We can all agree that removing toxic people from our life is almost always a good idea. But what happens when that toxic person is you? We all possess toxic habits of some kind. Some of us feed into them knowingly, but most of us nurture them unconsciously. And, depending on how often you let yourself exercise toxic patterns, these behaviors can become so deeply ingrained that we’re unable to see them. After all, when habits become secondary, they’re hard to unlearn.
Giving ourselves the time and space to reflect on what we show the world can change everything—that is, if you start doing the work necessary to see yourself clearly. Choosing awareness has the potential to turn shadowy habits into positive traits that can help us elevate in life. But first comes turning the mirror around.
It’s never easy or fun to engage in serious self-evaluation, but there’s no other way around it if you start to get an inkling that the source of your problems might be you. When the same patterns began to follow me around in my romantic and platonic relationships, I was forced to do some uncomfortable but very necessary work.
Along my journey I also noticed that, as a society, we’re quite good at spotting the bad seeds and making the cuts where we see fit. We often speak proudly of the no-nonsense removal of toxic people from our lives, and encourage each other to do the same. But what happens when we go deep and realize that we are the biggest contributors to our own unhappiness?
I know that while I was busy calling everyone else toxic, I was avoiding dealing with my own little demons. Blaming and pointing the finger was a seemingly safe way to distract myself from what really needed looking at. This behavior was the result of a collection of harmful habits and defaults that I never felt “ready” to do anything about. I’d decided this was just who I was. It was my crutch to be a shitty person.
Simply being a human means that we will struggle with negativity from time to time, be it on the giving or receiving end. The point where we need to start paying close attention to this is when our negativity is keeping us from improving our life situation. Identifying the signs is definitely the hardest part, but whoever said healing was easy?
If you find that it’s difficult for you to take accountability or responsibility when something goes wrong, this is a sign. If you find yourself blaming everyone else for everything that goes wrong in your life—another sign. Feeling like everyone is out to get you? Hello, sign.. Here’s how to know you might need to take a good look at your own behavior and open up to a detox.
1. Your Friends Are Disappearing
Maybe you’ve noticed that people keep leaving your life quietly without ever telling you why, no longer inviting you to things or making plans with you, screening your calls, avoiding you. Be brutally honest with yourself about why your friends might be going AWOL. Express your frustrations in a productive way and set the intention to actually learn something about yourself, instead of gearing up for a fiery confrontation (enter: everyone-is-out-to-get-me complex). If you commit to making another go of the relationship(s), start implementing actual change and break the cycles you’ve created.
2. You Thrive on Drama
You always seem to be caught up in some kind of drama. It follows you everywhere you go, but you just don’t know why you keep on getting into these situations.
Although sometimes we truly can’t help what happens around us, it’s entirely different if you seem to be at your peak when things are going wrong. Drama is addictive. Reality TV is a perfect example.
Getting a buzz from a dramatic existence will eventually take its toll on you and those around you. Explore the reasons why this seems to be your preferred environment, take the time to identify the negative patterns that have become your norm. A possibility could be that you’ve always felt ignored and neglected, so creating chaos keeps you in the spotlight. Be willing to go deep and grab the root! Communicate with someone you trust or seek professional help and find productive solutions to get yourself off this carousel.
3. You’re a Constant Gossip
If you find yourself constantly bitching about other people or nitpicking at others’ action, you might want to take a look at your own. Humans use gossip as a method to distract themselves from their own faults and insecurities. We project on others what we can’t handle about ourselves.
If you’ve noticed that most of your conversations are riddled with gossip and dissecting the lives of others, it’s time to get to work. Our envy, jealousy, insecurities, and bitterness can easily get rolled up into one destructive fireball, and gossip is just one of the many symptoms this ball of doom spews out.
Gossip is almost always negative and these negative behaviors can be shockingly addictive. Have you ever noticed how sometimes it’s much easier to point out a shitty thing about someone than it is to put their best traits on the table? This is how toxicity works, and it sits in us all.
People will usually distance themselves from this type of individual as a way to protect their privacy, energy and general space. It’s very difficult to trust someone who is constantly gossiping because who’s to say they won’t speak about you in the same way when they get a chance. Pay attention to the format of your conversations and how much of them revolve around speaking about other people.
4. You’re Passive-Aggressive
This is one I’m constantly working on. It’s an easy out when things aren’t so good: indirect hostility that manifests in the form of silent treatment, using stubbornness as punishment, blaming, avoidance, and withholding.
These tactics, among many others, form what we know as passive aggressiveness. Confronting an issue as it’s occurring is something many people shy away from. Those who’ve gotten used to playing the role of “people pleaser” might even have résumé worthy experience in this area. Passive aggressiveness can quickly manifest into resentment and manipulation, and that’s a place you don’t want to default to.
Speaking up may be tough, it can definitely take some getting used to—but for any relationship to thrive, clear communication is imperative. Passive-aggression can cause serious harm to a relationship if it isn’t dealt with accordingly, although some may see it as a defense mechanism to protect themselves and it could even stem from childhood. It’s never too late to recognize it and do something about its existence.
If you’re reading this and feeling a bit triggered, it may be time to take a good, hard look in the mirror and start taking responsibility for your behavior. Although the challenge might feel insurmountable, you’ll quickly discover that, ultimately, you’re in control. And that’s truly empowering.