I’ve written a lot in the past year about the importance of setting boundaries in your life. I use the following mantra: Boundaries are the rules I put into place so I can love you and myself at the same time. Because so many times we sacrifice our own well-being to please others, so it’s important we give ourselves solid boundaries to protect ourselves from the negative/toxic habits another might have that make us doubt – or even hate – ourselves.
But lately I’ve been thinking about how I also have types of boundaries…more like red flags…that I’ve been subconsciously setting in the last few years. Because when you put your own needs last when building relationships for a long time, you might keep letting toxic people into your life without realizing it.
You know this feeling if you’ve ever tried to nurture a good habit in your life. Like…maybe you want to stop drinking only to suddenly realize all of your friends or family drink at every social gathering. Radical self love is a habit that you need to nurture in supportive environments and sometimes that means you have to foster different types of relationships. And often it means you have to slowly distance yourself from others.
Many people who stop drinking, start to keep the friends at arm’s length who don’t know how to socialize without a glass of wine. It’s something you’re doing to protect yourself. And you’re not burning a bridge, you’re just recognizing that right now, this may not be the best relationship for you to invest in. And you start to try to meet people in environments that are not shaped around drinking.
Over the last many years I do feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of trying to nurture the positive relationships and distance myself from the negative ones.
(LET US PRETEND THE PANDEMIC DID NOT SCREW THAT ALL TO HELL FOR THE MOMENT.)
Here are some of my personal red flags when trying to decide what relationships deserve my time and energy so that I build a network of radical self love around me to help nurture me on my own journey. Now, everyone has different hurdles on their own journeys. For example, if we go back to me “quit drinking” metaphor: If you don’t struggle with drinking, being around others while they’re drinking is not a big deal. But for me? It is. So these are the red flags for ME, personally, on my journey to radical self love.
- If someone mocks anyone for a new positive habit they’re pursuing. “Cindy is has started going to a new workout class again. She’ll probably only do this one for a month too.” Yes, maybe Cindy drops new workout classes after a few weeks but she’s trying to find something she likes, and shouldn’t we all be on a quest to find ways to move our bodies that we enjoy?
- Actually…I like to avoid anyone who Yucks someone’s Yum. Laura is suddenly into D&D? GOOD FOR HER. (And can she teach me? I want to play!) Do not put energy into relationship with people who like to poop on someone else’s joy. If I’m around someone who is making fun of someone else’s interests or the way they simply live their life? I note: I DO NOT WANT TO INVEST ENERGY INTO A FRIENDSHIP WITH THIS PERSON. I was in a meeting once time where people were making fun of a woman who didn’t shave. That was a group I distanced myself from almost FIRST THING several years ago when I started transforming my relationships. (Although – since then I have also stopped shaving for the most part and I kinda want to join them again and be like…LOOK AT MY HAIRY LEGS?! DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH IT?!)
- If someone says anything even remotely negative about anyone’s appearance. Period. Whether it’s their out of style clothes or their weight gain/loss or their new hair color. Even if it’s a stranger. Personally, I’m trying to even learn how to spread love to someone without commenting on anything about their appearance aside from stuff they have 100% control over, like their hair color or their clothes. “YOUR TUNIC HAS POCKETS? WHERE DID YOU GET IT I MUST HAVE IT.” But if someone makes a negative comment about the way someone looks? I’m out. Period. That’s a 100% dealbreaker. (TRUE STORY: One time I was at a start line of a triathlon when I heard people mocking their friend’s white tri kit. You don’t think I earmarked those people as toxic IMMEDIATELY? I did. THAT WAS THEIR FRIEND. NOT EVEN A STRANGER.)
- If someone spends too much of their own personal energy talking about diet and weight loss. I just can’t be around that too much, I find it very triggering. I have to mute friends on social media who are constantly posting updates about weight loss or appearance changes. I don’t fret too much if it’s someone working towards a goal, like my friends who are getting into climbing or learning to power lift. Again: We should all find ways to move our bodies that we love. But anyone who has goals to change their appearance in some way is not going to be good for me. Maybe someday I can be around those conversations and not immediately start to regress, but now is not the time for me.
- Anyone who has to whisper things about other people. This was a really bad habit of mine on my 20s, I tore people down to build myself up so I really have a distaste for that behavior in general settings. NOTE: This does not count about your “safe places” where you can vent and not be shamed. We all need those times, I believe. Usually it’s our spouse or maybe a close friend. But those venting spaces should be rare and isolated to key healthy relationships so that it doesn’t devolve into the tearing of down of people. I’m mainly talking about being in a group when people in the group start talking about others. I always think, “You don’t know that person is not my sister! Why do you feel comfortable bitching about them around me?” If you have to whisper, you probably shouldn’t be saying it. I don’t know if it’s always “gossip” but I’ve been in circles where someone I barely know will openly complain about someone else and I want to be like the religious friend who makes people feel uncomfortable when they curse. DO NOT BADMOUTH ANYONE IN MY PRESENCE. I WILL GIVE YOU THE STANK EYE AND REMOVE MYSELF FROM THE CONVERSATION EVEN IF I DO NOT KNOW YOU OR THE PERSON YOU ARE BADMOUTHING.
Okay. I’m going to end this on a bonkers tangent.
As I wrote this, all of it almost sent me into a shame spiral about Past Kim. Like…when I read these things written out I realize how many toxic relationships I had over the years that made me a toxic person. How I used to be someone who gossiped or made fun of people or who yucked other people’s yums. I was SO self-righteous about shit in my 20s, I still feel like I owe so many people apologies from those years. And of course all of it was just to try to heal the broken parts of my soul when I somehow thought I could only feel good about myself when I trashed other people. Or when I felt that I only deserved love when I looked a certain way or acted a certain way. And here’s the crazy part that starts my tangent: I WAS ALSO CALLING MYSELF A CHRISTIAN BACK THEN.
I’m so grateful for so many Christian friends who are actually living to be Christ-like, but I was not one of them. I truly feel like I’ve become more Christ-like in my atheism than I ever was a person who went to church regularly. There are so many people who look at atheists or non-believers and think we must have nothing that guides us to be good or moral or ethical…and yet. In my life? I became a much better person as an atheist. I don’t know how those two journeys, away from religion and towards radical self love, might have influenced each other. Maybe that’s something to think about more, but writing this entry it really hit me: I fostered toxic relationships and was hateful and ugly all while going to church on Sundays. Whereas my last 10-15 years as an atheist have been full of personal healing and growth towards being a better member of my community and being a better steward of loving, positive relationships.
I don’t know…just a random tangent to end this on, I guess. But that’s what happens when I just start typing without a clear plan.
Here’s to finding ways to nurture positive healthy relationships with non-toxic people…with our without a spiritual or religious foundation to guide you.