The new year is an opportunity to let go of the negative people in your life who are holding you back and weighing you down.
Whether they’re coworkers, friends or family members, setting boundaries with these toxic people ― or removing them from your life entirely ― can be difficult, but it’s ultimately necessary and freeing.
We asked experts to tell us which kinds of people you’re better off leaving behind as we head into 2018. Here’s what they had to say.
The people in your life should build you up and celebrate your accomplishments ― not poke holes in them. But somehow, Debbie Downers manage to find the storm clouds in even the sunniest skies.
Got a raise at work? “That’s all? You really deserve so much more for the work you’re doing,” a Negative Nancy will reply.
Just planned the vacation of your dreams? Debbie’s all: “Are you sure you want to go then? It’s a very crowded time of year.”
“Toxic people have a way of sucking the joy out of your good news and contorting your positive news into something negative,” marriage and family therapist Sheri Meyers told HuffPost. “They’ll find reasons why your good news isn’t great.”
And while it may seem like it’s coming from a place of care or concern, that usually isn’t the case.
“Don’t let Debbie Downers’ underhanded negativity and faux concern diminish your happiness or knock the wind out of your sails,” Meyers said. “Toxic people are not caring, supportive or interested in what’s important or best for you. ”
- The Gaslighter
These people will try to attack, undermine or question your perception of reality to make you doubt yourself. That way, they can maintain the upper hand in the relationship.
“Like all toxic people, gaslighters are insecure. These means are effective in getting their needs met but are incredibly damaging to relationships,” therapist Amanda Stemen told HuffPost. “They may outright lie and deny it, no matter the proof, their actions don’t match their words, they intentionally confuse you, make you think you’re the problem, or turn others against you.”
In some cases, gaslighters may not realize what they’re doing. And those that do may not care about the damage they’re causing. Stemen recommends avoiding contact with these people until they are able to take responsibility for their behavior.
- The User
A user demands your time, energy and resources without taking your own wants and needs into consideration.
“Unless meeting your needs directly benefits their narcissistic agenda, a user will only give you enough to ensure you won’t leave them as a future resource to tap,” psychologist Ryan Kelly told HuffPost.
Kelly also noted that users tend to be likable people who often use their charm to get their way.
“Being around these people can feel great,” he said. “When it’s convenient for them, they can make you feel invaluable and loved. But when it’s not, they’ll leave you feeling rejected, insecure and worthless.”
- The Dysfunctional Family Member
If a loved one continues to engage in reckless behavior or struggles with an addiction they refuse to get help for, it may be time to rethink your relationship.
“He or she is out of control and dragging you down the drain too,” Tina B. Tessina ― psychotherapist and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction ― told HuffPost. “You’re not helping this person by letting them take advantage of you, disrespect you or use you. That’s called enabling. You have to back off.”
She continued: “Stop cleaning up their messes, don’t lend money if you’re not going to get it back. Stop running on guilt and the fear that they’ll hurt themselves. They probably will, and you can’t stop it.”
Tessina recommends keeping your distance until this dysfunctional person is committed to their recovery. Sure, you can help them find a therapist or support group, but remember: You can’t fix their behavior for them.
- The Friend You’ve Outgrown
We hope our friendships will last forever ― but the reality is that many won’t, because they’re not supposed to. And that’s just fine.
“Many friends are just meant to be in our lives for a time and then we’re supposed to move on,” Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men, told HuffPost. “Unfortunately, guilt, obligation and faulty beliefs keep us hanging on much longer than is good for us and often for them too.”
Friendships should be reciprocal and balanced. If they’re not, it may be time to move on.
“If you’ve got a friend who’s more of a burden than a help ― and not just for short periods of time, which we all can be ― who you only hear from when they want something, is only interested in talking about themselves, or is overly critical or negative, then you really need to rethink your relationship with this person,” Smith added.
- The Scorekeeper
This person will constantly find fault with you and keep track of your every mistake so they can use it against you in the future.
“They play the one-upmanship card by drawing on the times you didn’t do something, let them down or did something incorrectly, [and use them] as evidence of your shortcomings,” Meyers told HuffPost. “When you try to defend yourself, discuss or resolve it, toxic people will usually bring up a disappointment from the past, pointing out your faults and how you’re never really there for them.”
She added: “They are always keeping score. And you’ll never get enough points. They will vehemently defend their perspective, and take no responsibility for anything they do or have ever done.”
- The Critic
None of us is perfect. So we rely on our real friends to be truthful with us when we need a wake-up call or an honest opinion. But someone who is constantly criticizing is not a true friend.
“The critic finds fault with much of what you do and will take every opportunity to point out a flaw. They also won’t approach you from a place of care and concern, but rather blame and accusations,” Stemen told HuffPost. “They make it seem like you’re the problem instead of the behavior.”
Overly critical people often have low self-esteem and may be projecting their own insecurities onto the people around them.
“So really, their criticism is about themselves, but it doesn’t make it fun ―or necessary ― to hear. And their negativity isn’t something that’s healthy to be around,” she added.
- The Poisonous Partner
Toxic romantic relationships can be difficult to end ― especially when the other person refuses to take “no” for an answer. But cutting this person out of your life is often the best and healthiest decision you can make.
“If there are real problems, such as lying, severe money issues, a history of alcohol abuse, violence, many past relationship problems, a criminal record, reports of illegal activities or drug use, do not make excuses, and do not accept promises of change,” Tessina told HuffPost.
She continued: “Change is difficult, and will take a lot of time. Mere promises, no matter how well-intended, are not sufficient. Get out of this relationship before you are any more attached, or any more degraded, than you are now. If your partner decides to get help, let them do it because they know they need it, not to get you back.”
When dumping a person like this, Tessina told HuffPost it’s important to exercise caution.
“I often advise clients who need to break up with an abusive or violent partner or a stalker to break up via e-mail, to be safer,” she said.