Monday, December 17, 2007

These are the toxic people in my neighborhood.

Celebrating Toxic Personality Week

What do you mean you've never of TP Week? Didn't you get the memo?

I have decided to address the issue of toxic people in my life as a lifetime project. We all know these people personally. We have worked for them, dated them, and are related to them.

So get ready because this is Toxic Personality Week here at A Celebration of Curves. And because I celebrate not only the curves of our beautiful bodies but also the curves that life throws our way, I'd like to identify these people in my life and do my best to see the good in them. I figure it can only make me stronger.

I used to be surrounded by toxic people. I believed that because there was so much wrong with me God had sent these people to point out on a daily basis how insufficient I was as a human being. Gross right? I believed that I deserved the pain of toxic relationships. About 10 years ago – when I turned 30 – I took on a personal pledge to Increase My Capacity for Pleasure and to Decrease my Tolerance for Pain. This has been the single most impactful decision I have ever made in my life and continues on a daily basis to guide me.

I have compiled a list of the types of toxic people that we all encounter and I'm going to share with you how I have chosen to deal with them. Since I have a lot to say on the subject of toxic people I decided to make this a 5 part series.

Today – The Shamers, Tuesday – The Blamers, Wednesday – The Drainers, Thursday – The Gossips, and on Friday my personal greatest nemesis – The Devil’s Advocate or as I prefer to call them - Those People who Argue, Ridicule and Compete Merely to Put You Down and Prove that they are Better. Grrrr…they really burn me up. But for now…

Toxic Personality of the Day: The Shamers

Shamers are obvious from their Judging and Criticizing:
"I wouldn't have done it that way."
"Do you really want to wear that?"
"Let me tell you what's wrong with your idea."

I have known many men and women who think that they would “help” me by pointing out all the things about me that they thought could be improved if only I could be convinced to make a few changes all thanks to their “constructive criticism.”

Shamers Really Do Want to Improve You. The boss that would stand over my desk lecturing me about calories, carbs and the spiritual purity that comes from eating a purely organic vegetarian diet and how totally super it would be for me to realize that I wasn't happy - how could I be since I was fat - and I wouldn't even know how miserable I had been until I lost some weight and improved my skin by buying incredibly expensive veggies and skin care products from New York City's most expensive markets. Honestly! Did she even know what she was paying me? Not much I can tell you that. All while I scarfed down a sandwich in between answering her phones and picking up her dry cleaning. Maybe she didn't know that I knew all about her cocaine habit. By the way - I eat lots of vegetables and my skin is absolutely luminescent.

Shamers Who Are Bigots. The boss who actually stormed over to my desk one day red-faced and shouting so loud that people came out of their offices to see what was going on when she found out I am half-Jewish. I had told a funny Christmas story about my grandparents (which I will tell as a special Christmas Eve post). When she asked if these were my Greek grandparents, I told her that no - my mother’s parents were Jewish. I didn’t think anything of it until the next day when she threw a hissy fit first thing in the morning saying that she had been up all night wondering what else I had lied about and accusing me of being a "secret Jew." I told her that it was no business of hers who my ancestors slept with, picked up my personal items and walked out. She screamed at me in the hallway until the elevator came saying that "people don't like to surprised with a thing like that" and that I had better admit what I was for my own good or "someone might come after you." I asked her if she would feel more comfortable if I came to work wearing a gold star pinned to my shirt. Then I flipped her off and left the building. And she never paid me for my last week of work.

Shamers Who Just Want to Help. The boss who hated my curly hair because “it always looks so messy and everyone is just going to think you got a perm." She decided to help me because I was single and obviously the reason why I couldn't get a date was because of my hair. Excuse me but it just so happens that I couldn't get a date because I was much too busy being consumed with self-loathing at the time. Pretty easy to do with a boss like you. Every day she would come and just look at me so sadly. "Please see a hairdresser. Really, if you would just take a little time in the morning and blow your hair straight and wear a little's not like you're that unattractive. Really, it worked for a friend of mine. She started fixing herself up and now she's engaged." Listen up people - my father is from Greece – where people have curly hair and my mother’s family is Austrian, Russian and Romanian – places where people have curly hair, not to mention all the other nationalities that have DNA containing the possibility of curly hair. So the hair – yeah I’m keeping the curls. And for your information they are bouncin' and behavin' and my husband loves them.

The co-worker who thinks no one else can do his/her job. Let's get this straight people -- you are replaceable. You are not the only person who is capable. You can take a lunch break. The company will not fall apart if you step away from your desk. Loudly bragging about how much you are needed does not convince anyone that it is true and pointing out everyone else's mistakes (real or imagined) does not magically hide your own. You are not making friends and one day someone is going to get back at you. Interrupting people to explain to them that they just don't really understand things, publicly ridiculing other's ideas and making derisive comments about someone else's personal matters, ignoring boundaries for the sake of "helping" someone with your superior insight only makes you the most loathsome person in the office.

How to deal with The Shamers. I remind myself that the only people who constantly point out someone else's "faults" are people who are overwhelmed with their own. These people have such low self-esteem that they never really see you at all. All they see is something that they don't like about themselves. I imagine how hard it must be to wake up every day constantly worried that one day someone will see through their clever facade and see how horrible they really are. they aren't willing to work on themselves and are using other to non-confront their own fears of fitting in. And then I am thankful that I have learned to like myself enough to enjoy people.


Veracity said...

She screamed at me in the hallway until the elevator came that "people don't like to surprised with a thing like that" and that I had better admit what I was for my own good or "someone might come after you."

Wow. What a vile, horrid person, acting like her bigotry was somehow your fault. If all you did was flip her off and walk out then you were very restrained in a nasty situation.

Corinna Makris said...

Thank you my friend. I really don't know that I was so restrained. I think it was more that I was in such a low place in my life at that time (oh so many years ago) that flipping her off seemed huge.

Cat said...

Sooo sooo good! I look forward to the entire series!

Anonymous said...

When I was younger, it was much harder to tell who was toxic. That's the great thing about getting older — you also get wiser. Excellent post!

:) Izzy

Anonymous said...

I already love the series. Instead of "These are the Days of Our Lives", it's "These are the People in Our Lives."

I was temporarily distracted by the velvet dress in the corner, but as for the Bigot Screamer, you are truly Teh Cool.

I would have yanked out my iPod microphone, recorded her screaming threats, and sued her in civil court for harassment so hard she'd hear the thud for the rest of her life when her net worth hit the floor.

Slackermommy said...

I love love this! I've been kicking toxic people out of my life lately in particular my parents who were making me emotionally ill with their toxicity. I know quite a few shamers and your last paragraph sums them up exactly. You are smart woman.

Love you, girl.

Corinna Makris said...

Hey thanks Cat!

Izzy...did you just call me wise?! I am so totally blushing right now!

littlem if you were distracted by the dress in the pic - check it out on me! Scroll down to me-and-fillyjonk-both-have-date-new.html

And you know we didn't have things like iPod microphones back then kids.

But I agree with Izzy - it's hard to identify when someone is being toxic and really hard to stand up for oneself in the face of it. Harder still to say the things that you think of saying a few minutes afterwards. I'm getting better at it. Writing this stuff out helps me - that's why I do it.