As humans, we should be in a perpetual state of growth and learning. There’s a quote that goes: “never stop learning because life never stops teaching.”
Learning involves the pursuit of knowledge and evolving our understanding and perspective of the world. Learning also involves understanding ourselves and evolving our perspective of ourselves, understanding who we are and who we are becoming, and breaking away from toxic relationships and patterns in our life. I am a strong proponent of cultivating who you want to be in life (and I’ve written about this extensively). I believe that to grow as humans, we must capitalize on our strengths and edit our weaknesses to become a better version of ourselves. We cannot leave our growth and development to chance because life will tug at you left and right, and turn you in circles till you become a shadow of yourself. That is why you must do the work to identify and hold on to your values which become your pillars of support that keep you grounded — no matter how messy (or good) life gets.
We cannot control how other people act but, we can control how we react and choose what we tolerate
One way of editing your life is to break problematic patterns and step off toxic cycles. We all have them. There are ways that we have preconditioned ourselves to act that are not necessarily the healthiest. Problematic patterns could involve other people, and they could also be internal. It could be dynamics in friendships and relationships or with our family that are unhealthy, hurtful, or just simply unpleasant. We know these patterns are problematic yet, we do nothing to change them — because changing them takes effort.
How do you break a toxic cycle?
Get Rid of Victim Mentality
If you are a victim or the one being exploited in an unhealthy dynamic or a toxic relationship or friendship, it is still up to you to do something to change it and break out of the toxic pattern. You are the only one who has the power to change your life and demand from life (and the people around you) to be treated better. We cannot control how other people act but, we can control how we react and choose what we tolerate. As an adult, you are never completely helpless. You must take actionable steps to break away, carve a new path, and create a healthier dynamic for yourself.
What I’m trying to tell you is, you are not helpless to the things life throws at you. If you don’t like it, change it. You have the power to change your situation and break out of toxic patterns. It might be hard, scary and even seem impossible. But it can be done!
If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that we all have our trauma. Our childhoods, past relationships, past jobs, or past experiences have left a lasting effect on us. It affects how we navigate the world, how we see ourselves, how we respond to certain situations, or how we relate to people and situations. It can also lead us to develop crutches to get through these situations. Maybe it’s time to put your life lessons to use and get rid of your crutches.
Identify the Root Cause
To break out of a toxic cycle, start by identifying unhealthy patterns and then trace them back to their root source and triggers. Next time you find yourself in a situation where an unhealthy pattern has developed, work your way backward and pinpoint how you got there. Find the root and hidden triggers of these situations and start to fix them at the points of origin.
I believe that to grow as humans, we must capitalize on our strengths and edit our weaknesses to become a better version of ourselves.
Control Your Emotions
Next, control your emotions. Our emotions can often betray us. They can cause us to overreact or behave in ways that are not a good reflection of who we really are. They also make us look and feel powerless to confront the instigator. Whenever you find yourself in a toxic situation or confrontation, control your emotions, and approach things calmly and intentionally. For example, say you no longer want to tolerate someone talking down to you. Instead of waiting to address it the next time they talk down to you—which could lead to your emotions taking over, ask to have a conversation at a different time in a neutral setting when everyone is calm. That way, your emotions are under control and you can have a civil conversation where you speak up and break! that! toxic! pattern!
Be Patient with Yourself
Lastly, be persistent but patient with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up when you slip up. Take it one day at a time or one situation at a time. You don’t have to get it all figured out right away. Pay attention to incremental changes you can make. Maybe you didn’t completely speak up this time, but you made it known that you are not okay with things. Maybe you got shut down, but you’ve exercised your “pushback muscle”. Be patient, but don’t give up on yourself. You got this!