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Last Updated on May 21, 2020

How to Survive a Midlife Crisis (The Definitive Guide for Men)

How to Survive a Midlife Crisis (The Definitive Guide for Men)

If you believe that you’re having a midlife crisis – even if you aren’t middle-aged – I can assure you that you’re not alone. I can also assure you that it’s never too late to start creating the kind of life that you want.

So many of us slog through each day, only to look around and realize that we’ve been letting life pass us by.

Don’t let life pass you by. Use this as a guide and with any luck, you’ll begin to see the midlife crisis in men for what it really is: an opportunity.

Note that this is a midlife crisis guide for men, if you’re looking for a guide for women, check out this article instead.

My Journey Into Self-Realization

A few years ago, I took a look around and decided to make a change – a big change. And it made me uncomfortable, in that uh-oh-what-was-I-thinking kind of way.

But I knew that if I didn’t make a change, I was going to be miserable for the rest of my life.

After college, I moved to Chicago to pursue comedy, using a carefully and brilliantly devised strategy.

By day, I’d find my inspiration in hip and trendy coffee bistros and on El trains, gazing out at the quickly passing cityscape. By night, I’d play at open mics, only to catch the ear of George Wendt, sign a development deal, and be thrust headlong into comedic superstardom.

As it turned out, telling jokes to drunkards on a Monday night didn’t quite foot the bill for my 400-square-foot palace without air-conditioning. And as far as I could tell, George Wendt didn’t leave the house much.

So much to my chagrin, I took a job in advertising. After two years in Chicago, during which I was gripped by depression and angst, I moved back to Omaha – my hometown – to “figure things out.”

But instead of figuring things out, I took yet another job in advertising, and then another. And for nearly a decade, I bounced around from role to role, only to sit lamentably in a cubicle and do work that could have been done by a half-trained Capuchin monkey.

Before I knew it, I turned 30. I began to examine my life and panic swept in.

What have I been doing for the last 10 years? There has to be more to life than this. I’ve gotta get out of here. I need to make a change. Like, now.

Midlife or otherwise, I do believe I was having a crisis.

The first thing I did was locate my balls which took longer than I care to divulge. Then, I decided to make a change.

I packed up my stuff and moved to New Orleans – a city that brings me endless joy and excitement. I immersed myself in self-help and philosophy, sought out teachers and mentors, became a certified transformational coach, and started my own business. And now, I help others navigate their own crises.

What Exactly Is a Midlife Crisis?

A midlife crisis is generally defined as a transition of identity and self-confidence that occurs in middle-aged individuals (typically 45 to 64 years old). This psychological “crisis” is fueled by events that bring to light a person’s age, inevitable mortality, and perhaps a lack of notable accomplishments in adult life. Hence, the midlife crisis in men is very similar to the midlife crisis in women.

Not surprisingly, this can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and the desire to make significant life changes.

Incidentally, the term “midlife crisis” was coined by Canadian psychoanalyst and social scientist, Elliott Jaques, in 1965. (Funny enough, Jaques also coined the term “corporate culture.”)

But recent studies have shown that most middle-aged people don’t actually experience a midlife crisis. In fact, some have questioned if the midlife crisis even exists.

For many of us, both men and women, the midlife crisis is all too real.

Signs of a Midlife Crisis

Released in 1999, American Beauty is perhaps the greatest film ever made about the midlife crisis. As you may remember, the film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director (Sam Mendes), and Best Actor (Kevin Spacey). And you can thank screenwriter Alan Ball for the effectively flawless script.

In the film, Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey (I’m sorry for bringing him up), loathes his job as an advertising executive, can barely stand his materialistic wife, and has no idea how to communicate with his angry, misanthropic, teenage daughter.

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From the outside, the Burnhams seem to have the perfect, white-picket-fence existence. But behind closed doors, Lester has become disenchanted with, well, damn near everything.

The film’s critically praised opening montage gives us a look into Lester Burnham’s dull and monotonous daily life, as Lester unenthusiastically narrates each scene.

“I have lost something,” he says. “I’m not exactly sure what it is but I know I didn’t always feel this . . . sedated.”

