It is better to be alone than in bad company.
A big part of who you become in life has to do with who you choose to surround yourself with. Sometimes luck controls who walks into your life, but you decide who you let stay, who you pursue, and who you let walk back out.
Ultimately, you should surround yourself with people who make you a better person and distance yourself from those who don’t. Here are some general warning signs you’re in the presence of the latter:
1. They only make time for you when it’s convenient for them.
It’s obvious, but any relationship without regular interaction and communication is going to have problems, especially when there’s a lack of commitment.
Don’t waste your time with someone who only wants you around when it’s convenient for them. You shouldn’t have to force someone to make a space in their life for you, because if they truly care about you they will gladly create space for you.
Being in a relationship with someone who overlooks your worth isn’t loyalty, it’s stupidity. Never beg someone for attention. Know your self-worth, and move on if you must.
2. They hold your past against you.
Some people will refuse to accept that you are no longer who you used to be – that you’ve made mistakes in the past, learned from them, and moved past them. They may not be able to stand the fact that you’re growing and moving on with your life, and so they will try to drag your past to catch up with you. Do not help them by acknowledging their negative behavior. Keep moving forward.
Holding on to the unchangeable past is a waste of energy and serves no purpose in creating a better day today. If someone continuously judges you by your past and holds it against you, you might have to repair your future by leaving them behind.
3. You feel trapped.
Healthy relationships keep the doors and windows wide open. Plenty of air is flowing and no one feels trapped. Relationships thrive in this kind of unrestricted environment. You can come and go as you please, but you choose to stay because where you are is where you want to be.
If you want to be a part of someone’s life, all the open doors and windows in the world won’t make you leave. If someone has closed them all in an effort to trap you into something you don’t want to be a part of, it’s time to find the strength to kick down the door. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the Relationships and Self-Love chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
4. They discredit your dreams and abilities.
If you allow others to define your dreams and abilities, then you enable them to hold you back. What you’re capable of achieving is not a function of what other people think is possible for you. What you’re capable of achieving depends on what you choose to do with your time and energy.
People will throw all sorts of assumptions your way about what is possible and what is impossible. Look beyond the presumptions and mental limitations of others, and connect with your own best vision of how YOUR life can be. Life is an open-ended journey, and what you achieve comes from what you expect to achieve and what you work to achieve.
So don’t worry about what everyone else thinks. Keep living your truth. The only people that will get mad at you for doing so are those who want you to live a lie.
5. They have lied to you more than once.
Love is a verb, not a noun. It is ACTIVE in all relationships. Love is not just feelings of passion and romance between lovers; it is also a behavior among friends and family. If someone lies to you, they are unlovingly disrespecting you and your relationship.
When you keep someone in your life who is a chronic liar, and you keep giving them new chances to be trusted, you have a lot in common with this person – you’re both lying and being unloving to you!
Bottom line: Those who avoid the truth and tell you only what you want to hear do so for their own benefit, not yours. Don’t put up with it. (Read Emotional Vampires.)
6. Their negativity is rubbing off on you.
The negative people in your life don’t just behave negatively towards you, but towards everyone they interact with. What they say and do is a projection of their own reality – their own inner issues. Even if they say something to you that seems personal – even if they insult you directly – it likely has zero to do with you.
This is important to remember because what these negative people say and do shouldn’t be taken to heart. Although you don’t have control over what they say and do; you do have control over whether or not you allow them to say and do these things to you. You alone can deny their venomous words and actions from invading your heart and mind. If you feel like these people are getting to you, take a break and give yourself some space to breathe.
Positive things happen when you distance yourself from negative people. Doing so doesn’t mean you hate them, it simply means you respect yourself.
7. They are excessively envious of what you have.
A little bit of envy is OK, but when someone is excessively envious of what you have, there’s a good chance what they really want is to take it from you.
Excessive envy doesn’t tell you how much someone admires you, it tells you how much they dislike themselves. If you can, try to help lift them up, but also be careful that they don’t pull you down. Oftentimes no amount of love, or promises, or proof from you will ever be enough to make them feel better about themselves. For the broken pieces they carry, are pieces they must mend for themselves. Happiness, after all, is an inside job.
