It won’t be wrong to say that “toxic” is one of the most overused words of this decade. In a way, it's nice that we have all become so aware of our surroundings and the kind of people we'd like to keep around us to keep our mojo going. It promotes a sense of control and unparalleled freedom knowing that our surrounding energy has not only been chosen but is stable and conducive to our desires.
Many times, we come across people that just don't give us the "positive vibe". These people could be condescending, manipulative, and narcissistic. Some of them just like to dwell on negativity because it's become a habit of them. For this reason, they can't help but spread the same vibe to the people around them.
Some of us are generous with people of that nature; it's hard to accept or label them as toxic. So instead, we give them chance after chance. Then you have the "No Nonsense" people who tend to cut such people off when they're consistently ambushed with toxicity; some will even cut off others if they so much sense future toxicity; which is perfectly fine. Self-care first!
As a culture, we're becoming more and more aware of who would be considered toxic in our lives, toxic environments, and toxic cycles. We're growing and learning more on the external side of toxicity. However, sometimes, the toxicity that we continue to endure and witness may, very well, stem from within.
Question: How often do you monitor your own actions? Honestly. When you're in the midst of an unfavorable situation, does the thought occur to you that you're the problem? That you might be the one who's toxic, and not them or everyone else? If you're thinking and answering honestly, you can't deny the possibility, can you? Sometimes, we get so busy focusing on other people who are unjust or unappreciative towards us, that we forget to observe ourselves. Actively observe. Meaning, remaining self-aware and reflecting on yourself, your thoughts and actions at all times. Even in the midst of triggering emotions.
To make sure we don't fall prey to our own demons, we must keep a check on the vibes we give off through and through. Here are a few simples cues to find out if you are the toxic one.
What does it mean to be toxic?
So what's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of a toxic person? Negative people. So, if your words, actions, or ideologies are harmful to anyone, you’re toxic, right? Mmm, on some level - sure. But, let’s dig a little deeper than what the word appears to be from the surface.
What does it mean for words to be harmful? Verbal abuse? Maybe. But the term here is more relevant to how prone your words are to break someone’s spirit. Same with your actions. Advert or inadvertent.
Sometimes, the infliction is not instant. And, in this day and age with people being so uncomfortable with vulnerability, the harm caused is not always blatant either. Sometimes, it takes time to build up through repeated exposure, and that's when toxicity gets introduced. Things keep on adding up, and soon you realize what’s harming your inner self. Whether it's your thoughts, your mood, your self-esteem, your freedom, your happiness - any facet of your life.
The dangerous part of it is - maybe you'll never realize the source of your displeasure, attitude or hardship. It just becomes who you are. A lack of self-awareness does that. For some, the simple practice of self-awareness and reflection will fix a lifetime of problems.
Am I the toxic one? How would I know?
Most of the time, we are so focused on pointing out the faults of others that we forget to acknowledge our own flaws. We do not pay much attention to unraveling the issues within ourselves. Yes, let’s face it. We all have problems; certain loopholes in our character that turn out to be toxic for our own mind, body, and spirit.
With that, let’s have a closer look at a few traits and scenarios to be mindful of.
Warning: you might be surprised by how many of these you carry around.
people aren't as cheerful when they spend time with you
To understand if you're toxic, you must first practice self-awareness. You'll need to be observant of your friends, colleagues, and family; even the situations you find yourself in. Keep a mental track of people's moods when they hang out with you; especially versus others. Do they seem excited to see you? Are they engaging with you? Or does it feel like you need to "entertain" them in order to receive some level of interaction?
Most importantly, you need to observe their mood after you have spent some time with them. How do they seem before the hangout, during, and after? Of course, they are not going to discuss this with you; and it'd be awkward if you asked. Also, you can not read their minds. But, you can observe. We receive the most accurate information through observation when we're simultaneously observing ourselves.
Look closer. Look at their body language. Look for signs like droopy eyes, slouching posture, negativity, anxiousness, embarrassment, or stress apparent by facial expressions. Have they been holding their hands across their chest for as long as you spoke? That's a defensive sign.
