How to identify and eliminate the vampires in your life
Last month, I called an acquaintance who works as a personal trainer for advice on a weight lifting routine that I was considering switching to.
When I got him on the phone, he told me that if I wanted his advice, I’d have to hire him for an hour and then he’d be happy to answer my questions.
While I felt like that was a bit rude, I understood. I was asking him to give me his professional services for free.
Fast forward to last week: the same guy called me and asked if I’d have lunch with him. He hopes to leave his current company to start his own business and wanted my advice on how to do that.
I nearly did a spit take. He didn’t offer to pay for my time, or even pick up lunch, even though he wanted me to pay for his time when I asked for advice. I declined the invitation.
Not all relationships need to be perfectly balanced, but they should come close; at the minimum, both people should invest roughly equal amounts in one another and the relationship should meet both people’s needs.
All of us, myself included, have people in our lives who take much more than they give. The people at the extremes, the ones who consistently drain you of your confidence, energy, and vision or are unwilling to make an effort to invest in your success, happiness, or stability – these people are vampires.
The personal trainer is a vampire. He’s only interested in how I could make his life better and is only interested in helping me for the monetary gain.
In order to maximize your personal power, your happiness, and ability to give back, you must eliminate or at least reduce exposure to the vampires from your life.
How To Identify A Vampire
Ask yourself, “When I’m with this person, do I…”
- Feel more confident and energetic?
- Feel calm and relaxed?
- Feel happier and more engaged with life?
- Feel enchanted, vivacious, or inspired?
- Am I looking forward to seeing them again?
- Do they want me to succeed and will they invest in my success?
- Do I want them to succeed and will I invest in their success?
- Am I excited when I see their name on my phone or inbox?
If you answered yes to most of these, congratulations! THIS PERSON IS NOT A VAMPIRE. Pull them in close. Spend good time with them. Make yourself vulnerable around them.
On the flip side, when you’re with this person do you…
- Feel less energetic and drained?
- Feel obligated to hang out with them?
- Feel more anxious, stressed, or exhausted?
- Feel as though they don’t take genuine interest in you beyond what you can do for them?
- Feel like the relationship is dramatically unbalanced?
- Dread seeing their name pop up on your phone or inbox?
- Constantly coming up with excuses as to why you can’t hang out?
If you answered yes to most of these, THIS PERSON IS A VAMPIRE. They take much more from you than they give. Your best move is to eliminate them.
Two critically important notes before we continue:
1) The people I love are allowed bad days and bad weeks. Honestly, I’ll let the people closest to me lean on me, unreciprocated, for months, or even a year, if needed.
It’s not reasonable to expect the people around you to always be doing well. We all go through bad times.
When someone is leaning on you heavily, the important question to ask is: do they still want me to be happy and successful, or do they want to drag me down.
2) You have permission to eliminate the vampires. Removing the vampires from your life is an act of self-love and self-compassion. Though it’s not a conversation we often have, it is totally legit to end or reduce the relationships that aren’t serving you.
Why You Should Get Rid Of Your Vampires
Most of the time, when we allow vampires into our lives, it’s because we don’t want to hurt them or because we pity them. But when you do nothing about the vampires in your life, you’re hurting both the other person and yourself.
At a subtle level expressed primarily through non-verbal communication, the vampire – consciously or subconsciously – will know that you don’t like them. They may not be able to pinpoint it exactly, but they’ll get weird vibes from you when you’re together.
At the personal level, you’re doing something very cruel to yourself and your psychology when you allow vampires into your life.
You’re telling yourself that this person, who you don’t even like, is more important than you and your happiness, effectively ranking your self worth lower than that of someone you don’t like, and that’s a very cruel thing to do to yourself.
Phasing the vampires out of your life can be painful. Rejecting people sucks. But if you choose to allow the vampires into your life you’re doing everyone a disservice and you’re stunting your own growth and potential.
How To Eliminate Your Vampires
Once you’ve identified the vampires in your life, the next step is to remove them. There are a few different options. Depending on the person and circumstance, I’ve used all four.
Have a heart to heart in hopes of fixing the relationship – a few years ago, my relationship with a childhood friend had become deeply unbalanced. I cared about that guy a lot, but the relationship was no longer meeting my needs.
I met him for coffee, and I explained the situation. Honestly, I was extremely nervous during the conversation; it was way outside of my comfort zone, and I felt like I was possibly being a jerk.
At the end of the conversation, he thanked me. He said he could tell something was wrong between us but didn’t know what, and that he had been getting weird vibes from me. After that conversation, he and I were completely cool.
Break up with them – on the other end of the extreme, you may need to break up with the vampire.
There was a different person in my social circle who was just a jerk. He used people constantly and was remarkably selfish.
One day, he called me out of the blue and made an insanely unreasonable request. That was my breaking point. I needed a bit of time to figure out how to break up with him, but I resolved that the next time he reached out to me I would tell him I wasn’t interested in continuing the relationship and to please not contact me anymore.
Was it easy to do this? No. I was extremely anxious and nervous. I felt bad. But right after I did it, I felt like a million bucks because I was prioritizing myself over someone who wanted to take advantage of me.
Phase them out – This is the strategy I use most often. I’ll stop inviting people out, stop responding to their texts, and stop returning their calls. If I run into them in public, I’ll be polite but not engaging.
The advantage of this strategy is that it’s fairly easy and smooth. The disadvantage is that it’s somewhat cowardly and cold.
Minimize the time you spend with them – realistically speaking, you can’t always eliminate the vampires from your life. Sometimes they are family members, coworkers, or roommates who you can’t avoid.
In these cases, strive to minimize the direct interaction you have. Suggest something along the lines of watching a TV show, going to an event, or attending a class. While this isn’t perfect, it’s far preferable to spending your time directly interacting with the vampire.
Why This Matters
In life, you only really control your actions, and to a lesser degree, your thoughts and feelings.
By taking the appropriate steps to eliminate the vampires from your life, you’ll be using your actions to improve the quality of your life. This will increase your personal power, which you can then use to create more beauty, awesomeness, and light for yourself and others.
Photo credit: “Vampire” by Alvaro Tapia