How To Recognize The Toxic People In Your Life And Then Cut Them Out

4 min read

Are the people in your life helping or hurting you? Unfortunately the people you surround yourself with can hold you back from achieving your goals and growing into the best version of yourself.

This was the case for me. I have long been a people pleaser, groomed from my childhood and school days to be the quiet, sweet girl who goes along with everything. When I started talking about going after my goal of becoming an entrepreneur I got a lot of unsolicited feedback. It really started to bug me because I was always so positive with people when they were going after their goals.

Our relationships should lift us up, not put us down.

It lead me down a path of self help to help me understand what was going on. I learned that when you start making big changes to your life, some people will not like it. They like you the way you are. It can bring up feelings that they aren't going after their goals or worse, they like you in the previous insecure version of yourself.

It's difficult to know when someone is problematic for your growth and it can be even harder to separate yourself from them when you find them.

How to spot the toxic people in your life

This was very hard for me to come to terms with. Because I had an underlying belief that I wasn't as good as everyone else; when I had people who wanted to hang out with me, I just felt so lucky. Writing that down makes me super sad for the girl I was for so long.

To find clarity in who is in your corner, you have to come to terms with the limiting beliefs that you have about yourself. Toxic people are drawn to people who have these hangups. They may not even realize it. Since I had this feeling of unworthiness, I tended to attract friends who wanted someone to lift them up and make them feel good. I ended up in a lot of one-sided relationships where I put a ton into the friendship but didn't get much in return.

The more you grow to understand what is causing your limitations, the more clearly you will begin to see where you aren't being treated properly.

Things that really worked for me were reading, journaling, meditation, and just getting honest with the way I felt. Self-reflection leads to self-awareness. Once you start to accept your authentic self and know you are worthy of having great relationships, your ability to spot the not-so-great ones will become stronger.

Notice how you feel when you spend time with people. Do you feel drained or like you can't be yourself? Maybe you have to watch what you say because you are afraid of being judged?

It's difficult to know when someone is problematic for your growth and it can be even harder to separate yourself from them when you find them.

Our relationships should lift us up, not put us down. It doesn't mater if these people are your family or friends you have known forever. You deserve people in your life who love and support you for who you are not who they wish you would be. Identify your core beliefs and where people have been overstepping.

How to cut them out

Now that you know who is a potentially toxic person in your life, what can you do about it? First of all, I recommend giving them a chance to change. People treat you how you allow them to treat you.

Once I noticed who the people where that had been causing me stress and anxiety, I began putting up boundaries. With one person in particular, when she disagreed with something I was doing she would yell and cuss at me. As a boundary, I would calmly tell her that I loved her but would not allow her to speak to me that way. After the warning, if she continued I would hang up the phone. It sounds harsh, but it's what I had to do. It took a bit of time, but I haven't had to do something like that in a long time.

As a less extreme situation, a friend of mine would constantly make snide comments about my daughter. She had been my best friend for years but had clear views on how she thought I should be raising my daughter (despite the fact that she had a baby and my daughter was a teenager at this time). I would tell her when her comments hurt my feelings. She would apologize but the comments continued. Internally, I understand that the comments have more to do with her fears, but I also was not going to continue allowing it. We don't hang out anymore, which may seem sad, but now I also have lost all the frustration and anxiety I had when hanging out with her. I recognize that this allows for more space for friends who are supportive of me and my family.

The process of putting up boundaries is difficult. Because you have never done it before, and especially because the toxic people will hate it. In my experience, they start talking about you to other people. While this will hurt, you must recognize that this behavior is further proving to you that the boundaries you set were absolutely necessary. You can't control other people's reactions, only your own.

Even though realizing someone is toxic is incredibly difficult, doing the work to limit your time with them or completely shut them out is incredibly freeing. It will feel icky for awhile, particularly if they don't react well to your boundaries. Once you are on the other side of the hard work, you will feel a freedom you have never experienced before. There is nothing like it!

5 min read

Lessons Learned and the Power of Turning 50

Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City.

I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried: Dred Scott v. Sanford.

I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive.

