We all need to be able to navigate difficult situations in life. No one ever got stronger from having too easy a life.
But sometimes difficult can become toxic. And when it does, the best thing to do is to walk away.
However, that’s something easier said than done. Many of us stay stuck in toxic situations because it’s hard to leave.
It takes tremendous courage to walk away. The ones who manage to leave and sometimes even avoid toxic situations right from the start are only able to do so because they have these 9 unique strengths:
Ever heard the phrase “You don’t know what’s good for you?” Well, that’s something people who know when to walk away from a toxic situation can’t relate to.
Because the opposite is true for them – they know very well what’s good for them.
They know themselves so well that they can tell when a situation isn’t right. They’ve got a sharp sense of what works for them and what doesn’t.
That’s why they don’t stick around in places or with people that drag them down. They protect their energy and choose their well-being every time, even if it means offending other people.
2) Emotional intelligence
This is closely connected to my previous point, as self-awareness is a crucial component of emotional intelligence.
When you’re in touch with how you feel, you can sense when a situation makes you feel bad about yourself.
Believe it or not, some people aren’t this keen. They struggle to identify their feelings, let alone understand how certain situations impact their emotional state.
For instance, a friend of mine was once in a relationship with a highly critical person. Due to the constant criticism, she would always feel down in the dumps.
But the curious thing is that she’d blame herself for being inadequate instead of seeing what the real problem was – her partner.
This is where emotional intelligence comes into play. It’s what helps us:
- Recognize how we feel
- Understand where these emotions are coming from and how they affect our behavior and decisions
People with high emotional intelligence have this uncanny ability to dissect situations and relationships to pinpoint exactly what’s making them feel a certain way.
It’s a major reason for why they can avoid internalizing the negativity and choose to walk away instead.
That said, even if you do have high emotional intelligence, you still need the next trait to be able to walk away…
I’ve heard people make comments like, “I don’t know why she can’t leave him. It’s pretty obvious she has to!”
Well, yes, it is, but it’s not that easy. Especially if the relationship is with someone they love.
Look, the reality is, we hold a lot of fears that can keep us stuck in toxic situations. There’s the fear of backlash, the fear of being alone, the question of, “what if it’s harder on the other side?”…
That’s why I say walking away takes courage. If you have people-pleasing tendencies or assertiveness issues (like me), then you know that the word “no” packs a lot of courage in it!
This brings me to my next point…
Yup, setting boundaries is not for the faint-hearted. Back when I was still a people-pleaser, I’d put up with a lot of toxic behavior just because saying “no” was so hard for me.
In the end, I had to choose – their happiness or my peace of mind?
Choosing my inner peace, however, required me to set boundaries. I began saying “no” more, and identifying what wasn’t acceptable for me. I made a literal list on paper to remind myself.
This practice really trained me to identify and walk away from toxic situations. I no longer tolerate crappy behavior and I no longer get sucked into people’s drama.
Inner peace achieved!
You know how we sometimes get caught up in impossible situations thinking that things will get better given enough time? Or we’ll be able to fix whatever’s wrong?
I’ve been in such situations in the past. I stayed in a toxic job longer than I should have because I had this idea that if I worked hard enough and did the best I could, it’ll be alright.
People who walk away from toxic relationships don’t suffer from that illusion. They have their feet firmly on the ground and see things for what they are.
In other words, they’re realistic.
Being realistic stops them from getting even more entangled in dramas and toxic situations. They don’t engage in magical thinking, period.
Once they assess a situation and see that there’s very little to no chance of it improving, they’d rather walk away than invest any more time and energy into it.
You might be surprised to find empathy on this list. At first glance, empathy might seem like it would tether you more tightly to problematic scenarios, because it involves understanding and feeling the emotions of others.
However, it’s exactly this sense of compassion that will alert you to the fact that a relationship or environment is harmful not just to yourself, but to all involved.
People who know when to walk away from toxic situations use this strength in two ways:
First, it gives them the ability to be compassionate with themselves. They understand that staying in a toxic place is not an act of kindness to their soul.
And second, it gives them the ability to see how putting up with toxic behavior is just an act of enabling harmful behaviors, not really of kindness and support towards that person.
In that spirit, staying makes no sense and is actually unkind, both to themselves and the people involved.
There’s a sad story I once read about a woman who was trapped with her abusive husband. She couldn’t get out because she had no money of her own – he had made her so dependent on him that she wouldn’t know how to survive if she ever left.
As sad as it is, it’s a common story all over the world. Being dependent on someone does make it harder to leave a toxic situation.
And I’m not just talking about money here. I’m also talking about emotional dependency.
That’s why being independent is a unique strength that allows people to leave if they ever have to.
No one can stop you from walking away if you have the strength to stand alone and make the right choice for yourself, even when it’s the harder path to take.
Have you ever been in a situation that started out okay then quickly spiraled into something else entirely?
Picture this: you’re at a party. It kicks off great, everyone’s having a good time, the music’s pumping, and the vibe is just right.
But as the night wears on, things start to shift. The fun, lighthearted vibe begins to take on a different tone. People start getting really drunk (or maybe take drugs). Or maybe someone’s behavior starts to make you uncomfortable…
Or how about this scenario at work? When you first started, it was a nice place to be with a good salary and stability. But then as time goes by, you notice some irregularities and soon, you’re asked to participate in those, too.
Or at the very least, you’re asked to grin and bear it, and look the other way.
Those are examples of toxic situations that people with integrity won’t stand for. When there are ethical and moral dilemmas, they won’t be willing to compromise their values.
And that’s what gives them the strength to walk away. Which brings me to the final point…
Ultimately, whether you can walk away from a toxic situation or not boils down to this: self-respect.
Self-respect is knowing your worth. Knowing what you deserve and what you don’t. It’s what tells you that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.
I remember a cousin of mine who went through a divorce. She said, “I love him deeply, but I respect myself too much to take being cheated on many times. It’s just unacceptable.”
Her words stuck with me because they perfectly demonstrate the strength self-respect gives you. It empowers you to make tough decisions because you know your value.
I suppose this is one way to tell if a situation has turned from difficult to toxic – does it make you feel demeaned?
If yes, then it’s a clear sign that your self-respect is being compromised.
The good news is, the fact that you can feel it means you already have the strength in you to walk away. You just need to tap into it!
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