, love and take care of yourself to the fullest. Fill yourself so full with love that you attract others who are filled with love and repel those who are filled with hate.

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Melinda Gerdung

Melinda Gerdung

I write for my former self and what she needed to hear.