8. They motivate you to be judgmental or hateful.
Truth be told, no human being is superior. No faith, race, size or shape is inferior. All collective judgments about others are wrong. Only judgmental hypocrites make them.
If you judge others by their skin color, their body size, and their outer beauty, you will miss EVERYTHING about who they really are. It is amazing the quality of people you will learn about and meet in this world if you can simply get past the fact that lots of people are not dressing and living the way you do.
People who motivate you to judge or hate others are as bad as bad company gets. Avoid them at all costs. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
9. They want you to be someone else.
Spend time with people who see you the way you are, and not as they wish to think you are. Spend even more time with those who truly know about you, and who love and respect you anyway.
If someone expects you to be someone you’re not, take a step back. It’s wiser to lose relationships over being who you are, than to keep them intact by acting like someone you’re not. It’s easier to nurse a little heartache and meet someone new, than it is to piece together your own shattered identity. It’s easier to fill an empty space within your life where someone else used to be, than it is to fill the empty space within yourself where YOU used to be.
What would you add to the list? What’s one big warning sign you’re in the presence of bad company? Please leave a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Bhumika Bhatia
Thanks for the article, will send it to my friend who’s in a similar situation 🙂
When the person expects you to jump through hoops or cannot understand when you need to focus on something other then them. Or when they treat you badly, take your kindness for weakness and tell you what a horrible person you are and then want you to come to their beck and call… Not good company.
This has helped me more than I can say. The original post was fabulous and the comments were so thought-provoking that I am almost stunned. I hope and pray that those of you who are still in turmoil will find a way to separate yourself from the negative people around you. As for myself, I will now move in the other direction (or as one person said…”run…”) Thanks, everyone!
When you feel unhappy, apprehensive and drained even before meeting them somewhere, not a good a sign.
People who have this satisfied look (sometimes even laughing) when they have just angered you.
People with insincere demonstrations of empathy and people who cannot stop talking, chewing your ear out but never let you put in one word in a converstation.
People who are rude with others, causing offense and try to justify their behavior.
When someone says hello to everyone else in your group but completely ignores you. I know this girl who constantly did that to me and I felt very low every time I had an encounter with her. Now I’m a much stronger person and making the most of the friends I have and enjoying the little things in life!
People who want to own or control you, make your choices for you either directly or indirectly, speak for you, and generally “protect” you from being a functional independent adult with free will.
Add an unwillingness to forgive.
Another mistake says
My parents and family members were very negative to me when i was growing up. My dad was narcissistic enough to do things like put our dog down if we moved like they were furniture. My parents were never physically abusive just confusingly emotionally abusive. The rest of my family especially my sister 5 years older then me, and cousins were bullies and left me out of everything. Call me names. I always made friends easily but my mother was controlling and my sister too jealous that these friendships would be sabotaged somehow. My first bf was narcissistic. But I wasn’t familiar with the term then. We were together for 2 years before I broke it off. Felt fantastic to be on my own. I finally left my family too and haven’t looked back. I’ve been on my own for 12 years.
I did date again after 5 years of leaving my family but didn’t settle for anyone. I thought I was getting really good at choosing the right company for myself. And then I chose someone. I thought I chose well. A rational, level minded man who did love me for me, or so i thought. He does get negative on plenty an occasion but i think i handle it well. He isn’t controlling but we only ever do anything he likes. he mingles with my friends but while he remains socially acceptable with them in behavior, i know what he really thinks of them. It turns out the worst thing he does is he makes me feel bad for leaving my family. he does this when he feels i attack him personally. I don’t think i do but maybe there are issues for the both of us that we need to heal from. We’ve been together for 2 years. I worry that he would never open up to me. But having someone who uses my past like that is too hurtful. I don’t think I have the strength to be strong enough To help him heal. Is it over?
I just started reading your blog. I am stunned and so grateful at the of this. I have been struggling to understand a recent breakup. The bizarre, confusing, heartbreaking behavior I have endured from my ex-boyfriend has left me so baffled and bewildered. So much of what you write is exactly the negative and sometimes frighteningly “evil” tactics and manipulation I have witnessed. Thank you for taking time to reinforce the significance of such behaviors and treatment. The early stages of the relationship showed no indication that it would take this dark, destructive turn without provocation on my part. As hard as it is to accept, the person I fell in love with wasn’t real. This negative person is who he is. I have prayed incessantly for God to intervene, change his heart, and to use me in any way to fulfill His purpose in this effort. But God has bigger and much better plans for me. The understanding and hesitant acceptance that this is my time to move on, seek the next opportunities to realize my full purpose. It has been a true awakening within me and I sense major changes in my future.
