Toxic Influences

Building positive support systems is key to self-care. These support systems could be shaped by anyone of importance within your life, especially friends and family. When something bad happens, we want to rest assured that we have people in our corner. During Mental Health 101, when talking about caring for our friends effectively, I always like to throw in this line:

“You’re allowed to like your friends. So, if you don’t like your friends…get new friends.”

Harsh, I know, but something that we have all needed to hear, especially in middle and high school! You are allowed to be surrounded by people with the same interests and life goals as you. Not only that, you should feel happy and supported when with them. Toxic influences affect us much more than we think. They can seriously dictate our own perceptions of ourselves and the world, twisting them to match theirs. I am sure we have all had our share of toxic friendships. In fact, 84% of women and 75% of men report having been in a toxic friendship. Maybe, we can even admit that we were the toxic friends sometimes, too. One thing I do know is that it is very hard to tell you are in a toxic relationship, either romantic or platonic, when you are in one. Relationships can especially help or hurt those experiencing mental illness. Without the right people in your life during that time, those with mental illness can be susceptible to even more damage than normal from toxic influences.

Manipulative people will often take your personal truths and incorporate small lies within them, making you believe their version to be true. The knowledge they gain about you is only used to their advantage, not to strengthen the bond or friendship. They will fight to keep you feeling small and insignificant through their subtle judgement and passive aggression. Although it might seem as if the person has your best interests at heart, in the end, they will be the victor in every situation. They will act out in anger, then making empty promises of change when upsetting you. Lastly, the toxic person will try to exert dominance and control over every aspect of your life.

You might be reading this and considering some of the relationships you currently have in your life. I am here to tell you, although it might be hard, it is perfectly okay to cut ties with toxicity. When I was experiencing an intense cycle of depression, I was in a terribly toxic romantic relationship. Although my mental illness cannot be entirely attributed to my relationship, there were a lot of stressors that continued to play into my negative thoughts and feelings towards myself during that time and the destructive behaviors I was being influenced to participate in. I say this knowing that love for others can make us do crazy things, like remain in toxicity. Just know, even if we do not completely cut ties with toxic influences in our lives, creating boundaries can help greatly improve our mental and physical health!

Hi! My name is Emily Cline and I am from Christiansburg, Virginia. I recently graduated from Roanoke College with a Bachelor of Arts in both Public Health Studies and Sociology. I hold both my ZUMBA license and my Group Fitness Instructor certification through the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and love the combination they provide in strengthening both mental and physical health! Mental health education is important to me because of the impact it has on every aspect of our lives. Without truly understanding and caring for ourselves, we will never have the opportunity to live this beautiful life to the fullest!

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