It’s a good practice of mental health to rid ourselves of the toxic people within our lives. Whether they are friends, coworkers, or family members, it’s important to separate ourselves from anyone that consistently brings us down and makes us feel less than great.
But how often do we search inward? How often do we pinpoint ourselves as the toxic person in our lives?
Toxic behaviors stem further than hurting your close friend’s feelings every once in a while. At the end of the day, toxic behaviors can negatively impact our relationships, self-image, and mental health.
Read on to find out exactly what a toxic person is, what toxic traits you may exhibit, and how to stop being toxic and prevent any toxic behaviors you might have from developing further.
What is a toxic person?
A toxic person is generally referred to as someone who consistently makes the people around them feel inadequate or unworthy and is a negative presence in other’s lives.
In other words, this person is the one you sigh at when you see their name pop up on your phone screen. They are someone who puts a pit in your stomach and causes your nerves to skyrocket, but not in a good way. Toxic behavior from our friends can make us feel sad about our decisions and how we view our lives.
Often, it’s hard to pinpoint this behavior within ourselves. We don’t often pick up on how our actions might be affecting others when we are in the moment.
If you exhibit toxic behavior, the people around you may have willed themselves not to show the effect you have on them openly.
Are you toxic?
Recognizing toxicity within yourself takes a lot of inner reflection because the signs can be subtle. You have to be honest about your actions and look at them from a completely unbiased point of view.
Maybe you think that people come and go in your life, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. But it’s important to reflect on these relationship endings – did they leave both parties feeling disappointed and upset? Did the separation stem from one of your behaviors in particular or was it mutual?
It’s also important to note that you, and you alone, are responsible for a lot of what happens in your life. This includes your successes, failures, and relationships with other people. Recognizing and taking responsibility for your toxic behavior is a great first step.
If you’re not sure if you exude toxic behavior yet, see if any of the traits below resonate with you. Then read on to discover what you can do to reverse some of that negativity.
Signs of a toxic person
1. You blame others
Toxic people do not own up to their actions. Instead, they often blame their actions on another person.
When they are caught in the wrong, they use toxic behavior to turn the situation around. This kind of behavior worsens their relationships with others because no one wants to be around someone who points the finger.
Often, toxic people think they can do no wrong. However, this is simply not true, and behavior like this, in addition to shifting blame to others, can permanently damage your relationships.
When someone else is always your scapegoat, they can start to believe it, too.
Therefore, it’s important to realize when you are inflicting harm on someone else’s self-esteem.
2. You avoid conflict
A toxic person does not solve problems when they arise.
You may find yourself changing the subject, putting your talk off until “later,” or not bringing up the subject again at all.
Regardless of whether it is with friends or someone else, if you tend to avoid difficult conversations with those around you, it can cause problems to escalate over time.
3. You are overly sarcastic
On television, sarcasm is usually seen coming from the character that is deemed “better” than everyone else. They may even be smarter or more popular. Therefore, connecting the trait to a person who sees others as beneath them on some level.
Although sarcasm is more commonly known as a characteristic of humor, it’s also a defense mechanism. You may use it in a biting way when you are feeling uncomfortable, but what’s important is how it makes others feel.
If you are continually sarcastic in a way that puts your friend down. For example, say they mention the option of a promotion at their job, and you respond with, “And you think they’d choose you for it? Ha!”- it’s possible there is a bit of toxicity to your sense of humor.
It’s important to remember how we might come off to others, even if we think we are just being ourselves.
4. You’re passive-aggressive
Much like avoiding conflict, another toxic way to get out of confronting your feelings is to react in a passive-aggressive way toward situations you could face head-on.
For example, your roommate uses your favorite mug even though you’ve requested her not to. One day, when you come home from work, you see it on the counter again with leftover orange juice inside of it. Instead of confronting her now while she’s home, you write an aggressively worded note on a Post-It and stick it to the refrigerator.
In short, your snide, written comments will never make the problems surrounding your mug go away unless you confront them with words and come to a compromise with your roommate.
This behavior can also be seen in the form of backhanded compliments, which can make the other person feel small when you talk to them.
Toxicity has everything to do with how our behaviors affect others. So, it’s important to take a step back and analyze these habits to become a better person to be around.
5. You compare yourself to others
Toxic people find themselves in constant competition with others. They will sometimes look at another person’s accomplishments as a personal insult to their own life.
They may find themselves jealous and resentful toward the people around them, which places strain on their relationships.
It’s important to remember that just because another person has something you don’t, it doesn’t mean that what you do have is worthless or less impressive.
6. You cut your friends and family off
Along with being selfish, toxic people tend to drop their friends and family over small incidents.
If you feel that the person you are cutting off is also toxic and is influencing your behavior, then that is a valid reason.