Most modern movies and television shows have left us believing that the first sign of a midlife crisis in men and women is a newly purchased sports car in the driveway. But as American Beauty shows us, the signs of a midlife crisis are usually much less obvious to ordinary passersby.

Common signs of a midlife crisis can include:

  • Mood swings: Those experiencing a midlife crisis can seem highly temperamental, becoming angry or irritable without justification.
  • Depression and anxiety: A midlife crisis can undoubtedly cause one to feel sad, blue, restless, down in the dumps, or just plain miserable.
  • Sleeplessness or oversleeping: Depression, anxiety, and a constantly spinning mind can greatly affect one’s sleeping habits.
  • An obsession with appearances: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel the need to remain attractive to others.
  • Increased consumption of drugs or alcohol: Middle-aged adults may turn to drugs or alcohol to mask their feelings.
  • Feeling stuck in a rut: Those going through a midlife crisis often feel like they’re stuck – in a bad job, a bad marriage, a bad situation – with no way out.
  • Thoughts of death or dying: A midlife crisis can cause people to think obsessively about their own mortality.

Other signs of a midlife crisis include: impulsive decision-making, having an affair, replacing old friends with younger friends, assigning blame to others, and extreme boredom.

Take a look at this chart to see how many of these signs are you experiencing:[1]

chart about midlife crisis in men and women

    Why a Midlife Crisis Happens

    It bears repeating that recent studies seem to reject the idea that most adults go through a midlife crisis. Researchers believe that personality type and a history of psychological issues predispose some people to the traditional midlife crisis.

    One study points out that there is a stark difference between a midlife crisis and midlife stressors, and many midlife stressors are mislabeled as a crisis. Of course, common day-to-day stressors can pile up, causing middle-aged adults to believe they are having a crisis. Midlife crisis in men may sometimes be just midlife stressors.

    Additionally, many middle-aged adults experience life events that can lead to prolonged depression or psychological distress. However, these events – like the death of a loved one or a professional setback – can just as easily happen earlier in life.

    Take me, for example. Just before my 30th birthday, my father – who was the picture of health – died suddenly and unexpectedly while exercising at the gym. Not to mention that I detested my low-paying 9 to 5 job, published a book that didn’t sell, started a company that failed, ruined a number of friendships, and had far less sex than I’d like to admit.

    Was I having a crisis? Possibly. Was I experiencing depression due to an overload of stressors? Most definitely.

    Still, do any amount of research on the midlife crisis and you’ll find that psychologists often attribute the phenomenon to aging itself, the aging or death of one’s parents, the maturation of one’s children, spousal relationships (or lack thereof) and career (or lack thereof).

    How to Deal With a Midlife Crisis

    If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, if you feel stuck in a rut, or if you’re experiencing depression and anxiety, I’d like to assure you once again that you’re not alone. A midlife crisis in men and women is normal.

    I once considered myself a lost cause, predestined to live out my days feeling miserable and unfulfilled. Then, I decided to change. I became dedicated to learning how to live with at least some measure of joy. And after a great deal of experimentation, I came up with a regimen that worked for me – and still works – as long as I stick to it.

    I can’t guarantee that it’ll work for you. But I do know that it won’t hurt. And should you choose to give it a try, you’ll need to do the following:

    1. Decide

    Someone once said that “the first step toward getting somewhere is to decide that you’re not going to stay where you are.” And, I couldn’t agree more. This is truly where the work begins.

    I began to experience a shift only after I made the decision – no, the unbreakable promise to myself – that I was going to change my life. And no matter how much you’re suffering, you can make yourself the same promise.

    2. Stop the Search for Happiness

    There’s a funny thing with us humans. We spend our lives trying desperately to find happiness and yet, we don’t even know what it is.

    We can’t explain, describe, or define it; we just know that we want it because it’ll make everything peachy. Time and time again, though, studies have shown that our never-ending quest for happiness is quite often the very thing that screws us up.

    Trying to find happiness is a futile effort, likely to exacerbate the “crisis” you’re having. Stop the search for happiness and start taking action steps toward creating the life that you want. When you do, you won’t need to find happiness. Eventually, happiness will find you.

