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Toyosi Phillips: Sandpaper People



TCD_0267-2 I read about “sand paper” people a while ago. People who grate your nerves; they are a pain to be around.
There are different kind of sandpaper people- those who continually complain about things, pointing out things in others that need to be changed.

There are those who are constantly morose and melancholic; every moment with them is spent trying to cheer them up.
Listen, cheering the same person up over and over again can be tasking!

What is equally tasking is dealing with those who don’t see any good in anyone other than themselves and their families… make that, their immediate family.

These categories of people fall under the huge umbrella of sandpaper people.

When I realized this and identified the few around me, I started making a conscious effort to stay away from them for my own sanity and peace of mind. Yeah, it’s okay, call me selfish because that’s what I was.

There was this girl, back then at Uni who was always ALWAYS complaining.

“Hey Ife* how are you?”

“I don’t even know again…”

… and the stories will start, every time!
After a while, I realized that I always left Ife feeling depressed; like she transferred the depression to me whenever we spoke. So, I avoided her… till we graduated.

Fast forward to years later, after having to deal with all sorts, I realized that people are placed in our lives for different reasons; including sandpaper people.
I learned that the same way real sandpaper is used to smoothen out surfaces and sometimes even remove a layer of material off a surface, sandpaper people can play a huge part in removing certain inadequacies in our lives.

What many people know, but don’t remember regularly, is that there’s still so much to learn!
My reaction to Ife became the norm for me. When people showed weird traits/behaviors that rubbed me off the wrong way, I said to myself, “You are not a tree. Move!” and I moved; away from people that troubled my peace of mind and grated my nerves.

I refused to entertain their negativity and it was super easy until I got convicted. I got convicted for cutting people off so frequently and without even trying to address the issue with them. I had become unstable without actually realizing it.

What I heard was, “I’d rather be a tree than a flag being blown in every direction.” Bruh! I had a conversation with myself.

The truth is, there is something to learn from everybody – just like there’s something beautiful in everything we see.
The problem is most times we’re not looking hard enough or we’re just looking out for the flaws.

It took, and continues to take, some effort (as with most things in life) but I’m now focused on learning something from every interaction I have.
Some days are more difficult than others to be honest.

I remember having a conversation with a friend who was always on the offensive. Meeting up with her was draining because she would ask weird questions and say bizarre things. It was so bad that by the time I was done responding to everything, I’d be TIRED!

I decided to talk to her about it and I said something in the lines of- I feel like I’m on the defensive a lot when I’m around you, your questions almost always sound off.

Her response in her words was, “I’m anal like that, when I like people, I bully them… I bully my friends.”

I dusted my shoes and fled. I will not be abused in my 30s.

I don’t believe in coincidences in my life. I believe in the “footsteps of the righteous being ordered by the Lord”. So in sandpaper people situations, I ask myself questions like, “Am I being taught to love more, through this experience? Am I being taught to be more tolerant? Is there a trait in this person I shouldn’t be overlooking? What can I learn from this person?

A sandpaper person may be someone who is always asking for money or anything the person sees with you. In that situation, I ask, “Am I being taught to give more or being taught self control?”

I’d say, so far so good regarding this fairly new resolve.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that, there’s a lot to learn from everyone and every experience. Sandpaper people can be special, but we all need our kinks smoothened out so…

Over to you: what other kinds of sandpaper people do you know?

Toyosi Phillips is a Lagos-based producer, presenter and writer. She produced and hosted “The Gist with Toyosi Phillips”, an entertainment show on SaharaTV New York for two seasons and co-hosted Sahara FM's weekly radio show from 2014 to 2015. She guest-writes for different publications including Bellanaija and Genevieve Magazine and is quick to mention to everyone that she saw Oprah at the 2016 Essence Festival in New Orleans. Her vlog turned talk show, "As Toyo Sees" will be airing on networks world wide soon. For more news and updates, - Subscribe to her YouTube channel (Toyosi Phillips) - Check out her website - Follow and interact with her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn @toyosiphillips


  1. Uranon

    April 10, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Which one is sandpaper people again ? I though these were called emotional vampires? Any way maybe sandpaper is a sub-category of emotional vampirism

    Ye sit is so important to guard your own mental health and wellbeing these days.

