FARGO — Toxic people come in many forms: our crotchety co-worker, corrosive cousin or constantly-complaining acquaintance. Sometimes they lurk in the shadows just waiting to appear when we least expect it: at a coffee shop, the post office or even in the grocery store. These people are often a prevalent part of our lives, served in daily doses that become lethal. Their toxicity is masked by years of friendship from which we can't separate.
You see, sometimes we hand-pick the most vile friends out of naivety. At first, they might bring us joy, but as we grow older and wiser, they become emotionally demanding. With a glance in our direction, they have the ability to turn our once-clear day into an emotional storm, filled with frequent showers. They openly point out our flaws, grinning as our self-esteem withers away with each embarassing story shared.
When we succumb to their presence for lengths at a time, they encourage us to stay out later than we should, drink a little too much and forgo every healthy habit we've cultivated.
We wake up the next morning with symptoms similar to a hangover — fuzzy memories, heartburn and regret for every action we took in those few short hours. Their irresponsible behavior lowers the bar for both of us, and we become "less" for just being around them.
Yet — despite our better judgement — we cringe (and bear it) when that coffee catchup, happy hour date or weekend bash puts us back in their crosshairs. In their presence, the people that know us best recognize the shift in our morale. With too much proof to deny it, we admit they're toxic but believe we can't step away. "They need us to save them from their misery," we think.
But we're wrong.
While we can't avoid toxic people entirely, we can choose who we surround ourselves with in our spare time. We have the ability to update our personal and professional networks. And, when we do, we're often blessed with accountability partners who encourage healthy relationships, career success, pursuit of passions and life in general. Sometimes they're creatives who are willing to help us dream big, taking that gigantic, scary leap toward our goal. Other times they come in the form of mega mentor, advocating for financial security and simple living to trigger utmost happiness.
When we invite these types of people into our lives, our purpose is validated. What may start as a forced meeting on an incredibly chaotic day becomes a much-needed window of time to refuel our energy, leaving us with an undeniable hop in our step.
We're proud to introduce these people to our friends and family because their whole-hearted character is sure to touch anyone they meet.
While it's easy to get hung up on cut-throat co-workers, narcissistic "mentors" or Debby downers, it's just as important to energize our souls with the opposite. We must to find the men and women in our lives who encourage us to chase our seemingly-impossible visions and leave us walking away with our heads high and souls re-energized.
After all, life's too short to tolerate the presence of miserable people. Surround yourself with people who light your fire and help keep your passions burning in the future. Trust me, the fire fueling our dreams is much better than the heartburn that poisons our thoughts.