    3. Meditate

    What I used to dismiss as new age nonsense has positively changed my life in more ways than I thought possible. Meditation has been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve focus and concentration, increase self-awareness, and promote better physical health. It is a great way to help ease the midlife crisis in men.

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    And, for me, it’s the only activity that effectively tames my “monkey mind,” or what neuroscientists have recently named the default mode network (DMN).

    Your DMN is most active when you aren’t focused on anything in particular, and your mind is wandering from thought to thought. At best, these thoughts can be inspired and entertaining. But when you’re in the throes of a personal crisis, these thoughts can be morbid and destructive.

    Meditation has a quieting effect and significantly decreases activity in the DMN. And when the mind does start to wander, those who regularly meditate are much better at snapping out of it.

    Try this 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime, and experience its benefits.

    4. Develop an Abundance Mindset

    Of all the strategies I use to mitigate my depression and anxiety, abundance thinking was the most difficult for me to adopt. It’s also been the most beneficial. It required me to change some of my core beliefs.

    For years, I operated from a scarcity mindset, I was angry that all the world’s goodies seemed to go to everyone else. I wondered why those around me were getting recognized, getting rich, getting a nice partner, and I wasn’t.

    Maybe, I thought, there’s just not enough to go around. Of course, this kind of thinking isn’t just debilitating; it’s downright inaccurate.

    The world, in fact, is a place of abundance with limitless opportunities. Remind yourself of this every day, regardless of your age. Open yourself up to all that the world has to offer.

    As Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote in his book, Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life,

    “Try to imagine a state of unlimited possibilities as being possible for you.”

    5. Practice Gratitude

    Before you go to bed at night, think of five things for which you are grateful. Better yet, write them down. These can be common, everyday occurrences like seeing a beautiful sunset, learning something new, or hearing your favorite song on the radio.

    As Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, once wrote,

    “Gratitude is, first and foremost, a way of seeing that alters our gaze.”

    Need a little inspiration on how to practice gratitude? Here are 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

    6. Pursue Your Passions

    Another helpful thing to help ease the midlife crisis in men is to pursue passions.

    I can’t help but feel a tinge of regret when I think of the years during which I never pursued my passions. Certainly, if you’re having a midlife crisis, it might seem hard to feel passionate about anything. But you can reinvigorate your spirit with a remarkably simple activity.

    Think about what you love doing or what you loved doing when you were a kid. Think about how you might spend your time if you had the financial abundance to do anything. Think about those you admire, those whose careers you wish you had. Think about what makes the hours fly by like seconds.

    Whatever your passions are, pursue them wholeheartedly. As Hunter S. Thompson once said,

    “Anything that gets your blood racing is probably worth doing.”

    If you’re not sure what your passion is, that’s okay. Here’s a guide for you:

    How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

    Research also shows that simply trying new things can increase dopamine levels in the brain, contributing to sustained levels of contentment. So, get out of the house and try new things. Eventually, you’ll find one that lights you up inside.

    7. Exercise

    One of my least favorite places to go in is the gym. And one of my least favorite things to do is, well, go to the gym.

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    Of course, exercise is by far the most widely recommended way to stave off negative feelings and gain perspective. But you don’t need to go to the gym to get exercise.

    You can do yoga, play badminton, or jump on a trampoline. You can go swimming or dancing or hiking or biking. You can hula hoop with your kids or practice Kung Fu.

    You can clean your garage or pull weeds in your garden. Or you can simply take a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Just do something physical and you only need to do it for 20 minutes.

    Oh, and make sure you eat healthily too. Eating fried, processed, and sugary garbage does nobody good.

    8. Set Goals

    Just hearing the word “goals” used to depress me. I couldn’t help but think of corporate plodders, wielding dry-erase pens, and scribbling inconsequential to-dos on an office whiteboard.

    But the fact is, setting goals has become vital to my well-being. And it has done wonders for my depression.

    Make a list of everything you’d like to accomplish in the next year, in the next five years, and the next ten years. Talk to a coach or someone you love about your goals, and work out a plan to achieve them.