  2. The Buttery Hotness

    April 10, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    I don’t know why, you guys, but the visualisation of this part slayed me:

    “Hey Ife* how are you?”

    “I don’t even know again…”


    Nice article, btw.

  3. cocozee

    April 10, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I run. I always run from friends that stress me so right now I am officially friendless lol.
    I took a lot of negativity from a friend I had years back and since then, at the first hint of wahala I run.
    Made friends with a colleague and neighbour in Nov. I have known her for years..never more than a polite hello until Nov. She helped me get accommodation in the same building .worst decision of my life.
    She doesn’t talk to any neighbour and has a bad story about everyone.
    The last straw was about a new colleague. She barely knew this pretthy lady in her late 20s and she was already hating. I was upset and called her attention to her constant negativity about others. She flipped and raised her voice that I should never in my life tell her that again. She went further to say she hated the newbie and can’t stand her sight. Such hatred! She is in her 40s and so bitter. I am a decade younger and I don’t want to end up with such a butter.person as friend. I have had to console her on countless ocassions. When her youngest sister was getting Married, she shouted on her mum on the phone for telling her and came to cry herself to stupour in my place.
    She is in her 2 nd relationship since Nov and I have had to beg her boyfriend no 1 and boyfriend no 2 on several ocassions cos she insulted and cursed out at them.
    I moved on 2 weeks back. I am done!!!! I don’t greet her or even say a word to her. If we meet on the stairs or at work, I just walked past.
    I don’t need no sandpaper wahala in my life!!!?

  4. cocozee

    April 10, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    BTW I am trying to get another apartment. Iol.

  5. ogeAdiro

    April 10, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    “I bully my friends.” My question to that person would’ve been “and you’re happy?” It is easier for me to ghost the “sandpaper person” when he/she is not a strong ally. But when that person is in the circle of trust, I just fight with them. I’m just very careful so I don’t start bullying them in return.

  6. bella

    April 10, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    most pple around me say i am annoying…they really don’t want to be my friend. but deep down i know i am not envious,i celebrate with u if u are celebrating and i genuinely care about pple. i hardly talk about someone behind their back, i am very quick to apologize. i am beginning to think…am i that bad? what is really bad about me? or is it the people around me that are weird? should i change my circle???

    • Mz_Danielz

      April 10, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Maybe you are that good and your goodness doesn’t fit with their badness or you have flaws.

      Try changing your circle and see. In the end, self love is important

    • Rachel (pronounced Raquel)

      April 11, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Maybe they see you as trying too hard to be a goody two shoes, that can also be annoying. I’ll just say pray and be at peace with yourself.

  7. cocozee

    April 10, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    What happened to my long story? Lol .

  8. alwayshappy

    April 10, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    Yes sandpaper people are good for something – they teach you who you don’t want to be, they also teach you self- awareness. As long as you don’t give them access to your mental health and wellbeing or make them the fountain you are drinking from you won’t get poisoned, or contaminated. Once you determine someone’s dosage of energy is unhealthy , omo based on logistics find your lane and keep your legs on the gas…………………………#hittheroadjack

    • Rachel (pronounced Raquel)

      April 11, 2017 at 11:45 am

      As in do not give them any access to your mental health o. These people can run people mad

  9. Iya

    April 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Ha! Imagine when you’re dating a sandpaper person. OH. MY. WORDDD!!!!!!! EXHAUSTING.COM! When he’s sad I comfort him. When I’m the one who’s sad I’m STILL the one comforting him for my own sadness. It was terrible. Unbelievably exhausting I tell you! One of the first qualities I’m now looking out for in who I want to marry is an encourager. I was so scarred from that relationship. My goodness!

  10. Deji

    April 11, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    I think the fundamental problem here is that the writer has failed to distinguish between ‘Aquaintance’ and ‘friend’. The ‘sandpaper’ person was never ur friend in the first place and these problems have always been there, you just got tired of pretending.

    Know yourself and be true to yourself. Make the distinction. I think it’s wrong to label people just because they are different from you. At least your ‘sandpaper’ acquaintance is real and true to herself, which cannot be said of you.

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