“You cannot control how people view you or what they think about you. You can only control what YOU think and how you respond.” ~Dr. Caroline Leaf
18 tips and words of comfort, hope and encouragement for anyone who has been falsely accused, scapegoated, or turned on.
If you’ve ever the misfortune of having a false narrative created about you; whether from an ex-spouse or partner, your ex’s new spouse or partner, someone else’s ex, a turncoat friend, family member, coworker, or church-folk…etc., there are steps you can take to safeguard your sanity and protect your heart.
Below are tips for navigating those circumstances, particularly a situation that you have to endure for a length of time. These concepts were compiled from advice from counselors and experts, as well as my own experiences and personal lessons learned.
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1. Know that: You’re not alone. You’re not crazy. You’ll be okay. This experience has happened to many others. It’s painfully frustrating, but not uncommon. History is full of people who have been turned on and spewed about; often by those they trusted and were good to.
2. Self-care and support will be crucial. Take care of yourself and stay connected to people who care about you. While you don’t want to tell everything to everyone, it helps to have a few solid people in your corner to carry a running conversation with.
It’s wise to have someone trustworthy to assess the situation clearly with, as well as to help you keep a kind, optimistic awareness of your worth and value in mind.
These situations tend to cause us to doubt ourselves and wonder if we’re in the wrong, crazy, and maybe even a bad person.
You need people who know you, who see and speak the truth, and will encourage you when you’re feeling down, confused, and overwhelmed.
3. Keep proof if possible (and necessary), but don’t go mad trying to build a case.
In a few situations, I came to the awareness that I’d been turned on by someone in order to preserve a relationship they had with someone else.
In anticipation of being confronted for things I had neither said nor done, and if the validity of our contact was questioned, I kept text conversations and an email thread that clearly showed the truth about me, and proved dishonesty within the accusations.
To be very honest…I still have them because the hurt and character assassination ran that deep (and lasted that long).
My motivation was the truth. Not winning, not exposing or hurting anyone in retaliation, just the truth.
4. Don’t wear yourself out trying to defend yourself. For some reason, in these situations when you try to defend yourself, set the record straight, clear the air, or prove what’s actually true—it only seems to make it worse!
Take a break from any related conversations and let things settle for a time.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to: J.A.D.E. (Justify, Argue, Defend or Explain) yourself to anyone.
5. Work on you in the midst of it. Become introspective, increase activities like exercise, reading, journaling, therapy, supportive groups, and so on.
Dig deep into a hobby or passion. It’ll be a great distraction with ending results you’ll be thankful for.
6. Take lots of quiet time for yourself. Separate from the situation when it causes surges of adrenaline and stress.
Instead, take a walk, power nap, meditate and pray, watch a short video, etc.
7. Read or listen to podcasts about smear campaigns and people who have dealt with false accusation (We discussed the topic in The Unhooked Podcast featuring Lisa Romano…as well there are many other resources available on the subject).
8. Intentionally decide to navigate the situation with integrity, courage and grit, and in ways that your future self will be proud of.
Eventually you’ll tell the story as a memory, give yourself some highlight moments to be proud of.
If there is any validity to the accusations, work on those things, make amends if possible…forgive yourself and proceed to do the next right things.
Walk in integrity and continue to do good things.
You’ll be proud of yourself for it.
9. Understand that healthy people communicate fairly. If you were dealing with a safe, stable person—they would allow you to discuss whatever issues there were, and to make amends, had you truly done something evil and offensive.
They also wouldn’t have to gather allies and unite others to believe a “villain” narrative about you.
Spreading conflict and pulling others into it is proof positive that this is an emotionally toxic, unstable person.
It’s an unfair, unhealthy way to handle hard feelings.
(And…it’s called trouble-making.)
Anyone who has to scheme, lie about you, and/or turn people against you is not healthy, happy, or confident.
And for whatever reason—they’re threatened by you. Why else do they need people to think you’re the Boogie Man?
People who incite conflict aren’t strong people. They’re not powerful or confidant. And neither are their allies.
Those who unite with others to turn on someone have a collapsible bond.
They also have a way of turning on each other once you put a wall of peace up and they can no longer get to you.
10. Remember – it’s not all or nothing. Don’t get into a battle of trying to make yourself look like the angel, and the other person like the devil, or vice versa (even though that’s exactly what they are doing).
It’s not about that. It’s about the truth.