    Learn to use SMART goals to achieve what you want: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life.

    9. Stay off Social Media

    I can’t think of anything worse for a fragile human psyche than social media. It’s no secret that using social media can lead to depression, anxiety, envy, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, and all kinds of other problems.

    It’s also a colossal waste of time. Imagine what you could accomplish in your own life during the hours you spend scrolling through the highlight reels from the lives of others.

    10. Laugh as Much as Humanly Possible

    Whoever coined the phrase, laughter is the best medicine, was really onto something. Studies show that laughter releases endorphins, activates neurotransmitter serotonin, relieves physical tension and stress, boosts the immune system, and protects the heart.

    If you’re having a midlife crisis, you might be wondering if you’ll ever experience laughter again. That’s why you need to seek it out.

    Instead of watching the morning news, which is nothing if not depressing, I watch the previous night’s episode of The Tonight Show or The Late Show. For every hour that I’m working, I take five minutes to watch reliably funny clips on YouTube.

    Before I go to bed, I watch ten minutes of stand-up comedy. I read funny books, see funny movies and spend as much time as I can with ridiculously funny people – including my next-door neighbor, Etta, who happens to be four years old.

    Make a conscious effort to integrate laughter into your daily routine. You’ll be tickled you did.

    11. Think of Your Life as a Party

    The fact that you’re alive isn’t just a cause for celebration; it’s a miracle – so improbable that if you try to comprehend it, your mind will almost certainly turn to mush.

    Dr. Ali Binazir, a wicked smart Harvard grad and the author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible, actually crunched the numbers, demonstrating that the probability of your dad meeting your mom was one in 20,000, the probability of your dad dating your mom was one in 2,000, and the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg was one in 400 quadrillion.

    And that’s just the beginning.

    Your grandparents, great grandparents, and everyone before them – going back millions of years to the first Homo sapiens – had to meet and have children. In the end, explains Binazir, the probability of you being born was one in 10, followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.

    Tragically, so many of us never truly appreciate what it means to be alive. We succumb to our fears, give up on our dreams, and tolerate the intolerable. We get into bad jobs, bad relationships, and bad situations, allowing others to treat us poorly. We do this for years, decades, or a lifetime. Then, of course, we die.

    Think of your life as a party and remember: life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured.

    Besides, it’s never too late to live the life you desire! Here’s the proof: How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

    Can a Midlife Crisis Be Prevented?

    I don’t think I need to explain that it’s impossible to prevent something that’s already happening. But if you see another life crisis in your near future, you can nip it in the bud by doing the things listed above. And, you can start doing them today.

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    Additionally, you can stop making excuses that stand in the way of your progress.

    Not sure if you’re making excuses? They aren’t hard to recognize.

    Most of yours probably start with the words “I don’t.” I don’t have the time. I don’t have the money. I don’t know how. I don’t think it’ll work. I don’t think I’m ready. These are excuses. All of them.

    As humans, we consistently make excuses to talk ourselves out of changing our lives for the better. And we do so out of fear.

    Fear is what traps you inside your comfort zone and whenever you do something outside your comfort zone, you’re hurling yourself into the unknown. And once you’re there, you might come face to face with failure, rejection, stress, and embarrassment.

    You might have to take on new responsibilities. You might slip and fall and break something of value and look like a total failure. Or you might do something remarkable.

    There’s really no way of knowing. That’s why it’s called the unknown. And yes, the unknown can be a scary place.

    But why are we so scared of the unknown?

    If we are to believe all of those horribly platitudinous quotes about comfort zones (Great things never came from comfort zones!), shouldn’t we be more inclined to explore new ground? For most of us, the answer is one big, pathetic NO.

    Fear of the unknown is an unavoidable part of the human condition. As human beings, we have an inherent, psychological need for certainty – for comfort – because it makes us feel like we’re in control. And yet, we also have the need for uncertainty – for variety – because it reminds us that we’re alive.

    But as Tony Robbins often points out,

    “Most people value certainty a lot more, and that’s why their lives are so boring.”