However, if this person tries to tell you about how they feel when you talk to them, and you decide that perhaps they don’t deserve to be your friend anymore – well, that’s a different situation.
It’s okay to not agree with everything others may say, but sometimes a little criticism is good for us. It’s human not to like hearing the bad things about yourself, but cutting everyone off will leave you sad and lonely in the future without any room for growth or improvement.
Signs of a toxic relationship
More often than not, toxicity rears its ugly head within relationships. It can be obvious, such as abuse or violence-but it can be subtle, as well. Behavior such as violence and restriction are easier to point out, but gaslighting and selfishness may be confusing and hard to understand for the person experiencing it.
When two people are constantly tearing each other down in physical and mental ways, it’s time to take a look at the relationship and understand if it’s time to call a toxic relationship quits.
Do you find yourself coming up with reasons why your partner shouldn’t do certain things?
For example, they want to go hang out with friends tonight instead of staying in with you.
Is your immediate reaction to try and convince them to stay because you’re lonely or because they hang out with their friends too much?
Or, worse – do you find yourself saying things like, “You probably think they’re more fun to be around than me, and that’s why you want to go out all the time.”
Though your feelings of being left behind are valid, there are better ways to say it to your partner that don’t leave them feeling guilty when they want to spend time with other people. This is a great example of toxic behavior because it puts guilt and blame on another person.
A better option would be to accept the feelings of loneliness and discomfort you experience when your partner leaves and then try to understand where they are coming from and why.
The toxic person in the relationship typically uses gaslighting to maintain control over the other. It’s been known to be a form of reality manipulation or making the other person doubt what they know is true.
However, gaslighting can be as simple as your partner bringing up something you’ve done that bothers them on a more superficial level. Instead of talking through what can make the situation better, the gaslighter will convince the person they are too sensitive, and that’s why they are so upset, or that they were just “joking,” so they shouldn’t be upset.
A gaslighter will never admit they are wrong, therefore exuding toxic behaviors.
Of course, everyone gets angry from time to time. But anger in a relationship with a toxic person can be especially draining to the partner that has to experience it.
If you find that your moods swing to and fro, so much that the tiniest thing sets you off, or if you know your anger keeps your partner walking on eggshells around you, it’s time to reevaluate your behavior.
There are anger management techniques and classes you can take to help control this emotion. Relaxation practices such as deep breathing and meditation, positive coping mechanisms, and exercises like yoga have been known to curb misplaced anger.
Despite being in a relationship, a toxic person will mostly still be focused on themselves and what good the situation does them.
If you are a “my way or the highway” kind of person, this is actually toxic behavior. It’s okay to want some things in life to go exactly how you envisioned them, but when it’s at the cost of another’s emotions, it may be a bad habit to keep.
Selfish behavior can show in everyday decisions that are wholly subtle, both to yourself and others. However, if you or your partner consistently chooses your own wants and needs in ways that hurt, your relationship may have turned toxic.
A simple way to avoid this kind of selfishness is to come to compromises with your partner. Relationships are about meeting in the middle. Therefore, talking through your decisions will help you both reach a balance.
How to avoid toxic behavior
To navigate how to stop being toxic, you can try some of the tips below.
Recognize your toxic traits
Recognizing is often the first step. It takes a bit of inner reflection to realize our toxic traits, but only once we do can we start to change.
Take some time to think about when your mood is at its worst, how do you react? How can you change that reaction to something more positive for both you and those around you?
Once you are aware of these moments, it will be easier to develop healthy habits down the road.
Your toxic mood probably affects the people around you more than you realize. It’s important to apologize for your emotional state and rebuild the relationships with the people you care about.
While it may seem easier to just cut everyone off that disagrees with you or calls you out on your habits, try to remember they are only trying to help you.
Confront your feelings
Rather than being passive-aggressive or using other avoidance techniques, it’s better to address why your feelings result in toxic actions.
Do you feel jealous? Angry? Guilty? Scared? Often, we lash out at others because we lack something ourselves.
It’s important to find the reasons why we feel a certain way and address those accordingly with positive coping mechanisms.
Invest in self-care
Ensure you are taking care of yourself, so that your attitude and mental health don’t take a dip.
Get ample exercise, sunlight, and eat proportionate meals a day that will fuel your body and mind.
After we take care of ourselves, we can then focus on others that are important to us.
Seek professional help
You don’t become toxic overnight, and you also don’t heal your toxic behavior overnight.
Many times, toxic behavior develops from our past experiences. If you feel that you exhibit any of the traits mentioned above and are looking for a way to better your interactions with the people around you, it’s a good idea to seek out a professional.
Having a conversation with a therapist or counselor to see what steps you can take to get to the root of your behavior and help you communicate better with others.