When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

That’s a quote from Maya Angelou via Oprah, and it’s damn good advice. Out of 25 years, that’s the main thing I’m taking from her show, though there have been many other wise and inspiring things.

I had a lifelong habit of allowing toxic, pushy and generally unhealthy people in my life and making excuses for them.

This week I ended two new friendships that I thought were going to be a “go.” Unfortunately, I discovered that one woman mostly wanted to gossip and whine about the problems where we live, and the other woman mostly wanted to “hold court,” blab on about everything in her life, and allow me to fit into her life but not much else. If it was convenient for her, she did it. Otherwise, no. Not even considerate enough to ask how I’m doing or what’s going on with me. Or listen for a measurable length of time when I tried to say! And did I mention that I “live too far away?” (10 miles!)

Both friendships had become very uncomfortable for me. I was dismayed that this was taking place, and tried to deny it to myself. Initially, I had really liked these women but their demeanor and behavior became increasingly problematic, and rather quickly too. It is clear to me that they expected me to put up with how they are. It is also clear that they wanted to base our friendship upon their rules and boundaries without much consideration for mine.

Instead of letting these relationships fester on the way I’ve always done, I simply just ended them. Knowing it would be futile, I didn’t bother trying to tell them how I felt. Been there, done that.

It feels good. Unusual and a bit awkward, but basically, in my gut… good.

I’ve also been allowing a long-term friendship to fade away, and I know she’s doing the same with me. We’re just very different people now, and our lives are very different. I have to face the fact that I find her intimidating and judgmental and not allow it anymore. I’m tired of walking on eggshells around her. I still love her and care about her deeply, but “things’s got ta change.”

It’s rather sad to make these realizations, but we can’t run from it. In order to be healthy, we must be proactive. That takes wisdom, strength, and courage. And a knowing that for us, we’re correct regardless of what the other person hurls back at us (yes, that happened in one instance).

So… when people show you who they are, believe them. It saves a lot of time and aggravation.

Meanwhile, my other friendships are going well.

* * *   * * *   * * *   * * *   * * *   * * *   * * *   * * *

I really like this blog post: (bolded emphasis is mine)


“When people show you who they are, believe them.” – Maya Angelou

It seems simple, yes? Judge people by their behavior. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.



In my experience, people will continuously ignore evidence that they personally witness in order to preserve their illusions. Hell, I’m guilty of this myself – learning this lesson on a permanent basis has been one of the great challenges of my life. 

Consider these examples:

  • A woman is dating a man who is nice to her, but consistently treats service people like shit. The most likely cause? He’s a dick. But the woman won’t believe that – she’ll make excuses.
  • A man’s mother consistently cuts him down and makes him feel small and worthless. The most likely cause? She’s a critical harpy. But the man won’t believe that – he’ll make excuses.
  • A man occasionally gets drunk and smacks his wife around, but is otherwise a “decent guy.” The most likely cause? He’s a wife-beater. But his wife won’t believe that – she’ll make excuses.
  • A work-mate never seems able to perform their own work, and is constantly asking their co-workers to do their work, or help them because it’s an emergency, or bail them out. The most likely cause? She’s incompetent, or lazy, or both. But the co-worker doesn’t believe that – he’ll make excuses.

Why do we refuse to see the evidence before our eyes? Are we so easily swayed by good intentions that we’ll ignore months or years of bad behavior on the simple word of the perpetrator that they’re really not like that or that they’re really trying to do better?


These people really are dicks, or critical harpies, or wife-beaters, or lazy incompetents.

If someone treats you unkindly, the most likely reason is because they’re unkind.

If someone tells a lie, the most likely reason is because they’re a liar.

If someone refuses to do their fair share of the work, the most likely reason is because they’re a lazy git.

They’re not going to change because they say they are. They’ll change when they’re damn good and ready, and not before. And they may not change at all.

I have a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt. I give the benefit of the doubt long past the time when there is no more doubt. Maybe because I want to trust, I want to believe people are trying to do the right thing, I want to believe people are basically good. Seems a bit strange for a cynic like me. But it’s true.

I’m reminded of a quote from Batman Begins: “…it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.”


Thanks for the articulate post hot chick! More fun and interesting posts at http://www.hotchicksdigsmartmen.com

6 thoughts on “When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them

  1. OH…so weird…I love that quote from Batman Begins as well!

    This post rings true. It is a hard lesson to learn in life but a GREAT one! It was the biggest lesson I have learned from dealing and recovering from a life filled with narcissism. You describe it beautifully here!

    I think you are strong to say NO to these friends. It is not easy and in the end you do feel good and it is the healthy thing to do.

    I think the positive side of this experience is that I can now recognize highly narcissistic people earlier before you invest your time (and in some cases money)!

    I started taking a language class and a conversation started with another student during break. Our first conversation was about her resume/CV and what her husband did for a living. She told me what degree and university as well as her husbands. My initial reaction was…why does that matter? But I brushed it off. She also would listen to my conversation about how my interviews for jobs was going with another student and would interrupt to tell me what to do. Okay…I thought she was trying to be helpful. But here is the kicker…at the end of class she was walking with me and she started to bring the job thing up again…she was fishing to see if I had any offers. She then finally said…oh you can help me get a job at the company you work for when you get the offer. Plus, when I told her about a rejection she seemed pleased…a big smile came on her face when I told her something bad. After a total of 10 minutes of interaction I could tell that this is a person that is not healthy to be around…bye, bye! Limit myself to being polite but at the same level as I would speak to the teacher!

    It may seem harsh but the reality is that people who are not narcissistic don’t respond that way. It is a great lesson…I have saved a lot of heartache from dealing with her!

    Thank you for this post! Looking forward to more!

