“Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the life out of you..”

I saw this quote on Facebook today and it made me think of all the emotional vampires I’ve encountered. You know, the people who suck the happiness out of you. Being around them is exhausting because they need constant attention. The ‘poor me’s who play up their misfortunes, don’t take responsibility for their actions or feelings, are demanding, critical and pessimistic. They sulk. They let you down. And you end up thinking it’s all your fault!

How do we get embroiled with these joy-suckers in the first place? Some of us are unlucky enough to have them in our families, or we end up working with them. But what if we actually choose to have them in our lives? How the hell does that happen? Because they’re clever. And manipulative. They’re charming and lure you in with flattery. Once we see their true colours, perhaps we feel sorry for them or believe that we can rescue them, make them happy. Or that we can be the ones who will make them see sense and change their behaviour

Personally, I think they’re the worst kind of narcissist – passive aggressive as opposed to being openly selfish and self-centred. Give me an in-your-face, self-promoter any day – at least you know what you’re dealing with from the off.

I’ve been sucked in by a few emotional vampires over the years. It took me a long time to realise why. Ultimately it came down to my own lack of self-esteem. They made me feel good when I didn’t feel good in myself. And sticking with them was a way of continuing to punish myself for not being good enough.

One vampire was incredibly charming when I first met him – taking me out for expensive lunches, telling me what a coup it would be for him if I joined his team. The reality was very different. He was a controlling bully and utterly charmless once he got what he wanted. When things weren’t going his way, it was everyone else’s fault but his own. I ended up walking on eggshells for fear of upsetting him and blamed myself for not being good enough to meet his expectations.

It was only when I started to value myself and my achievements (after almost a year of counselling) that I started to see what he was really like, that I wasn’t to blame for his problems, and finally found the courage to stand up to him. It was pretty explosive and I told him exactly how his behaviour affected me and other people (one of those times when anger is a really positive emotion). I doubt it made much impact on him but I felt so much better! Soon after, I resigned and got a job in a team where I was valued for what I could bring, not undermined and criticised for failing to meet unrealistic expectations.

Toxic friend, joy-sucking relative, passive-aggressive colleague or bullying boss? You really don’t need them in your life. Once you see them for what they are, if you can’t get rid of them completely, my advice would be to limit the time you spend with them or avoid their company. Above all, try to remember, it’s not you, it’s them.

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