I am going to say this, only with a clarity that comes after getting out of a toxic situation. If I say something that resonates, it might be time to examine the situation you are in. It’s easy to say, “release the toxicity in your life.” Are you in a toxic situation? Are there steps you could make to get yourself out? Are you creating reasons, or giving yourself excuses to stay somewhere that isn’t healthy for you?
I used to joke that I was like a frog in hot water. A previous job was one of the places my deep burnout blossomed. (If I’m honest, I was burned out before I started working at the Dark Farm.) Like the frog, I didn’t realize that the pot I landed in was on a burner. I didn’t realize that the cool water I thought I was resting in was slowly getting hotter and hotter. By the time I realized I had made an error, I was in deep. Yes, I look back and wonder how I didn’t recognize the seasonings and vegetables that were bobbing around in the soup I was cooking in.
Taking the Good With The Bad
One of the things that made this situation so hard to endure was the reality that even toxic things might have elements that are good. As someone very wise told me, “In all things, you must take the good with the bad. If you find yourself with more ‘bad’ than good, you need to set a boundary.” Sometimes the only way to set a boundary is to throw a thing out completely.
And what if you don’t think you’re able to leave a toxic person or thing? What if you’ve lined up your circumstances so that you really don’t see a way out?
I refer to this previous job as “The Dark Farm” now. Looking back, it wasn’t always dark, and it’s not a farm. As I consider it, there were a lot of good moments spent there. In fact, it was where I did a lot of growing into the person I am now.
Despite the good parts, there was a point when it turned toxic. Because the company’s upper management didn’t want to deal with the toxicity, that toxicity grew. Due to certain aspects of my upbringing, and as a management-level employee, I felt a shared sense of responsibility (a topic for another blog) for the problems. I dove deep into trying to fix the problems, even though the problems weren’t mine to fix.
Because I couldn’t see a way out, I worked hard to convince myself that I “needed” to stay. I would create games out of my tasks to encourage myself to work harder. I convinced myself that I could leave as soon as I finished certain impossible projects. One project, I worked on for five years without finishing it. One day, the boss came in and decided that we were going to throw out the project instead of “wasting more time” working on it.
The Games We Create
At the time, I didn’t know what it meant to value myself. Because I couldn’t see my own value, the company didn’t know how to value me either. And to say that the company I worked for didn’t value my efforts is a gross understatement. And yet, this dichotomy caused me to work harder. To encourage myself to continue putting in longer hours during the company’s busy season, the game I created for myself was to see if I could “beat my score” (in the number of hours I worked) from the hours I worked the previous year. I made it a personal challenge, which I accomplished.
Even so, that I met those ridiculous goals isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t make the toxicity I was living in any less detrimental to my mental or physical health. I didn’t recognize the toxicity for what it was, a testament to how deeply I allowed myself to be sucked in. At that time, I didn’t see a way out, a way to release the toxicity, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t one.
Releasing Toxicity Is Not Easy
To be clear, I never said releasing toxicity was going to be easy. However, the more I thought about the idea, the more I realized there might be reasons why we might hold onto things that infect our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging anyone to stay in any situation that might be physically, mentally, or emotionally threatening their lives.
What I am saying is that looking back on the path my life has taken, there were elements that caused toxicity in my life that I held onto for longer than I maybe “should” have. That I held on for so long did lead me to this new chapter where I am finding healing and hope. That isn’t to say that “will” happen for everyone. So, while I want to address that there could be reasons to stay, I also want to be careful not to encourage anyone to stay in a bad situation.
Don’t create reasons to keep yourself somewhere that is harming you. I’ve lived through this. I know how easy it is to convince yourself that this person or place “really” needs you. But the truth is, if this person or place really did need you, you wouldn’t need to invent reasons to stay.
Just think about that for a minute. You know what is best for you. Sometimes the hardest thing you can do isn’t leaving the person or place. The hardest thing you can do is being honest with yourself about the reality of your situation. Choose you. Anybody or thing that follows when you do what is best for you, is someone or something you want in your life. Anything else doesn’t belong there.
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