Since we are talking about self-care this month, I am going to address a topic that is coming up more often for friends in my circle: Toxic Relationships. I’ve struggled with these relationships in the past, finally letting go of the last of them within the past year. Toxic relationships are any friendships, family dynamics, or romantic relationships that cause you to feel badly about yourself, cause to go backwards in life, encourage enablement and false security, or allow bad habits to continue for either party. They are relationships that cause the downfall of at least one party.
I am NOT a psychologist, so I am not going to speak from that perspective. However, if you have toxic relationships in your life that you aren’t letting go of, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help, as you are worth so much more than someone playing with your emotions. As you read this post, if you realize you ARE the person making the relationship toxic, I also encourage you to seek help as there is no reason to walk around this earth making others more miserable so you can feel better. And I’d like to believe you don’t feel better when all is said and done, so it will only help you to get to the root of the struggle.
I’ve always loved this quote but I never realized how often we ignore it, especially when we are people who love to see the best in others. We give three, four, and five chances for people to show us who they are when we really should believe them the first time their let their true colors show. But how do you know the difference between someone who is toxic and being fake to take advantage of you or your skill set versus someone who has some walls up and just needs time to let them down? Here are 3 signs that someone is wearing a mask.
3 Signs Someone is Wearing a Mask
Again, as a disclaimer, we aren’t talking about folks who are guarded, as we should all be when first meeting other people. We aren’t talking about people you aren’t close to and have not developed a bond with. We are talking about people you establish a relationship with in which each party is sharing as through there is trust but one of them is actually lying to ensure they get what they need.
One of the first signs that someone is wearing a mask around you is that details in their stories don’t align. They share information but then change details up as the conversation continues or when it is brought up another time … almost like they have forgotten their original lies. Watch out for these signs because people who have been affected by such individuals often say, “If only I had asked about … ” and it usually points back to inconsistencies.
We are talking about major details that affect relationships here, not forgetting what color shirt the person had on. It may be a detail like how they first learned about you or talking about a childhood memory and later they share it another way that doesn’t include a detail that would stand out to you. Usually this is a sign they are trying to win you over and get close to you for an ulterior motive.
Differing Personalities Depending Upon Others
You’ve been around them: People who are one way when it is just you and them and a totally other way when they are around others. Their speech and language changes, they talk in a new dialect you never heard, their personality becomes one that you wouldn’t have befriended and you wonder whether they are being fake with others or with you. When you see these signs, ask questions and don’t just let them fly by.
We aren’t talking about someone being fun and energetic around you but shy when around others. We are talking about their entire demeanor changing. They seem to be a different person. Everyone knows them in different ways depending upon how the person would benefit from the relationship.
Secrecy About the Relationship
When you can’t go out in public and act the same way you do privately, you are being used. There is no reason that two people who are friends or otherwise should not be able to be seen in public together in the same capacity they are when alone. NOW, this is not an endorsement for PDA or that your romantic relationships be broadcast (that’s your own preference). What I am saying here is that if you are hooking up behind closed doors but in public he is talking about purity and how he is waiting on the right wife, you probably are being used to fulfill some addiction. If you aren’t worthy of being his girl in public, and you aren’t okay with that, you need to speak up. If it doesn’t change, you should accept that you two are looking for something different.
I am not a fan of everyone being in my relationships. I would not broadcast who I am dating; however, I also would not avoid the person or talk contrary to what our relationship is because that would be disrespectful and rude. If I am embarrassed by you in public, I shouldn’t be with you in private either.
How to Look Beyond a Mask
In the next installments we will talk about what to do to ensure you don’t become masked by hanging around masked individuals and tips for how to protect yourself if you remain friends with masked individuals. Before we enter into those installments, it’s important to understand how to look beyond a mask to understand what’s really going on. Some people wear masks because they are using you, others fear you will hurt them or don’t know how to get close to people. It it so important that you understand the type of mask that the person is wearing before you make a decision about walking away or staying in the relationship.
Whatever you do, whether you remain friends or walk away, it’s important that you believe them when they show you their colors. People change, that is something I fully believe, but they show a desire to grow and change. When someone shows you their colors and you see they are wearing a mask that hides who they are even from them, it’s usually a job for a professional and people with strong hearts and minds. You have to know that you won’t get sucked into their lies, hurt by their betrayals, or pulled into their world where you start putting on your own mask to protect yourself from them. To remove a mask takes therapy, time, and a lot of inner reflection and prayer. It won’t happen overnight and the process may be very ugly and painful for them and all who are around them.