Some People Enter Our Lives Only To Teach Us Not To Be Like Them

Pierre Van ZylPersonal Growth + Development

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Not everyone you encounter in your life is going to bring you happiness and joy. As Oscar Wilde said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go.” That being said, whether knowing them was a positive or negative experience, there is a lesson you can learn from each person you meet. Sometimes, this is simply a lesson in not being like someone else.

Toxic People Teach Us How To Treat Others

Maybe it’s a parent or parent-figure, maybe an ex, old boss, or a schoolyard bully – whatever the case, some people are just toxic. Whatever struggle they caused you, however, there is something to be learned from it.

Toxic people can teach us how to stand up for ourselves and put ourselves first, albeit the hard way. It takes a huge amount of strength to leave a mentally, emotionally, and/or physically abusive partner. It takes courage to cut a parent out of your life who negatively affects your mental wellbeing. It requires faith to stand up to or leave a boss who degrades us.

These negative relationships teach us what to value and what brings us only suffering. At first, it can be hard to see this positive side, but the reality is that people who treat us badly teach us how not to be treated. It shows us what we need from other people in order to be happy.

Most importantly, once we break free from a toxic relationship, we can then learn how to value ourselves and how to spot the signs of an abuser in the future. We learn to never again accept anything less than what we deserve, and will be less afraid to walk away from something or someone who does not serve those needs or respect us properly.

When you are treated badly by someone else, it shows you how you would never want to treat someone else. Perhaps you had a horrible boss who was condescending, not approachable and was quick to anger. One day when you are in a position of power, you will remember how that made you feel and treat your employees with care and respect.

Having a friend who only used you and never really gave you anything in return will teach you to be respectful and generous with those who return the favor. While negative or toxic relationships can be hard on self-esteem and mental health, with help from loved ones or a professional, they can teach us how to have higher standards both for ourselves and for the people we allow into our circles.

Read: When Manipulation Erases Your Reality: How to Survive Gaslighting

Identifying Toxicity

Knowing a person is bad before you allow them close to you can be extraordinarily difficult. Often, these toxic or narcissistic people can seem charming and wonderful at first. While it might be hard to tell right away, watch for these five traits to know whether or not someone might negatively affect your happiness. (1)

  1. The Critic
    While constructive criticism is important and we all have areas we need improving on, a critic doesn’t use this tactfully. They will criticize you constantly, and may even lash out angrily about it. A critic won’t necessarily just point out your traits worthy of working on (for example, perhaps you have a bad habit of interrupting people), but they will also criticize you about things they have no business doing. Examples of these are anything to do with your appearance, whether or not you should be wearing a certain style of clothing, your intelligence, etc. Remember, these people are supposed to love and care about you. They should want to help you, not tear you down.
  2. Constant Passive-Aggression
    Let’s be honest: we can all be a little passive-aggressive at times. Maybe we’re having a rough day, maybe someone has gotten on our last nerve, or maybe we’re just hungry. Either way, it happens. Constant passive aggression, however, the kind that makes you feel like any little thing you do might set them off – that is toxic. This can be veiled in back-handed compliments or heavy sarcasm, and therefore can be hard to see right away. Communication is key in any type of relationship. If someone is incapable or refuses to tell you how they are feeling and why in a mature way, instead choosing to make you feel stressed, anxious, and uncomfortable all the time, then this is a person best left a part of your past.
  3. The Narcissist
    This type of person is one of the most difficult to see right away. Why? Because they are charming, charismatic, everyone around them loves them and has only glowing things to say. This person is incredibly toxic, because they will treat you so badly “behind closed doors” and then make you feel as though it’s your fault. They will slowly make you feel like you need them, that you are lucky to be with them, and that there’s no way you will ever find someone better. It is for that reason that you will work harder and harder to please that person and maintain that relationship when the reality is they are the one who needs you, not the other way around.
    Narcissists, though they appear to be these untouchable, super confident people. Actually have incredibly thin skin and can’t stand to have anyone out-shine them. This is why they will constantly try to hold you down. When you try and leave them, they will do and say anything they can to make you feel bad and get you to stay. Do not fall for their tricks. Leave and never look back.
  4. The Stonewaller
    Again, communication is crucial to any relationship – friendship, professional, familial, and romantic. The stonewaller is someone who simply refuses communication to make a problem go away. The adult equivalent of a child plugging their ears and singing so they can’t hear you, they will refuse to engage in any dialogue around issues that you may be having, either within that relationship or in your personal life. This will leave you feeling frustrated and rejected. Our advice? If you are feeling rejected like this, take the hint and go find someone willing to be an adult and talk through problems. (2)
  5. The Antisocial Personality
    An actual mental health disorder, known as Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a combination of traits from sociopathy and psychopathy. This means they can show explosions of anger and maybe even violent behavior, or they simply have a plain disregard of others and will take advantage of anyone if it suits them. Sometimes they will have the capability to show empathy and remorse, other times they won’t. These people will play whatever emotional role necessary to attain power, money, sex, an ego boost – whatever they want, really. They lack the capacity for real love, instead of seeking adoration, power, and control.

Leave Toxic Relationships in Your Past

If you are reading this and realize that you have toxic people in your life, or if you in the future find yourself involved with someone such as this, do not feel ashamed. These types of people have mastered the ability to hide their traits, blend in with others, and manipulate you into trusting them. Once you realize who they really are, however, you must be strong and get yourself out of that situation. 

Call a friend or family member you can trust to help you, use a help line, and pull away from that person. Life is too short to waste it on people who use and abuse us. Only keep people around who bring fulfillment and joy to your life, who build you up, and make you feel unstoppable.

Keep Reading: The Narcissistic Mother: One of the Most Frightening of All Personalities

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