The Company We Keep by Mary Sharratt

Mary shares an uplifting moment with a dear friend’s gorgeous cat. Photo by Kris Waldherr.


As a New Year rolls in, many of us make New Year’s resolutions, often based on the received perception that we are not good enough as we are. We look for ways to improve ourselves in terms of  fitness, weight loss, and other measurable habits. And while these goals may be very worthy ones, in 2020 I’m turning my attention to something more subtle and fundamental to my basic well being–the company I keep.

Women have been socialized to be far too tolerant of people who diminish and undermine us. Whatever happens or however badly the other person behaves, we want to be seen as “nice” and not make a fuss.

We don’t always get to choose our relationships. If we work at a company, we will inevitably encounter conflict on some level with people whom we can’t so easily avoid. The same is true in co-housing situations and kinship groups.

But in our leisure time, we DO get to choose who we hang out with. And we need to pick our friends and companions with care.

A friend of mine who is a realtor gives the following advice to people who are moving to a new area and wanting to make friends and integrate in the local community: “Don’t hang out in the pub with the losers and the people who are always complaining. Join some group focused around positive activity like hiking or tennis or yoga. These are the positive people looking to do something good.”

I’ve noticed similar effects in groups I’ve belonged to in my local community. My writers group is a powerhouse of inspiration and support and always lifts me higher. The same is true for my yoga and meditation classes with Blair Read. These are completely uplifting and filled with positive people who sincerely want to be in harmony with others. People who have set their course on both physical health and spiritual liberation.

The biggest culprit for mean and negative behavior these days seems to be social media. For this reason, I have given up Facebook and Twitter to a large extent and only use it for book promotion and networking with other writers. However, I can still receive personal messages from Facebook “friends.” An acquaintance from the stable yard where I used to keep my horse sent me–apropos nothing–a nasty text message on New Year’s Day! At this time I was on vacation in Portugal, enjoying the time of my life, not even on the same landmass as this negative person. Talk about a wake up call to be more mindful of the company I keep.

So what’s up with negative people? Is the damage they cause all in our heads?

Author and life coach Lisa Romano says that when we are around negative, backbiting people, we must use the following mantra, “Hold on to your Self. Hold on to your Self.” Meaning our higher Self that can never be dragged down.

Narcissists and other negative people make up stories in their heads, then accuse you of that made up story. Then you feel, “Oh no, I must prove to her that’s not true!” No, you do not, according to Romano. We must not entertain their accusatory invented stories.

To have healthy relationships with people who support us, we must learn to detach from negative people, set boundaries, and love ourselves. If you feel like you’re being manipulated by someone, you probably are. Accept what you feel, feel what you feel, and decide what you want to do about it.

If you need to seek validation from others, then you tend to attract narcissists. Likewise, if you are an empath, you will attract them, because they lack empathy and want yours. They enjoy upsetting us because they need to feel they have power over us.

If someone keeps trying to undermine you until you have to struggle to trust your own perceptions, you are experiencing narcissistic abuse and need to distance yourself from this person. You absolutely need to listen to your perceptions and intuition to keep yourself safe. Your pain and disappointment are valid. Your anger is valid.

Romano believes that when we are around narcissists, they try to drag us down to their level of being and behaving. The core of the suffering we experience in these relationships is that we’ve been dragged down to a negative state of being that is not natural for us. We can’t change their behavior or raise their frequency. Being with a narcissistic person can bring us far away from who we really are. To survive in an environment ruled by negative people, we have to be in a state of perpetual anger, defensiveness, and (self)hatred that is ultimately soul-destroying.

This kind of environment damages our neural pathways. To heal ourselves, we need to break away from these people and see them for who they are. We need to surround ourselves by positive people.

Quarantine yourself from toxic people. Grow your own wings and soar with the true friends who lift you higher.

Cal Newport, author of the life-changing book, Digital Minimalism, offers a strategy for an “Analog January” to boost our real world connections with positive people.


Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history. Her most recent novel Ecstasy is about the composer Alma Schindler Mahler. If you enjoyed this article, sign up for Mary’s newsletter or visit her website.


