We all have known someone or, more likely, several people in our lives who seem to bring us down. Whether it’s criticism, hostility or just their general, negative attitude, toxicity can be contagious and even affect our healthy relationships. Many can find themselves stuck in these situations for years. But for those of us fortunate enough to break away from those ‘energy vampires,’ take comfort in knowing that it wasn’t all for naught. Even the toxic can be teachers. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Setting Boundaries

Breaking away from unhealthy, highly critical, or controlling people can help us set more definitive boundaries in all of our future relationships. We recognize the red flags and questionable behavior a lot sooner when we’ve already experienced it. As Oprah says, “When we know better, we do better.”

2. Focusing on Self-Care

Being around someone who tries to undermine our confidence and self-esteem can be a draining experience. Deciding that enough is enough is the first step towards self-care. You’ll be amazed at how your attitude improves once you’ve made the conscious choice to walk away from a losing battle.

3. Appreciating the Good Relationships

Toxic teachers can show us what not to do and how not to act. If you want the people who are important to you to know that, observe past negative relationships and learn how people don’t want to be treated.

4. Practicing Compassion

Toxic people aren’t bad people. In fact, it’s not the people who are toxic, it’s their behavior, and often it comes out because they are feeling hurt themselves. Not everybody feels comfortable discussing their suffering. Many would rather project and lash out than reflect on their own behavior. However, once you’ve broken the cycle and ended the relationship, you can look at the situation more objectively and wish that person well while hoping they can heal from their pain.

5. Trust Your Intuition

Many of us get an immediate gut feeling about other people and situations. Those who have been in a toxic relationship will sometimes rationalize or flat out ignore the red flags that tell us to just cut our losses and get out while we can. But once you’re truly out, it’s a different story. You learn to listen to and trust the voice in your head a lot sooner.

6. Embrace Change

A lot of people stick it out in a bad relationship. Many stay, either hoping the other person will eventually change or simply fearing being alone. But once you’ve decided that this relationship doesn’t work for you anymore, your life will change for the better. You just need to stick to your guns and you’ll see that the devil you know isn’t always better than the devil you don’t, and change isn’t such a scary thing.

7. Trust Yourself

Even though you’ve taken a big step by ending the relationship, your journey isn’t over. You may have had many people in your life encouraging you to end things with this toxic person, but sometimes that same support isn’t there when you are feeling lost and sad after it’s all over. It can feel lonely at times, but once you’ve gained the insight to leave you’ll have more confidence in your own judgment and will be less inclined to rely on anyone else to tell you when it’s time to take action.

Again, toxic relationships are unpleasant for everybody involved. But if you can find the small positive takeaways in the overall negative experience, you can walk away a better, smarter person. As the Dalai Lama once said: “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”

Featured photo credit: Sad teens sitting at the bench at the park via shutterstock.com

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