Being controlled by a loved one or friend is not the right company to be in because you get comfortable, especially if that’s what you are used too. You help them with everything even supporting them to go back into activities and college. Then when you get the strength to get out they become co,dependent but with somebody else who just replaced you so the best thing is your out of it and can live your life not feeling trapped and hope for the best for them.
Vanessa Bushell says
Fantastic blog! I find that one of big warning signs for me how people treat other people. I’ve learnt the hard way that eventually that is how they will me. We all have conditioned patterns from the past and makes mistakes, but if the patterns involve disrespect, exploitation, abuse, deception or other characteristics that violate others then it is a sign to leave.
I’m not saying that we cannot work on ourselves and authentically change our destructive patterns! I’m a perpetual optimist!!! What I am say though is that I now keep my eyes open and look at the actual rather than the potential.
I loved your wisdom!
Have a fantastic day
I found this site because I was thinking about my fam.. I don’t want anything to do with them… They’re negative lying manipulaters. I don’t live with them, therefore I can easily let go, but it just makes me sad. They’re family after all…
The relationships I value most in my life are the ones in which I am lovingly held accountable for my irrational or immature feelings. I trust them to be honest with me…and love me unconditionally, even when I act illogically. I recommend limiting the time and loyalty we might allow to “yes men” in our lives. Their support is flimsy at best.
They are often angry and make you feel responsible for their bad moods.
Thank you for the positive information. It is so helpful. I have severed ties recently with long time friends after accepting that feeling depressed every time I saw them was not how I wanted to live. It has been hard to move on (old habits do die hard!) but I am a better person for it.
Excellent, excellent blog and comments. So happy I found this. I agree with almost everything here, but wanted to throw out a few more thoughts: I would respectfully suggest that there might be A FEW religious creeds/philosophies that are “less than equal”, e.g., those that encourage their members to embrace the kinds of negative actions listed in Marc and Angel’s excellent list above. Creeds that tell us that our only responsibility is to ourselves, that destroying or ending the lives of peaceful people is justified when we want it to be, that “weak people” deserve only contempt …Such “philosophies” and “religions” don’t deserve to be affirmed as valid any more than the KKK does, in my opinion.
On the subject of judgment that Oculis Mundi raised, I would say that each of us has a reason and a right to withhold affirmation of (i.e., NOT CONDONE or RATIONALIZE AWAY) the behavior of another person which is clearly self destructive and/or genuinely harmful to us or to others. However, I think it is wrong to PASS JUDGMENT ON (i.e., CONDEMN AS INHERENTLY WORTHLESS) someone who has done something wrong —especially if that persons owns his mistake and genuinely wants to avoid repeating it. We all screw up sometimes. I think sometimes when people say “Don’t judge me!” they are they ARE really saying, “You must affirm everything I do without question”, and I would agree with you that that is way lame. On the other hand, I know that I have been guilty at times of presuming to understand other people’s situations better than I really did, and of truly judging them (i.e., viewing them with all-around contempt based on my erroneous assumptions about things).
Which brings me to my next point: Sometimes we feel uncomfortable with others because they are deeply narcissistic and want to offload their own shame onto us. This is toxic behavior, and we shouldn’t tolerate it. On the other hand I think it’s possible to come away from an interaction feeling uncomfortable because of our OWN issues. For example, I used to feel uncomfortable with my cousin because of my own confused boundaries. She has certain vulnerabilities and limitations that are real, and because of unhealthy stuff I’d learned from my own family I joined in on attaching some sort of stigma to her and viewing her as a person of less worth than I had. Deep down I understood that this was wrong and I felt shame about my feelings and behavior, but the pain of the shame then would make me feel angry, and I’d get resentful and basically blame her for “acting pathetic” and “wanting to be rescued”. But the problem was me and my faulty assumptions about my cousin —my cousin is actually quite cool. So cool that when I came to my senses and apologized to her for having behaved badly towards her, and why I’d been doing it, and how messed up my thinking had been, she was totally understanding and forgiving. She was such a model of human dignity. And here she had been labeled “negative” and “needy” by so many in the family! All she needed was not to be scapegoated and to receive a reasonable amount of emotional support.