Author: Mary Sharratt

Mary Sharratt is on a mission to write women back into history and is the author of eight acclaimed novels, including ILLUMINATIONS, drawn from the life of Hildegard von Bingen, and REVELATIONS, which delves into the intersecting lives of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, two mystics and female literary pioneers who changed history. Visit her website:

18 thoughts on “The Company We Keep by Mary Sharratt”

  1. Great blog. It was hard for me and it is hard for many of my friends to learn that it is not in our power to change people who have no interest in changing themselves. We have been taught that we can change them, help them, that they are good deep down, etc. Whether they are good deep down is something we cannot know and probably won’t find out. We just need to keep them out of our space!!!! We need cut them out of our lives as much as possible.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Wonderful read for this morning. And agree wholeheartedly to back away from the normal ‘social media’ and other negative ‘energy-sucking’ places. Yes to yoga groups, yes to reading groups, yes to Women’s Circles!!! <3

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for reinforcing what I/we have learned the hard way and need to remember. Happy New Year! And I agree kitties are great company!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Excellent advice about detaching ourselves from mean people in mean and bullying groups. I’m with you! I have never tweeted and seldom participate in social media. I find it way too troublesome and would rather communicate with far-off friends like you and Carol and others via email. One to one, friendly, supportive. “Quarantine” is the right word.

    There’s nothing as good as a purring cat. Well, maybe except at 4 a.m. That’s when Heisenberg jumped on my bed this morning and loudly announced himself. Then he crawled under the covers and purred and purred and purred.

    I hope you’re writing about the rest of Alma’s life now. Post-Gustave, who was a nasty man and a bad husband. She deserved better.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Barbara, I think it’s worth mentioning that participating in social media is troublesome on many levels.

      I use nothing but FB and then only to post morning walks to the river when it suits me – sort of an open invitation to appreciate the world in the predawn hours – I do this because I enjoy the process and like to post pictures.. .

      Occasionally I post articles I think others might find illuminating!… One interesting insight is that almost no one reads them! For example I recently posted a really scary article on 5G – one person read it. Another on herbicides that are being sprayed on Junipers here in NM. Zero response. What this suggests to me is that many people use FB as a gossip column or feel good place – hmmm –


  5. Great post! Toxic people do great harm. “To survive in an environment ruled by negative people, we have to be in a state of perpetual anger, defensiveness, and (self)hatred that is ultimately soul-destroying.” I have to remind again and again. Get out of their field – let them go. I have a part time neighbor like this.
    One point worth mentioning – if you are around someone and feel as if you are being BLOCKED watch out – that person has no capacity for receiving and is therefore dangerous.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Gosh, I don’t have any links… but as a psychologist and a sensitive I can FEEL when someone is blocking me – so there is definitely some kind of energy field that I’m hitting – the gut sense I have is that my words are bouncing off a wall because there is no receiver present… and when my words come back to me toxicity is attached because I am carrying another person’s garbage…yuk.

    My job is to refuse to interact with these folks… I just got stuck yesterday in a situation like this because I was advocating for my dog who is ill – no cooperation was forthcoming – and the blocking sunk me temporarily- but because I knew what was causing it and how to solve the problem (no engagement) I’m now ok.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Valuable article, Mary. Oh, had I only come across this years ago! Would I have put it to use or struggled on stubbornly? Who knows, but it resonates and adds another layer of understanding now and reinforcement to be vigilant in future relationships and not be sucked back into the old ones, ruminating about what else I could have done, how much was my fault, was I the awful one and blind to it…blah, blah, blah…lol

    It helps continue the deep self-cleaning and extraction of ‘junk’. “Being with a narcissistic person can bring us far away from who we really are.” And it did as I tried to be supportive, which lead me to behaviors which felt ‘dirty’ to my soul and far a while I turned a blind eye. But soon one still loses their usefulness with such people regardless and then the real fun starts as the archer changes the focus of their sport and takes aim at you. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent post, choc full of great insights and advice. I find narcissists increasingly exhausting – EXHAUSTING – to be around, they just want to take and take and take, even when they are being seemingly pleasant and loving. My older daughter is similarly sensitive to them, and the two of us often get much more stressed out than my husband and younger daughter, both of whom have healthier boundaries and ability to summarily reject being treated poorly. That has taught me to help myself and my daughter work on fortifying our own boundaries and our belief that we deserve them.
    Thanks for the great post!


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