    To stop making excuses, acknowledge that you’re making them in the first place. Once you do, you’ll feel a lot better. You’ll only live your best life once you step out.

    But there’s still a hurdle to overcome. You still have to do something. You still have to take action. And taking action, as we know, can be scary. So think about the consequences of inaction.

    What’ll happen if you do nothing?

    It should come as no surprise that if you do nothing, nothing will happen. And you’ll stay right where you are: stuck in a rut while you yearn for something more.

    Midlife Crisis – a Crisis and an Opportunity

    No matter what age you are, every day provides a new opportunity to do something new:

    Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart when he was 44.

    Ray Kroc bought the first McDonald’s just after his 50th birthday.

    Rodney Dangerfield was 46 when he got his big break on the Ed Sullivan Show.

    Harland Sanders was dead broke at 65. Then, he sold the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

    And Charles Darwin published On the Age of Species at age 50.

    We can’t stop the inevitable. I hate to break it to you, but we’re all going to die. The question is: what are you going to do while you’re alive?

    Life is precious. If you believe you’re having a midlife crisis, take a minute to examine what’s really going on. I would argue that it’s not really a crisis at all. In fact, there’s a good chance it’s the perfect time to create the life you’ve always wanted. No excuses.

    More to Help You Get Unstuck

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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    Last Updated on July 15, 2020

    How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

    How to Let Go of Toxic People in Your Life

    “Entitlement is an expression of conditional love. Nobody is ever entitled to your love. You always have a right to protect your mental, emotional, and physical well-being by removing yourself from toxic people and circumstances.” -Dr. Janice Anderson & Kiersten Anderson

    It’s not always obvious if you have someone toxic in your life. A toxic relationship is one that is harmful to you. A toxic person can create distress to the degree you feel inadequate and isolated. So, what makes a toxic person?

    A toxic person has toxic behavior, meaning it’s not that the whole person is toxic[1]. It’s what they do that counts. Most toxic people run from accountability and misrepresent reality to you. They misrepresent your worth and your ability to heal from them can be stifled the longer you keep them in your life. You have a role to play with it as well; if your values are dismissed by them and you don’t act on it, you have allowed room for toxicity to grow.

    When you are in a toxic relationship, you feel less than. You feel as though you are not worth anyone’s time or effort. You feel unheard, and sometimes you feel unsafe. You don’t feel good about yourself in a toxic relationship, whether it be with a partner, friend, or family member.

    You may stay in a toxic relationship for a number of reasons. You may believe yourself to be a burden, have a lack of boundaries, resist change, fear conflict, try to be a people pleaser, find yourself codependent, or are partially stuck in a pattern or unhealthy cycle of abuse.

    Letting go of toxic people may not be easy. In order to do so, you have to know why or how they are toxic to you and read between the lines that they do not have your best interests in mind.

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    Letting go of toxic people is hard because you are good and want to see the good in others. You think their apologies are authentic. You have trouble believing they are being dishonest. You don’t spend time healing from it. You get pulled back into the pain because you don’t want it to end. However, if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t right.

    You should walk away from a toxic person because you need to preserve your peace. You need to feel like yourself again. And you need better support.

    Letting go of toxic people can involve four major steps.

    1. Recognize the Red Flags

    Red flags are signs a person is being toxic. It’s when someone shows characteristics that you should feel caution about. It’s when you feel any level of dissatisfaction and distrust. Trust your gut. When you recognize red flags, you can evaluate whether a person is trying to manipulate you or not. This gives you some level of control over what you allow in your life. The earlier you detect these behaviors, the better off you will be.

    Red flags can include:

    • They always put themselves first.
    • They point out imperfections and sabotage your self-esteem.
    • You may feel drained or used when you’re around them.
    • What you give isn’t reciprocated. They don’t return the goodness you provide as a friend.
    • They ignore your boundaries and get angry when you tell them “no.”
    • You catch them in half truths or outright lies when you confront them about anything.
    • You are the villain; they are the victim.
    • Second chances always lead to repeated patterns of behavior.
    • They may engage in abuse.

    2. Set Boundaries

    There are emotional boundaries that one can set, but there are also physical ones[2]. You can leave any time. Setting boundaries is also an important part of self-care.

