Take a look at the people surrounding you. Some will inspire you while some will "perspire" you. This easiest way to recognize this is to pay attention to how you feel after spending time with someone. More often than not, do you walk away feeling happy and energized or do you walk away feeling depleted and drained? Your body is wired to protect you, so take notice of what your body feels around certain people.
To be clear, I'm not talking about friends supporting each other through hard times. I'm not talking about friends having bad days and occasionally needing to vent (and there is a distinct difference between venting and dumping). We all ought to have a solid social circle of support that we can look to for encouragement and positive energy. But I'm not talking about any of that...I'm talking about people who take advantage of their relationships and who turn the aspects of a healthy, supportive social circle into an unhealthy dynamic. I'm talking about people who display patterns and cycles of behavior that are toxic or unhealthy. Time will always tell the difference.
They may be charming, charismatic, outgoing and fun to be around, but energy vampires always have another side to them that you cannot turn a blind eye to. They may often live in crisis mode or in the midst of drama. They may swing high and low with emotional ups and downs and have a propensity for turning every fun night out into an inevitable tear filled therapy session. They may often have a pattern of shirking personal responsibility for their crises and believe nothing is their fault. They often lack self-awareness including the awareness of their self-defeating patterns. They may be a melodramatic "damsel in distress" type or the "woe is me" victim type who seeks out others to fulfill their needs or provide solutions. They essentially prey on the energy and vitality of others as an attempt to heal their own inner suffering. There may be an element of codependency. Make sure you are not feeding back into this dysfunctional dynamic. They may perceive YOU as the solution to their problems; however, the important thing to remember is that you are NOT responsible for resolving their issues. It is not up to you to be a "fixer". While you may offer help and support, it is ultimately their responsibility to sort out their struggles. On that point, learn to recognize if they are truly striving to be solution oriented or if they seem to be content remaining in their drama and struggles. If you are recycling the same repetitive, draining conversations with them over and over and nothing ever changes, then they might not be truly interested in solutions. Instead, it may be a vicious cycle that they are stuck in and you do not have to be stuck in the cycle along with them. Get off the dysfunctional merry-go-round.
Learn to recognize these types of people. Learn how to draw the line and set boundaries. Learn to say "NO". Protect your space. Protect your time. Protect your energy. Recognizing these behaviors and putting an end to it is critical to protecting yourself, your health and your overall wellbeing. This is self-care and self-care is not selfish. This does not make you a bad or unsupportive friend. Support is not about constantly allowing yourself to serve as a sounding board or a door mat. Support does not mean feeling responsible for offering solutions to someone who is not interested in solutions. Support does not mean supporting and enabling poor behaviors. Support does not mean playing the constant role of therapist. Sometimes it is necessary to limit or eliminate your contact with certain people who drain you. Surround yourself with people who are good for your mental health--those who promote a positive, healthy and happy life--those who will build good and positive energy in you. And make sure that you give good energy back.
Lastly, we always ought to self-reflect, so take a hard, honest look inward and make sure that you are not the energy vampire. Don't be a sucker...but, if you realize that you are, it doesn't mean that you are a bad person, but you may have unhealthy patterns that are bad for you and the people close to you. The good news is that you can change things, starting now...but it's up to you! The first step to change is always awareness. The second step is acceptance. And the third step, is ACTION.
If you can relate to this post in any way, it is my hope that this has been helpful!