11. Speak the truth as needed, if needed, if the situation comes up with others and you feel safe to share with them, do so with simple facts versus feelings…facts versus insults.
Tell the truth and trust it to defend itself.
It eventually becomes clear to wise people that anyone eager to spew poisonous details about someone probably shouldn’t be trusted.
A person needing an army to join them against someone else is not normally a strong, safe person.
Even though it seems to take forever, trust the process of truth.
The truth is a powerful ally.
12. Don’t make yourself small. Try not to isolate, allow it to negatively change you, or cause you to shrink.
But, if you need time away from others, take it.
Personally, I had been so impacted by a scenario of this at one time that I began avoiding situations where there could even be a possibility of the risk of an ambush of drama.
There were times I just couldn’t handle it.
I steered clear of anyone I felt might be connected to the spreading of a “villain” narrative, or might be prone to drama. Anyone who might be quick to believe the worst about me, and intentionally treat me with rudeness as a result—got no access to me.
I had to allow my mental/emotional health, and my confidence to recover in order to feel strong and safe again. Otherwise I wasn’t able (or willing) to subject myself to potentially negative, unfair treatment.
And that was okay. That was what I needed to do to be healthy.
13. Be aware of those on the sidelines who have been eager to turn on you, quickly siding with the one spreading the drama.
Those people more than likely had toxic feelings about you all along.
Or they just love drama.
A targeted person often creates a feeding frenzy for those who enjoy a spectacle.
Either way…going forward and in order to guard your heart—it’s wise to remember who was easily persuaded to think the worst of you and pile on.
What they’re bonding over is a toxic, counterfeit connection. Don’t envy (or pursue) them.
14. Turn it over to your faith. Every day, all day as much as you need to! If you are a person of faith, this is hugely helpful.
When I felt the most triggered, threatened, burdened or attacked; I would take it to my faith over and over again until I felt a release of stress and pressure.
Peace would always eventually come.
Trust and believe that God will vindicate you and will do a much better job of it than you ever could for yourself.
God is your Defender and Rescuer. Rest in that as often as possible.
15. MY FAVORITE RESPONSE!
Do something awesome for yourself! Set a goal, or give yourself a gift (or both!).
Goal: Run a 5k, set a date to lose the 10-20 pounds you’ve been planning to shed, save and go on a dream vacation, take a class, go for a degree, try for a promotion, write a manuscript or article and try to get it published, etc.
Gift: Do something kind and positive for yourself such as buying some new jewelry, lotions or other products that you love. Treat yourself to some new clothes, get tickets to a concert or play, go on a weekend retreat, and so on.
I’ve done it! And I loved it. When facing a few toxic situations, I responded by saving extra money and going on a trip with my son to see the ocean for the first time. Another time I trained for and ran a marathon. On another occasion, I studied and obtained a license in order to go for a higher position at work.
I turned my energy and focus about the person and the problem in those directions instead. Handling things that way actually turned some pretty miserable and toxic situations into beautiful memories!
This response has been a great design for managing adversarial situations throughout my adult life, there is no response I would recommend more!
Doing something to benefit yourself in direct response to the troubling behavior of others repeatedly re-routes your mind from the mess and pain of the situation, toward something healing and healthy.
And will give you something positive out of it! Secretly you’ll even have something to thank them for. That takes a lot of the sting and poison out of it.
16. Work on your perception of yourself. You are valuable! You MATTER. Work on what YOU believe—despite what anyone else does.
Your value, good character, good heart, good intentions and your well-being do not come from or depend upon a person slinging mud (or the bystanders joining in).
Even if they were at one time close to you and privy to personal things. Doesn’t matter. They’re not your source of peace, power or worth.
You must regroup and regain footing apart from the situation.
Once you do—you’ll feel bullet-proof.
17. Remember – what goes around, truly does come around. People always reap what they sow, that is a guarantee.
What’s happening is poison—if you will remove yourself as much as possible, eventually that poison will run its course and return to them.
Hopefully their journey leads them to an awakening.
Wish them well; wish them and those around them awareness, and keep going.
18. Keep in mind that this too shall pass.
One day, someone else going through this same experience will cross your path, and from personal knowledge you will be able to give them insight, hope and encouragement.
You will be able to give the comforting reminder that…this too shall pass!
I wish you well—keep going,
Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache
Host of: The Unhooked Podcast
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For information, comfort, encouragement and support:
Parent Support – TAPU
Family Recovery Support