Sad Girl, I loved your contribution about how some people communicate great hostility in nonverbal ways like rolling their eyes, avoiding eye contact with you, exchanging weird glances with each other in front of you, shrugging, etc. (This is the kind of stuff I used to do to my cousin.) And yes, when people do this and deny what they’ve just done it deepens the injury so much because it’s just …dirty pool. Totally unfair.
Anyway, thanks again to all of you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
When I was a child, I was severely abused by nearly all of my relatives. Somewhere along the line, I met someone who became my best friend. And this is why. When we were both children and he simply sat down beside me, I felt a sense of peace and absolute safety. I never found that feeling again. I haven’t seen my friend in 50 years but the thought of him still brings back the love he felt for a child who was not worth loving, or caring for. I think we find ourselves surrounded by bad people ( no other word comes to mind) because they move in on us before the good people have the chance to get close to us. As an older person, I now see that I permitted this. If I had a do over (and many of you do because you are young), I would be very, very, very discerning in all my relationships.
I reconnected a while ago with a person I had loved deeply in high school more than 30 years ago. We embarked on what seemed a profoundly loving and deep relationship. As time went along, I began tolerating increasingly violent behaviour and almost all the signs discussed here. More and more volatile, and fights that were always my fault, I should know why he was mad, a constant focus and magnification of my negative qualities and complete blindness to anything positive in me, screaming rages and abuse. I finally realised how hard I was working to keep him happy, how hard I was working to change myself and grow, to take ownership of what I was supposedly always doing wrong . . . always editing, often unable to even begin a conversation I was so hesitant about the tirade it might bring. And every conversation peppered with apologies from me for my mistakes. I realised I was doing all this for the memory of the young man I had loved, and that it had no basis in today’s behaviour. I ended the relationship abruptly last night and received your article this morning. Wow. Thank you for the validation, I kind of needed it today.
Wonderful. Insightful. Needed!
If you were swimming in deep water and a heavy weight was dragging you down, you would get rid of it. Right ? Well then why tolerate a person that is dragging you down. Cut Him/Her loose and move on with your life…
People who constantly act like life is a competition. They have to compare materialistic items to what you may or may not have and who’s is better. You haven’t heard from them in a months or longer and they call you to brag about their new car… etc.
Brenda Radatzke says
Warning signs you are in bad company.
You no longer like the person you are when you are with them. They bring out the worst in you.
People who blame you for their mistakes.
People who always leave you with an uneasy feeling after you talk with them.
My husband of 40 years – my ex best friend to whom I could say anything…with whom I have been separated for 7 years – still comes over when it is convenient for him, which is rarely because of his work. I enjoy his company as he does mine. It still feels so familiar and comfortable but he has no qualms leaving…to live alone and I am left with questions about why we are not still intimate. He will NOT answer why he wants to live alone nor how he feels. I am contemplating moving away . He says my decision has nothing to do with him. I guess I should acknowledge the signs.
J Marie says
I read this article and many signs I have been seeing with a few close friends were confirmed. It is difficult because letting go of people you genuinely care about hurts. At the same time, how much longer can one be willing to keep their dreams and life on hold to better suit someone else’s?
I am 30 and have achieved no personal goals or dreams. My whole life has been about people – serving, encouraging, motivating, inspiring, etc. What are my dreams? What do I want to achieve? When will I stop following and begin leading? I know it’s in me. I know I’m capable. And I know you are, too. So let’s do something different. Let’s stop living like we don’t have our own dreams. It’s 2014 now – do YOU this year. Find yourself, create yourself, build yourself up, and embrace a new life. You can’t bury your own dreams just to see someone else’s come true. 2014 is about YOU!
