Toxic has become a bit of a buzzword these days. From workplaces to relationships and family members, everything seems to attract a ‘toxic’ label if it’s considered to be a negative influence. But while it’s easy to label others ‘toxic’, have you ever stopped to wonder if the issues you’re having in life right now are because it’s you, rather than others, that’s toxic. It’s a sobering thought that few of us want to face, but if you want to change your life for the better, you’ll need to confront some tough home truths. Here are 9 surefire signs you’re a toxic person.
What is a toxic person
Before we count down the 9 signs of a toxic person, let’s explore the definition of a toxic person. According to Dr. Lillian Glass, a behaviour expert and the author of the book Toxic People, a toxic person is someone who makes you feel inadequate and worthless, and causes you emotional and physical distress.
But it’s a definition that should be used cautiously.
Because simply dismissing everyone who causes you emotional upset as ‘toxic’ is likely to limit your personal growth and prevent you from noticing when you’re in the wrong.
We all get upset when we feel things should go our own way and they don’t. When this happens, we often get angry, frustrated or disappointed with anyone we feel stopped us from getting the result we wanted – even when they aren’t to blame at all.
Hands up if you’ve caught yourself doing this. You know you’re being completely unreasonable, but you just can’t stop being annoyed with that person for messing up your plans.
That’s why applying a blanket ‘toxic’ label to every person (and situation) that leaves us feeling bad isn’t helpful or fair – to ourselves and to the person.
But, sometimes, of course, a person’s behaviour makes you feel bad… and it’s all on them. When this happens time and time again, you’re dealing with a toxic person – someone with a pattern of behaviour that creates misery for other people, often with the sole intention of making them (the toxic person) feel better about themselves.
9 signs you’re a toxic person
But what if you’re the source of other people’s upset on a regular basis? How can you tell if they’re overreacting or projecting their issues onto you, or if you’re a toxic person? If recent misunderstandings and disagreements with others have got you wondering “Am I toxic?”, here are 9 signs to watch out for.
All your relationships are short-lived
Toxic people are hard work to be around. They drain people of energy. And while many types of toxic people are charming, fun and spontaneous – making them great friends and lovers at the beginning of a relationship – these positive traits aren’t enough to make up for the negative impact they have on the people around them over time. Do you find that you make friends and get into relationships easily, but none seem to last? This is a classic sign you’re a toxic person.
People don’t share their good news with you
Toxic people often have a deep-seated insecurity or fear that there isn’t enough success to go around, so they often diminish other people’s success or try to sabotage their progress. If you have a pattern of doing this – knowingly or unknowingly – the people closest to you will protect themselves by not sharing their good news with you, so you don’t ruin the moment for them.
You’re often ghosted by friends and lovers
Yes, toxic people struggle to make long-lasting relationships, but how those relationships end can also provide a clear answer to the question “Am I toxic?”. If people often suddenly stop taking your calls and answering your texts, and instead disappear from your life without leaving a trace, this is another sign that you may be toxic to others.
We aren’t saying that ghosting only happens to toxic people – it doesn’t. Some people ghost others because they’re rude, inconsiderate or cowardly. But people often ghost toxic people because they just can’t reason with them. They don’t want to engage in explaining why the relationship/friendship needs to end because they know the conversation will go nowhere, so they quietly sneak off instead.
Drama follows you everywhere
Does the simple act of driving to work or walking to the shop lead to a fantastical tale that could be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster? It may feel like drama comes to you even though you don’t want it, but be honest with yourself and you’ll notice that you thrive on the high it creates and the attention you get from it. The problem with drama is that while it keeps life interesting, it’s pretty draining for those on the negative end of the dramatic experience.
You never feel the need to apologise
When was the last time you felt bad about something and offered a sincere apology? Can’t remember? That’s one of the most common signs you’re a toxic person. People who never apologise think they’re always right and that they’re better than everyone else. But of course, no one is ever right all the time, which means that you leave many people who need an apology feeling worthless, unappreciated or frustrated on a regular basis.
You’d rather be right than have peace
Toxic people often feel they’re better than everyone and they will go to the ends of the earth to prove this – even to their own detriment. Are you someone who carries on arguments when the other person has said they’ll “agree to disagree”? Do you go and gather evidence to prove a point when everyone else has moved on from the conversation? Pay attention to this as it’s a toxic behaviour.
People seem to gang up on you
Do you often find yourself in situations where everyone – whether family, friends or work colleagues – turns against you? And even though you’re convinced you’re right, they all insist you’re in the wrong? Yes, it’s possible that you’re surrounding yourself with non-like-minded people and that’s the source of the problem, but if people regularly gang up on you in different aspects of your life, it’s likely that’s because you do toxic things without realising.
You always have to win
How important is winning to you? Will you do whatever it takes to be the best – even if that means lying, cheating and manipulating others? Perhaps people often say you’re controlling? It may feel like something you do to look out for yourself in a tough world, but the truth is that being so self-centred can cause havoc to the lives of those you push out of the way to get what you think should be yours. This makes you a traumatic person to be around.
This article really irritates you
If you read this article and found yourself feeling really triggered, and justifying why some of the ‘signs you’re toxic’ mentioned in this piece are just plain wrong, that in itself is a sign that this article is about you. People don’t get triggered by things that don’t apply to them in some way. But don’t panic – we didn’t write this piece to make you feel bad about yourself, we wrote it to give you a wake-up call and an opportunity to bring more peace and happiness to your life and the lives of those around you.
How to stop being toxic
If you recognised any of the signs you’re a toxic person in yourself, the first thing you should know is that being a toxic person can be overcome with time, effort and self-awareness. You’re likely to have the greatest success if you explore this with a professional, like a psychotherapist, but there are also a few things you can do to tackle your toxic behaviours on your own.
- Be more aware – begin by paying more attention to your behaviour. When someone gives you the impression that their interaction with you has been negative, reflect on the encounter and ask yourself what you did that could have sparked that reaction.
- Course correct – if you’ve been acting in a toxic way for most of your life, you’ll struggle to start acting differently overnight. While you can’t change your behaviour instantly, you can do your best to course correct when you spot that something you did or said was toxic to others. This can involve apologising to the person or making a mental note to tackle that situation differently the next time it arises.
- Work on your happiness – as mentioned above, toxic behaviours often stem from a fear of not being good enough or that there isn’t enough success to go around. With this in mind, a good way to become less toxic is to do some inner work and bring some peace and self-love into your life. Get started with this article on how to change your life for the better.