Some people assume that if you're mentally strong you should be indestructible--and therefore able to tolerate everything. But the truth is, no matter how strong you are, there are certain things (and people) that will drain your mental strength.
Part of being mentally strong involves avoiding the things that put an unnecessary strain on your resources. That's why mentally strong people proactively avoid energy vampires.
Energy vampires are those individuals who suck the energy out of you. No matter how much advice, support, or time you give, they always try to get more.
How to Recognize Energy Vampires
Energy vampires come in many forms. You'll usually know when you encounter one because you'll feel completely drained after each interaction.
Here are some examples of energy vampires:
- A "friend" always calls to complain about all the problems in her life. Whether she got a flat tire or doesn't have enough money to pay the bills, nothing is ever her fault. If you try to offer support or suggest a solution, she gets angry and insists nothing helps.
- A co-worker seeks constant praise and admiration--but he does it in a roundabout way. He makes disparaging remarks about himself in an effort to slyly solicit positive feedback. And he tells long-winded stories where he's always the hero. No matter how much positive feedback he gets, he always craves more.
- A family member asks for help all the time. From get-rich-quick schemes to impulsive relationship moves, he makes terrible choices and expects you to bail him out. He blames his hardships on "bad luck" and takes little responsibility for his actions.
- A co-worker gossips incessantly. Every time you see her, she wants to tell you about the latest office scandal. She seems to thrive on the attention she gets from spreading information (some of it true, some not) throughout the workplace.
The energy vampires in your life might look a little different. But no matter what they do, they're going to be taxing on your life--if you let them.
A Difficult Situation Isn't the Same as a Difficult Person
The best way to deal with energy vampires is to avoid them. End a relationship if it isn't healthy. Cut ties with an old friend if it's taxing on you.
You only have so much room in your life. It's important to fill it with healthy, positive people.
That doesn't mean you should cut out everyone who doesn't provide a ray of sunshine all the time, however. Sometimes people require more support than others--and that doesn't make them energy vampires.
Don't ditch a friend who is going through a divorce because she's become a downer. And don't step away from someone who has depression because he seems negative. Those individuals likely need you now more than ever.
True energy vampires burden your resources all the time--not just during tough times in their lives.
How to Set Boundaries With Those You Can't Avoid
There may be times when it doesn't make sense to completely cut ties with an energy vampire. Removing your colleague, mother-in-law, or neighbor from your life might not be a wise option.
If you can't avoid them, you can choose to manage your relationships with them. Establish healthy boundaries that limit the negative influence they have on your life.
That may mean not answering the phone when your mother-in-law calls during work hours. Or maybe it means saying to your co-worker, "That sounds like gossip. I'm not interested in participating."
Establishing boundaries can feel uncomfortable at first--and you may get some pushback. But it's an important step in ensuring that you reserve your energy and strength for the most important tasks.