- 5 Easy Tips for Discerning whether People Are Healthy or Unhealthy for You.
Tip 1: How do you feel when you are with them?
This is the easiest way to tell if people are healthy or unhealthy for you. If being with them leads to you feeling inadequate, boring, discouraged, ugly, stupid, ashamed, or otherwise bad about yourself, they are likely to be unhealthy for you.
If, however, whenever you are with them you are so entertained and stimulated by your interaction that you forget to be self-conscious and you are comfortable and relaxed, they are likely to be healthy for you.
Tip 2: Are you your best self when you are in their company?
Some people bring out our best self. When we are with them, we act wisely and kindly and say and do interesting things. We feel smart, interesting, and capable.
Other people lead us into trouble by evoking the less pleasant aspects of our personality. It may be as simple as engaging in nasty gossip or as dangerous as encouraging us to shoot heroin. Many people have found themselves drawn into destructive and criminal acts by so-called “friends” that they normally would have avoided. There is a reason we are warned: Beware of the company you keep.
Tip 3: When you leave, do you feel better, worse, or the same as before?
This may vary a bit if you are extraverted or introverted by nature, but in general there are some people who give more than they take and others who will leave you drained and in pain.
Energy Vampires—These are the people who suck the life out of you. When you leave their company, you feel drained and exhausted. Other people give back at least as much energy as they take. Obviously, if you repeatedly feel as if you are sucked dry after spending time with them, the are not healthy for you.
Put Down Artists—These are the people who make jokes at your expense or subtly devalue you. After you spend time with them, you always feel worse about yourself.
Enliveners—They stimulate you. After you leave, you feel energized and better than before you were with them.
Obviously it is healthier for you to spend time with “Enliveners” than with “Energy Vampires” and “Put Down Artists.”
If you interact with someone and leave the interaction feeling pretty similar to how you were before it, this person can be thought of as fairly neutral where your mental health is concerned.
Tip 4: Do you feel more creative and inspired after being in their company?
Muses—All of us have a creative side. Some people are very gifted in inspiring other people to think in a new way or come up with a new project. If you feel more creative and inspired after being with certain people, they are healthy for you.
Tip 5: Do you do physically and mentally healthy activities together?
There are some people who are good influences on us. In its simplest form, we find ourselves eating better, exercising more, and having mentally stimulating conversations when we are in their company. These are the friends who encourage us to sign up with them to study that new language we always wanted to learn, or take up tap dancing, meditation, or Tai Chi.
There are other people whose idea of an exciting social evening includes drinking, drugging, and eating till they pass out after having unprotected sex with strangers. Obviously they are on a self-destructive path, bent on wrecking their own health, and are happy to wreck yours as well.
Punchline: If you pay attention to how you feel when you are with specific people, what types of activities you do together, and how you feel later; you will be able to discern which friends or lovers are healthy for you and which should be avoided.
Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP
In private practice in NYC and the author of the book: Borderline, Narcissistic, and Schizoid Adaptations.