Mr. Scott was born into enslavement around 1799 and, in 1830, was sold to a military surgeon who traveled back and forth between his military posts in Illinois and Wisconsin, where slavery was prohibited under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1842 the doctor and Mr. Scott both married, and they, all four, returned to St. Louis. Still enslaved, Dred Scott filed a lawsuit against the doctor's wife for his and his wife Harriet's freedom. We don't know exactly why he chose this moment in time to file a lawsuit, however, he did. At the time of filing his, now, famous lawsuit, he was 50 years old. Ultimately, The Scott family did not gain their freedom, but their profound courage in filling this case helped ignite the Civil War and what we would come to know (or think we know) as freedom from enslavement for all human beings. Powerful then and even more powerful now.

My next milestone was turning 21, and I did it in the Big Apple. Having only moved to "the city that never sleeps" a few months prior, I knew nobody except my new friends, the bus-boys from the restaurant I was working at, Patzo's on the Upper West Side. And, yes, pazzo is actually the correct spelling of the Italian word, which translates to "crazy." Trust me we all had several laughs about the misspelling and the definition going hand in hand. I worked a full shift, closing out at around 11 PM, when, my kitchen team came out from the line with a cake singing, "Cumpleaños Feliz." It was fantastic. And the kindness of these almost-strangers was a powerful reminder of connection then as it still is today almost 29 years later.

I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy.

When I turned 30, I had just finished a European tour with Lucinda Childs dance company. The company had been on tour for months together and were inseparable. We traveled through Paris, Vienna, Lisbon, and Rome. We ate together, we rode on a bus together, we had drinks after shows together, and we even took turns giving company class to get warmed up before a show. It was deeply meaningful and dreamy. We ended the tour back in New York City at BAM, The Brooklyn Academy of Music. It was an incredible way to end the tour, by being on our home court, not to mention I was having an important birthday at the culmination of this already incredible experience.

So, when I invited everyone to join me at Chelsea Pier's Sky Rink to ice skate in late August, I was schooled really quickly that "tour" does not mean you are friends in real life, it means you are tour friends. When the tour ends, so does the relationship. I skated a few laps and then went home. This was a beautiful lesson learned about who your real friends are; it was powerful then as it is today.

Turning 40 was a completely different experience. I was in a serious relationship with my now-husband, Joe. I had just come off of a successful one-woman dance show that I produced, choreographed, and danced in, I had just choreographed a feature film, John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes, with A-list actors, including Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini, who became a dear friend and had even been on the red carpet with Susan Sarandon at the Venice Film Festival for the movie a year earlier.

And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age.

This was a very special birthday, and I had, in those 10 years between 30 and 40, come to cultivate very real friendships with some wonderful colleagues. We all celebrated at a local Italian restaurant, Etcetera Etcetera (who is delivering for those of you in NYC — we order weekly to support them during COVID), a staple in the theater district. Joe and I were (and are) regulars and, of course, wanted to celebrate my 40th with our restaurant family and friends. We were upstairs in the private room, and it was really lovely. Many of those in attendance are no longer with us, including Joe's Dad, Bob Ricci, and my dear friend Jim Gandolfini having transitioned to the other side. Currently, that restaurant is holding on by a thread of loving neighbors and regulars like us. Life is precious. Powerful then and today even more so.

I write this article because I'm turning 50, still in New York City. However, I'm turning 50 during what I define as a miraculous time to be alive. And I could not be more filled with hope, love, possibility, and power. This year has included an impeachment hearing, a global pandemic, and global protests that are finally giving a larger platform to the Black Lives Matter movement. Being able to fully embody who I am as a woman, a 50-year-old woman who is living fully in purpose, takes the cake, the rink, and the party.

I'm making movies about conversations around race. I've been happily married for 11 years to the love of my life, Joe Ricci. I'm amplifying and elevating the voices of those who have not previously had a platform for speaking out. I choose who to spend time with and how long! I design the life I desire and the Universe creates it for me every day. I show up, keep the story moving, and work hard because I am relentlessly devoted to making the world a better place and this is how I choose to leave my legacy. Being 50 is one of the most amazing things I ever thought I could experience. And I encourage all women to identify their power and choose to be fully in your power at any age. I'm 50 and powerful. Dred Scott was 50 and powerful. This powerful lesson is for today and tomorrow. We have the power. No matter what age you are, I invite you to use your powerful voice to join me in making the world a better place.