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Welcome back! This is post #5. I apologize for not being on here for a while. I finished up the first “It’s Not Normal. It’s Toxic Conference” in St. Louis last week, and now I am relaxing on Anna Maria Island in Florida with my in-laws for the week. It’s been kind of windy to be on the beach so today is the first day we have been able to go out to the ocean, and I wanted to make sure that I got a post done before I went out there.
Thanks to everybody who came to the conference and to everybody who supported me during the conference. I have a question from one of the ladies that was there:
“Why do I keep forgiving over and over only to be hurt over and over?”
We as humans long for acceptance and approval. We want to be liked and appreciated and loved; that’s just our instinct. So when you are put into a situation with a toxic person—whether it be a work situation, a romantic relationship, a friendship, a family situation—oftentimes our confidence and our self-worth is stripped away because of the toxic person’s need for control. Even the strongest of individuals can lose a lot of self-worth after being with a toxic person for an extended period of time.
When you are continually, day after day, made to feel less than enough, our survival instincts will do nearly anything to avoid feeling like we don’t belong or we don’t fit or we haven’t measured up. Each time we are hurt, we draw away and feel less worthy. At the same time, the toxic person continues to blame you or others for the bad happenings in their life. They do not want to lose the control they have over you or over your emotions. So, even though we are hurt and have pulled away, because of the blame and the disharmony, we tend to take acceptance for whatever has gone wrong and apologize and go back. We continually seek approval. The toxic person, on the other hand, will apologize and give you false hope that they have changed or that they are working on improving their behavior. They make us believe that if we would just do this or that, then they would change the way they treat us and they would behave much better. It keeps you continually striving to change yourself so that you’re accepted.
We want acceptance and they want control, resulting in us giving in once again to the fake facade of improved behavior. They aren’t going to change, so you must learn to forgive without acceptance.
If you have toxic people in your life, you have to accept them the way that they are. Expecting them to be different or all of sudden to change and accept you the way that you are and not make you feel like you are not good enough is only going to disappoint you. They are who they are just like you are who you are. We cannot change them. The only person that we can control is us. So, in order to do that and in order to be healthy and be strong and to be feeling good about ourselves, we have to leave them to be who they are.
You have better things going on! You have genuine people in your life who love you for who you are and will protect the good friendship or relationship that you have to offer without feeling the need to control you. Those are the people that you want to invest your time in. Because if you continue to invest your time in toxic people, you will continue to give of yourself and give more and more of your emotional control to them, making you feel less and less accepted.
Now, I think that this is very difficult in a parent/child relationship. I don’t care how old you are, a child always wants acceptance from a parental figure. If you are an adult and you are still feeling the wrath of trying to forgive a parent or assume that they’ve changed or believe they’re going to change, you need to love your parent for being your parent but you do not have to compromise your mental safety to be worthy of love. Accept them as they are but keep the relationship where you are in control of yourself, and whether that means distancing yourself, avoiding certain topics of conversation, maybe decreasing the time of visits or increasing the length of time between visits, you need to get that relationship in a spot where you can control how you react to it.
A parent or a partner or a friend continually telling you what’s wrong with you is never going to help you grow as a person. If they are in such search of control that they are promising improved behavior but you have seen a cycle, you need to make sure you are true to yourself.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard in my life that “Well, I think he’s changed.” “I really think it’s different this time.” “I’ve been around him for a while and he really seems sincere and like he really wants to make this work and make our relationship better.” Well, I’m going to tell you something…in my experience, a toxic person is a toxic person and they are not going to change. As soon as you apologize and take responsibility for whatever the incident is and move back into a place where they can control you, they revert back to the same person they were before they made the promises to change.
Back to the question, why do I keep forgiving only to be hurt? Okay, you have to forgive in order to move on. But forgiveness is not for the person who has wronged you. Forgiveness is for you so that you can move on without the bitterness holding you back. You have to accept them the way they are, forgive them for what they’ve done, and move forward with yourself in control of the decisions that you make and the relationship going forward.
I know that if you’re just out of a toxic relationship or you’re in the middle of one, the word “forgiveness” sounds a little far-fetched. Once you look back and realize the destruction that a toxic relationship can do, after you’ve put your life back together and rebuilt your self-esteem and realized what makes you happy rather than worrying about the acceptance and bending over backwards for everybody else, you will find that when you start putting yourself first, it doesn’t matter if the toxic people are changing or not. You are changing and you are growing and you are learning to take care of yourself.
Forgiveness is for you. It does not excuse any behavior against you, but it is for you to move forward.
Forgiveness is tough. I didn’t think that I would have been able to forgive, and I wasn’t one to carry around a lot of resentment. Now, I don’t engage anymore with people who I feel like are not unhealthy for me. I keep the relationship at the level that they deserve to be at, and I engage in relationships where there are sincere people that I can trust with my well-being. And that’s what I encourage. The people that you feel good about yourself with, invest your time in them. The people that make you feel badly about yourself, start rearranging how you spend time with them and the things that you do with them and how much control they have over you.
Again, this is easier said than done, but little by little, day by day, it will get easier and soon you will be very much in control of your own life.
If you have questions for me, you can send them to my Coaching with Dr. Heidi Facebook page, my Coaching with Dr. Heidi Instagram account, or message me through the website.
Stay tuned because I am going to try and get a couple more of these posts done while I’m on vacation, because, honestly, I was missing talking to you guys just a little bit. I’ll be back in touch after I go and catch some sun!
Have a good day!