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    You shouldn’t walk on eggshells. Tell them how you feel. Are they respecting you, fulfilling your needs, and listening to you? If not, it’s time to set up a healthy emotional distance and start letting go of toxic people around you.

    There are levels to this. You have your inner circle, which could include family, and then you have acquaintances and strangers. If a toxic person is in your inner circle, it’s time to pull back and put up some boundaries for them to follow. If they can’t hear you out, you can cut off the connection completely.

    You can give second chances, but you have to be careful. If someone knows they can get away with something, they will do it again. If there’s any chance for the relationship, they have to know not to cross certain lines.

    3. Invest in Yourself

    You deserve to know you are worthwhile. Try to remember that things will get better and that anything is possible. How do you do so? Invest in yourself.

    This means self care, goal setting, surrounding yourself with positive support, and feeling a sense of peace. Your greatest ambition should be to love yourself. Without self-love, letting go of toxic people will be difficult.

    Every relationship is a risk, but if you know yourself and what you will allow, toxic people will have less of a hold over you. If you are a giver or people pleaser, you are most at risk to being in a one-sided relationship. You shouldn’t be punished for caring, but sometimes trust needs to be earned. If you have self-love, you are treating yourself the best way possible. You know that others need to meet your standards; otherwise, they don’t get to be a part of your life.

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    It’s possible that you can love yourself and still not see the signs. It can be difficult for some to be aware that toxic people exist. However,, if you know how much you mean to others in your life and what you are worth, you will be less likely to take on a relationship that is harmful to you or repeat negative patterns. Self-love is how we get out of toxic relationships, but it’s also how they never begin.

    4. Know When Forgiveness Is Possible

    There are times a person will prove their worth to you. They may make a mistake that makes them seem like a horrible person. They may forget to be good to you because of their own issues. They may just have no example of what a healthy relationship looks like. They may have an inflated ego that really comes from insecurity. The list goes on.

    If they apologize, that’s a start. Look at their actions. Are they changing for the better because they really want to change or just seeming to in order to manipulate you? A person may control others with their image or perceived personality, but if you see through them, you may be able to discern the degree to which they are willing to be there for you.

    If they start to do the right thing, you may begin to trust them again. Don’t start forgiving them until time has passed and you are sure there is growth, even if they show vulnerability or remorse. You can give a second chance if they truly have an awakening. Otherwise, it’s best to get out. Don’t let them walk all over you; let them walk out the door.

    If you do give a second change and they still refuse to change, you have every right to remove them and continue the process of letting go of toxic people. The moment you even want to leave may also be a good time to get out. You don’t have to compromise yourself in order to care for them.

    Forgiveness is the release of resentment or anger[3]. Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation. You have to go back to the same relationship or accept the same harmful behaviors from someone. You don’t have to let them back in. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.

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    Remember, forgiveness is ultimately for you, not them. You don’t need that person in your life in order to forgive them, and if you give them a second chance, proceed with caution.

    Final Thoughts

    Recognize the red flags, set boundaries, invest in yourself, and know when forgiveness is possible. This is how you cope with a toxic person impacting your life. You have power in the direction of your life and the people who accompany you as you move forward. Use it.

    If a person is worthwhile, they will prove themselves through their actions, not their words. If they cross certain lines that really harm you, you owe them nothing. You have every right to feel what you feel and to be upset. Honor your feelings and communicate them because it’ll only continue to keep happening if you don’t.

    If this is happening to you, it’s time to put a stop to it. It’s time to take control. It’s time to live for yourself, not for what others say about you. It’s time to set your standards higher than they’ve ever been before. And most of all, it’s time to let go.

    Resource reminder: A physically abusive relationship is ALWAYS toxic. There are resources for you. Always speak up.

    If you are in such a cycle or domestic violence or abuse reach out for help. For example, there is The National Domestic Violence Hotline (https://www.thehotline.org/) which can be reached at 1−800−799−7233. There are other ways to get help if you simply ask for it. 

    More Tips on Letting Go of Toxic People

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Busing via unsplash.com

    Reference

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