    T Reddy

  2. I too have often let friendships continue that were uneven (they wanted to tell me about their lives, but were uninterested in mine), or that were no longer viable because our lives have changed so much, we are no longer compatible.

    Now, I figure, it’s better to be a little bit lonely than to have these lopsided relationships that end up taking much and giving little.

    Thanks for writing on this important issue, ti will help many to know they are not alone.

  3. Pingback: Let the N just B | In Bad Company

  4. I just found your posts. Looking forward to reading more. I can empathize with ending toxic relationships.. I just ended a toxic relationship with a distant relative;an angry hybrid of both females in your article. And, yes, I always made excuses for her; She was, I thought, desperately unhappy, morbidly obese, and had a husband who’d rather snuggle with their bulldog than her. Finally I realized she was sucking the life out of me.She was always right, always the most put upon. No matter what you had hers was bigger, brighter, faster, more expensive, Her illnesses, and she was ALWAYS sick, were described in lavish detail and way too often included pictures I really didn’t want to see.SO, I ended it. It felt good.

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  6. I have experienced all sorts of relationship issues in my life but none have bothered me so much as a person I met about a year ago. Her behavior was like none I have ever experienced or heard about so I began googling and found this website. I met this woman on a commuter bus about a year ago. We lived near each other and she befriended me by sometimes giving me rides to the bus stop. Soon she invited me to attend her church craft group and monthly luncheons for three different groups that she organized. At first I thought she was very welcoming and inclusive, but soon felt like I was being commanded to appear at her events. (She was always the organizer. No one else organized anything and invited her.) I also began to notice that she gossiped about everyone and wanted you to know that she had the inside scoop on everyone on the bus, in the neighborhood, her church, her office, etc. This wasn’t the usual banal gossip. She disclosed secrets that someone had told her, information that she uncovered nosing around, and stated her judgments about other people. It was nasty and malicious. I began to feel very uncomfortable around her. One time I was in a small group of people with her and I had the worst feeling overcome me. I could feel that sense of being gossiped about and not knowing what was going on. About that time I decided I would try to distance myself from her, yet remain acquainted until I could get away from her. When I would tell her that I couldn’t attend a function because of another commitment she would badger me about why I couldn’t come. She said I could spend time with my family anytime and I should come to her craft group instead. I noticed she did this with other people too. Nobody could say “no” to her. I had to be firm in refusing her invitations, but I was so polite with her. To my face she accepted my refused invitation, but immediately she went and told other people that she had done so many things for me and now I turned my back on her. She made up lies about things she had done for me and said I told her she I didn’t have time for her anymore. I was shocked that she could and would distort the situation and make me look bad to these other people. One of the individuals came to me and told me what she had been saying behind my back for some time. I was shocked. I could not believe the lies she had made up about me and the things she discussed with other people on the bus. None of it had any basis and I never had a conversation with her about any of these topics. I value my reputation and it horrified me that someone who didn’t even know me would make up things to make me look bad. Really bad. I thought about the things she said to me about other people too and realized this was her way of making herself look good – – she made other people look bad. A short time later a few people from the commuter bus got together to discuss this issue and I learned alot. She did not like it when someone else got positive attention and became very jealous and then diminishes that person. A lot of “behind the back stories” she told were exchanged and everyone was disgusted that she had made up outrageous lies to make people look bad. Some apologized for their contributions to her gossip. Some denied ever having participated in her gossip. Several people said they had been tired of her behavior for some time and were glad this information was finally coming out. The luncheon groups disbanded to the relief of the people she would badger to attend. She literally went on the attack against the people who stopped attending her forced meetings. Her attacks were unbelievably vicious. After some time has passed I now see what I should have seen long ago. She is possibly the biggest attention seeker I have ever seen and doesn’t realize that people roll their eyes at her. Everything must revolve around her and go as she demands. She went overboard in pretending that she is a nice person by always giving gifts to people. By the way, these are gifts that she has pilfered from her church supply cabinet! She makes up stories about people to make them look bad and break up any relationships forming between people. Again, everything must revolve around her. Looking back, she was so sneaky the way she controlled everyone and everything. And what makes her so different than others is that she is unbelievably malicious and has no low in what she will do and say about other people. She has said that her adult children want nothing to do with her (apparently she abandoned them when they were young so she could leave her husband), her current husband’s children don’t like her, her neighbors don’t like her, her co-workers don’t like her, she has been forced out of jobs because she gossiped and caused trouble in the work place. One boss took her to lunch and told her she was “cruel”. Instead of thinking about what he said, she went after him and tried to ruin his business. The next job she gossiped about her co-workers and caused trouble. They were apparently so concerned about her behavior they wouldn’t let her close her office door and followed her in the office. When she left that job she sent out a global email detailing information about the office to get her supervisor in trouble – and it worked. Looking back I can see that if someone disagreed with her behavior she made it her mission to destroy them. When you see what someone is really about, make your move and try to discreetly get away. This didn’t work for me in this situation because unfortunately I think she could sense that I wanted to distance myself from her because I didn’t like her nasty behavior. She took this as a big rejection and decided to make me pay for it. She has caused serious trouble, but fortunately others had a concern about her nasty behavior and stood behind me. So her attempt to make me look like a bad person only made her look bad. I wish I had escaped her company long ago but she is so pushy and demanding it was difficult. Oh, and when one of the people said what she thought of her nasty behavior, she responded with “I will pray for you.” What? She didn’t even see that she is the one who needs praying for. She painted herself as a victim and yet she is so wonderful she will pray for the people who hurt her! Wow! Now I know what a narcissist is. And one last comment – I was surprised at the number of people who followed her and gossiped MALICIOUSLY about people. They only stopped when they realized she was gossiping about them too. And that made them mad. It told me a lot about those people – apparently it is okay for them to gossip about others but no one can gossip about them!

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