Even if you haven’t heard the term “energy vampire” before, you’ve surely experienced the phenomenon. You know that exhausted, worn out feeling you get after being with someone who just emotionally drains you? Yep, that’s an energy vampire in action, sucking out all your good vibes, leaving you frustrated and tired.
The bad news is that keeping garlic around isn’t going to be enough to ward off this type of vampire. Instead, you will have to be proactive in protecting yourself, which begins with identifying the perpetrator. Energy vampires and their soul-sucking behaviors come in many different forms. Some examples are those who love to gossip and start drama, who are extremely self-deprecating, or those who simply never have anything positive to say.
Energy vampires aren’t necessarily bad people, and we’ve probably all been in their shoes at one point. Some people simply don’t know how to cope with their own problems, and a lot of the time, they might not have a clue that their behavior is impacting you negatively. This is why it’s crucial to set boundaries with energy vampires, so their negative impact on you is minimal.
6 Tips for Setting Boundaries with Energy Vampires
1. Listen to your body
After spending time with an energy vampire, your body may give you clues, like feeling fatigued. Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S, shares, “My top tip for setting boundaries with energy vampires is to educate ourselves to recognize the signs; our body is usually trying to tell us something and we have to learn to listen.”
This way, the next time you come in contact with someone with energy-sucking tendencies, you’ll know what’s going on and you’ll be prepared to take the next steps.
2. Remember that you are in control
While it may not feel like it, you are, in fact, the one in control in these situations. The power to feel better is in your hands.
“Keeping these vampires in your life will be more detrimental to your physical and mental health,” Catchings says, “You have the power to let them go and live a happy life.”
It’s up to you whether or not you want to continue a relationship with an energy vampire. You aren’t doomed to having your energy drained forever if you’re willing to make a change.
3. Be straightforward and non-confrontational
Being straightforward is the best way to speak to an energy vampire, according to Talkspace therapist Rachel O’Neil, Ph.D.
“Work on being straightforward. Explain how their behavior has impacted your well-being,” O’Neill says, “At the same time, reinforce that you value your relationship with them and are committed to maintaining a relationship. These conversations tend to work best when you’re not at a high emotional level and can express your feelings in a non-confrontational way.”
You can write out some talking points, or practice with someone you trust beforehand, so you’ll feel more prepared and less emotional.
4. Take a break
“Breaks” aren’t just for romantic relationships. You might need to take a step away from someone to assess your relationship and to notice how different you feel when you’ve distanced yourself.
“Sometimes, a simple break from the person can help you to feel better equipped to deal with them,” O’Neil advises, “If that still doesn’t work and they don’t seem committed to changing their behavior, then you may have to make some long term adjustments.”
5. Know when to cut someone out completely
For better or worse, we can’t change people. However, we can change the way we interact with them. You have to weigh the pros and cons of the relationship, and be ready to walk away if necessary. If your situation isn’t improving even after some straightforward communication, you might need to take some more drastic steps.
“If you’ve tried to talk with them about their behavior and they aren’t receptive to feedback or lapse back into their old ways, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with them,” O’Neil states.
6. Don’t feel guilty for setting boundaries
Don’t confuse setting boundaries for being cruel. Setting boundaries doesn’t make you a mean person! Remember, you ultimately need to do what is best for you and your mental health, and that’s nothing to feel guilty about.
“Sometimes, people can feel guilty or upset about having to set boundaries. It’s okay to feel this way but it’s important to still be firm in the boundaries you set,” O’Neil urges.
Remember, You’re In Control
In the end, you control how much energy that energy vampires suck out of you. You need positive energy and strength to be your best self and get through life — so don’t give others the power to take it away from you.
Learning to say no and set boundaries will ultimately make you a much stronger person, and there’s no better time to start than now.