Do they use words like "Nevermind" & "I don't know", " a lot while having a conversation with you? That shows that they are unable to express themselves to you, which could be for multiple reasons. But a great chunk of those reasons could be related to how you make them feel about themselves.
If you witness any of the above-mentioned traits in the person with whom you spent some time, you are not the best to hang out with. You might have hurt them with a comment or you have made them feel little about who they are. And that’s what you need to work upon!
You don’t give others the scope of being human. You’re immensely critical!
Take a moment and think about it. Do you keep finding faults in others? Do you keep telling others the ‘right way’ to do things? Do you keep looking for opportunities to make fun of others, their choices, their decisions, their lifestyle? If yes, then you need to stop right now!
Stop telling people the right way to do things. What do you think is the right way? Your way? Well… it might not be! If you are making them question their choices, you are just belittling them.
You might think that you are working to make them better. You need to understand that everyone has their own individuality, and everyone is entitled to have their own opinion.
If others are making mistakes, it is not your job to point them out. Unless you have been asked to do so. Make sure you don’t blur the lines between being concerned and being intrusive.
People keep canceling plans with you or they keep moving out of your life
Do you even need a louder sign than this? This one is the most evident sign of you cultivating toxic behaviors. You need to be vigilant regarding the ways others treat you.
Do they keep avoiding you? Have you lost contact with a few people in the past year even when you thought there was nothing wrong with the relationship? If yes, then I’m afraid, you are the toxic one!
It’s not confined to the above-mentioned signs. There might be some other ‘routine’ things that you need to look for, including;
● People don’t greet you in the office or strike a conversation with you (They don't want to kill their mojo in the morning)
● Your friends avoid adding you in their plans (There's a chance they think you'd ruin the plan with your negative comments)
● Your colleagues don’t invite you to gatherings out of work (They might think you'd ruin all the fun with your "don't do this" "don't do that" attitude)
● Others don’t ask for your opinion on anything (You always have a flaw to point out?)
If you have experienced any of these scenarios, you might be causing some sort of harm to the people around you. Remember, you never avoid anyone who makes you feel better!
You never accept that you could be wrong
There is nothing more annoying than someone who never admits of their wrongdoing. You know how they say, “Sorry and thank you are two magical words”. It’s true! These words work like magic spells.
If you never apologize, even if it is obvious for you to be at fault; instead, you keep justifying your stance and continuously defending yourself no matter how blatantly wrong you were. Definitely toxic.
Not apologizing or acknowledging, especially when you’ve been proven wrong is a big fat sign of toxicity. It presents you to be arrogant. People have different concepts and ideologies regarding apologizing. But remember! Saying ‘I was wrong’ doesn't make you small, it makes you real and respected.
You joke about others in social gatherings
Have you ever made a joke about a friend in a gathering so others would laugh and eventually start liking you more? If yes, then I’m sorry to say, you’re toxic AF! And kind of horrible...
That might sound a little harsh, but the effect that your jokes have on others’ minds is not any less harsh. Trust me, you are not perceived as funny if you do this. They all might laugh at that moment, but people who do this are obviously insecure, desperate, and confused; and the ones who are laughing are sure to recognize it. Your "under the table" actions will be the hot topic once you leave.
If you want to counter this idea with ‘it’s all cool with friends’, I want to add that it might be okay but maybe once, only if you have a close relationship. You need to understand the difference between banter and continuous slander.
Let’s turn the tables
Now that you’ve read what it’s like to be toxic towards someone, take a different approach to this. That “other person” that I talked about above could also be your own self.
Yes, it is possible that you are being toxic towards yourself for all these years without knowing it. You might belittle yourself, compare yourself with others, say negative things about yourself, don’t give yourself the scope of being a human.
If any of these is true, take a moment and treat yourself. The biggest favor you can do to your mind and body is being kind, towards others and to your own self.
Even if you were toxic towards anyone in the past, relax! There is no need to be harsh on yourself. You need to remember that you need light to get rid of the darkness. Be the light you are looking for. Be kind. Be real. Be authentic. The world needs more of it!