What a great subject! I have been in a relationship for about 12 years and during that time I checked out of life using and abusing alcohol. It’s been 8 months since my last drink and I’m now seeing the damage that I chose to be in. I’m gay and she is….well…a transgendered person. She would tell her friends that we are married and that could be further from the truth. I allowed myself to rely on her financially and that fueled her controlling behavior and mind. She even goes further to tell me how she hates “my type” while I’m in the room. There is a lot more to this and I’m on my way out. Thanks for the article! Nobody should own anyone….regardless!
tuline hammoud says
When the trust between you two has been broken many times, and he or she still wants you to believe their lies.
OMG! Number 1 & 5 is so pertinent to me…
It feels like this article was created with me in Marc and Angel’s mind…
Great advice. Especially the sentence that it is easier to get over a breakup than putting back together the pieces of your own shattered identity. It has happened to me in any romantic relationship I’ve had so far that my partners took control of my identity by telling me, who I was, how I should be, what my dreams in life were, etc. The problem is that after a short time I had always lost myself so much that, even though I knew, I had to get out of the relationship, somehow I felt unable to live without that person. This always resulted in me breaking up with my ex-partners every few weeks, whenever I felt like they were swallowing me up completely and begging them to take me back after 1 or 2 days on my own. The last relationship ended a few days ago, when my ex partner finally broke up with me, claiming that he couldn’t take my continuous break-up attempts anymore.
I am heartbroken, but more than that I’m incredibly relieved that it’s finally over, so that I can heal inside and then look for my real self again (or maybe for the first time) and it’s such a beautiful, liberating feeling. Don’t get me wrong, all of my ex-partners were great guys, but our relationships were totally effed up, because of the destructive dominance-submission dynamics in them. Maybe the main reason for it was that I have always looked for myself outside of me, by asking everyone around me (mostly not verbally, of course): Am I good enough? Attractive enough?Successful enough?Clever enough?Am I loveable? And if not, what should I do to become more loveable? Is it OK, how I’m living my life? And what should I do next? Now I realized that the only place, where I can find satisfying answers to these questions is within myself and I’m looking forward to discovering them. I also believe that only then I will be able to have a happy relationship, instead of dependency. I am a little sad that I didn’t find this out before my last relationship, because my ex-boyfriend and I might have been a really good match. But maybe there is a reason why everything went ad it did and maybe the person, who is just right for me, is still somewhere out there. Peace
Awesome read! Very helpful article, as well as all the comments. Thanks.
Al S. says
I was loyal and devoted to the love of my life for 12 years. In fact still love her like that. But it became clear, I was in a relationship with her, and she had me at about number 5 on her list. Not of men, but importance. This list is right on. I’d like to find a cabin in the woods and just escape from the kind of people I seem to attatch to, or that attach to me. A good dog and a cat, and I’d be fine.
Love your site…. Thank you!
I’d like to add that they talk only about themselves. They never ask or engage you in a conversation about you.
When I feel invisible, transparent in their presence.
I always make it a point to never leave anyone out of a conversation, some people will just ignore one another like at lunch or in meetings. I feel really bad when someone is being put through that and I try to do something about it, when it’s with me , honestly, it makes me want to run away from them and go hug my friends! I really need to overcome this and to be more self confident and AVOID THEM, and this article has given me a lot of insight, thanks.
Rachel T says
I’ve just ended a toxic friendship. Two of the main warning signs were 1) I saw her chronically lying to Everyone else around her to hide her addiction, and 2) She was trying to get me into her addiction and at that point I knew I had to be strong now and cut the cord rather than be strong later and drag myself out of her addiction. She was grooming me into it.
You know your in bad company when a so called friend treats you differently in the company of others in comparison to when it’s just you & them.
Alarm bells ring loudly in my ears! Distance yourself as you know they are not being true to you…
My motto was it’s better to stay with the devil you know than to go to the devil you don’t know! So I stayed with my former devil for 49 years, but he now is my sweet kitten by comparison. How? I learned techniques of assertiveness which means always to be kind yet FIRM. I used to be weak and wimpy. Finally after 19 years of it, I stood up for myself and announced it was enough. Now we are BOTH happy.
Ask yourself: “Do I shrink or grow in his/her presence?” Yikes or Yippie !?
Avoid the three A’s; aggressive, arrogant, abusive. If someone always expects you to put their needs and wants above your own, and they talk over you, or you feel fearful to express your own opinion because they might get mad, then stay away from them. Don’t spend your time with anyone who treats you like you are inferior.
