While it’s much easier to blame other people for everything that goes wrong… sometimes it’s us. Sometimes we’re the problem, we’re the toxic ones. Eek. There’s a truth no one really wants to admit.
First, it’s OK. Pretty much everyone goes through a period of being a little toxic and this isn’t a final destination. You can work on it and improve and get back to a positive, emotionally healthy place.
Whether it’s toxic traits and behaviors or a fully toxic personality, the first step is to identify it, and then you can make a plan to make changes to get yourself on a better path.
First, let’s look at some signs you’re toxic:
1. You aren’t happy for other people ever.
If you struggle to feel happy for other people, it indicates you aren’t fulfilled in your own life.
I know how hard it is to be happy for others when life just keeps knocking you down and you can’t seem to get anything right… but being jealous and envious or even upset at someone else’s good fortune just feeds the toxic beast inside you.
When these negative feelings come up, it’s a good opportunity to look within yourself. So you’re upset that your friend got engaged (well you’re also happy for her, but still kind of upset)… ask yourself why? Well, maybe you’re afraid it will never happen for you, that you are destined to be alone.
OK, now go a little deeper. Why do you feel this way? Well… maybe you don’t feel worthy of love because nothing has worked out in the past. Now keep going, really challenge the belief. Can you know for certain that you will end up alone? No, we can’t know that. So why feed into those negative/fearful thoughts? How is that serving you?
You may also not be happy for other people when they get something you already have. Ask yourself why. Well… maybe it’s frustrating to you seeing other people get everything they want so easily when you have to fight tooth and nail for what you want. Keep going… why does that bother you? Well… it seems unfair. Then ask yourself: does it serve you to think that life is unfair? Does that take you anywhere good? And the clear answer is no.
Don’t just let the negativity consume you. Challenge it.
Try to notice when your mind is going down that path and re-direct it. And as best you can, try to see other people’s fortune as motivation and inspiration, rather than a defeat.
They didn’t take anything away from you. They got what they wanted and they probably had many moments of struggle and doubt and eventually, your time will come.
2. You have a problem with everyone.
If you have a problem with everyone…. then maybe you’re the problem.
Yes, sometimes we do find ourselves surrounded by awful people, but if this is a constant in your life, then maybe it’s you.
First, like attracts like. Emotionally healthy people attract other emotionally healthy people. If you’re toxic, then you probably will attract toxic people. We all find comfort in the familiar even if it’s bad for us.
You may also seek out certain kinds of people because they validate the way you already feel about yourself. For example, if deep down you don’t feel good enough, you will be drawn to emotionally unavailable partners who treat you like you’re not good enough because they are validating the way you already feel about yourself.
It’s also possible that you aren’t taking responsibility for your own life and your actions and people are reacting to whatever negativity you’re putting out there and this is putting you on the defensive and putting you in victim mode, thinking you’re the innocent one and everyone is out to get you.
3. You can’t accept responsibility.
If nothing is ever your fault and someone else is always to blame… well, you may have a personal accountability problem.
Maybe you always need a scapegoat to explain away why your life is the way it is… it’s because all men (or women) are jerks… your parents messed you up… it’s society, it’s the economy, it’s the patriarchy and so forth.
Now I’m not saying there are never external forces… but it can’t ever be only external forces. It can’t be that you are not responsible for anything that happens in your life. It can’t be that you’re never to blame.
Emotionally healthy people can take responsibility for their lives. Toxic people don’t and instead play the victim. And let me tell you, no one likes a victim.
4. You think you know best.
Do you find yourself frustrated with the people in your life for making such idiotic choices that you would never make?
Are you overly harsh and critical? Maybe even a little controlling?
This behavior can come about when you feel out of control or frustrated in your own life.
Maybe you think you know best, but you also have to have empathy and recognize it’s not always so easy for people to change. It’s not always so easy to leave that relationship or that job or to stand up for yourself to family members.
You probably have your own experience of this so you should be able to recognize and have compassion when someone else is struggling in that area. The fact is, you’re probably more mad at yourself than at them for struggling in the same areas of life.
5. You aren’t nice.
As the saying goes… hurt people hurt people.
Are you a nice person? Or are you mean, nasty, quick-tempered, bitter, jealous, and spiteful?
Do you easily lash out at everyone around you? Are you rude and snappy with people most of the time? Are you constantly judging and rolling your eyes?
These behaviors come from a place of feeling hurt internally. So take a closer look at that- where is this really coming from?
Make an effort to be nicer to people in your life, from loved ones to cab drivers. This will make you feel better about yourself and will change how people respond to you which will steer your life in a more positive direction.
6. You’re an emotional vampire.
Emotional vampires tend to drain the emotional energy out of everyone they interact with.
They basically treat other people like emotional dumping grounds. They don’t really care what other people are going through, it’s all about them and their problems and their needs.
They have an excessive need for validation and rely on others to make them feel good about themselves. They expect other people to always be there for them even if they don’t return the favor and when people stop responding to them, they feel hurt and offended, believing others are out to get them or just don’t understand them… that people are bad and will always screw them over.
Healthy relationships are reciprocal and because emotional vampires have nothing to give, people don’t stick around for very long. And a lot of the time they lack the self-awareness to realize it’s the result of their behavior.
If this description is hitting a little too close to home, then start by looking at what you can give to a person instead of what you can get. You also need to address your lack of self-esteem because that is usually the source of it all.
7. You think you’re toxic.
Deep down… you usually already know the truth. If you suspect you’re toxic, then it’s very possible you are. Maybe you’re not a toxic person, but it’s possible that you’re exhibiting toxic traits that need to be managed.
Either way, something is going on that’s hindering you from being your best self.
How to Improve:
A lot of the time people become toxic as a result of being hurt in the past, maybe by their parents, friends, or in romantic relationships. First, recognize the source (or sources) or your pain, acknowledge it, and then work on healing those parts.
Some people can do this on their own through self-help books, journaling or meditation, others may need to work with a therapist or coach. Either way, you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge so stop sweeping it under the rug and just face it.
Take responsibility for what you can control. Just this alone will alleviate some of your toxicity! You can’t control other people or what happened in the past, you can only control yourself and how you react to things. You can control the meaning you ascribe to events. You can control how you interact with yourself and with others. So take ownership of those things.
Also, try and practice gratitude. Yes I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s very hard to be bitter and mean and angry when you’re coming from a place of gratitude. Chances are, when you take a closer look at your life you’ll realize it’s not so bad and you actually do have a lot to be thankful for.
Start small and try to just acknowledge one thing you’re grateful for each day. It’s even better if you write it down and also if you come up with something new every day.