I believe with a little love and effort people can become great …
I like this post about the “bad company” we keep. I am having a hard time figuring out how to deal with this when the “bad company” is one’s own family…
#1 and #2 really describe the two people my husband and i decided to let go in our lives. We’ve given these two so many chances, but the disrespect was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Particularly this friend who used to be my husband’s ex (we all became friends) who cannot seem to let go of the past and keep bringing it up with my husband. I think that’s inappropriate and already crossed the boundaries. My advice to people who are friends with exes: if you still feel resentment or have unresolved issues, it’s either you deal with it in the beginning and get it over with, or don’t be
friends at all. This is out of respect to your ex, the spouse and their families, especially when everyone is nice to you. No one deserves to be exposed to your decades old drama and no one has the time to deal with old issues concerning you. People have enough problems of their own without you adding to it.
#1 & #5 kinda hit home for me this morning. I’m sick of second guessing everything & wondering if I’m being fed a bunch of lies. I just don’t know how to decipher the truth anymore. I’m scared that my questions and insecurities are pushing him away; but I’m also scared that maybe my instincts are spot on this time around.
In the midst of ending a relationship with a woman whom I have shared a life long friendship. Over the years I have chosen to ignore her petty comments and judgements about anything in my life…and I have a pretty good life and I am extremely content with my existence. She exhibits so many of the traits above it is disturbing. When someone is missing “pieces” they tend to become impossible to be around if your life is on a positive track. Once jealousy or envy enter the room there isn’t any room for love or friendship. She has formed some new relationships and they appear to feed on the same negativity, as well as mistreat each other in passive/aggressive ways. Once I decided to remove her from my life, I felt like a huge weight has been lifted.
Deep down I always thought we would go our separate ways once we really started to age, as I am a naturalist and she is stay young no matter what type. Really, if you can’t respect aging, how can you embrace/respect wisdom and growth? Just something to think about.
COMPLETELY MY EXPERIENCE, but with the lying and few others added to it.
“They take every opportunity to puff themselves up at your expense. To exploit your vulnerabilities.
They show ongoing disrespect for your worth and value.
They hold you in contempt for your differences.
They breach your trust and lack loyalty.
They repeatedly demonstrate they do not have your best interest at heart.
They resent your successes or accomplishments.”
Re: Stephen’s comment
Debbie Eds says
They stop by to visit and all they do is complain about how they feel and what they need. They never come up for air to ask you how your doing they just keep going on about them.
I am currently involved with a wonderful man whose ex-wife is this toxic person. Your article describes her exactly. She manipulates him, makes him feel guilty, and lies to everyone to make herself look better. My question is, how can he get her out of his life when they have children that they share 50-50 custody with? She texts him all sorts of negativity, and it comes in waves. He has tried telling her to only text him in an emergency with a child, but she totally abuses that and makes every little thing a big deal. When he tries to get her to stop, she only makes things worse for him. How does he end this cycle? We need peace in our lives, not only for our new relationship to thrive, but mostly for the kids sake. I have my own children, and I do not wish to bring them into this type of situation.
Wow this describes all of my relationships with every boyfriend I’ve had, except this last ex who I hope to get back very soon. Not to mention it is 100% on point with my ex husband. Great article. You have convinced me totally that leaving my ex husband was a correct decision. Add all of those things mentioned plus the physical abuse.
Sometimes people are in so much of their own pain they have no idea the damage they are inflicting on those around them. However most of the time they are actually aware and they are determined not to get close so they can’t get hurt any more or again… And as so many of your blogs say, you may very well still love them, but if they are damaging your soul you have to leave them. It’s not because you don’t love and feel, it’s because you do. You put yourself at the top of the list of who you love.
Mary Spiegel says
The people that are my extended family just ignore me. I have a mental illness and they judge me and tell me what to think and feel. I get so mad, I don’t say things right and it makes it worse.
Hi a very enlightening post . I guess if someone tries to manipulate your life, the decisions you make, somebody who keeps reminding you about the mistakes you have committed, then it’s about time to think that you are in bad company. Good people always gives you a positive perspective in life. Thanks again for another great article.