You see the word "toxic" everywhere these days, but what does it really mean? You've almost certainly come across someone who fits the description. Dealing with difficult personalities can be challenging and emotionally exhausting, to say the least.
Familiarising yourself with toxic behaviour helps you to navigate these stressful relationships. Here are some of the traits generally associated with toxic people:
Let's pause for a moment and reflect on these traits. It's easy to call people toxic. It justifies our emotions, gives us a sense of power and relieves us of responsibility. While it's true that some people are challenging to deal with, it's not helpful to think of ourselves as better or superior to them.
Can we say honestly that we don't recognise any of these characteristics in ourselves? Have we never been self-centred? Have we never been jealous? Are we never inconsistent in our behaviour? Come on, we're all human, and none of us is perfect!
The aim is not to allow such traits to become habitual. When we see these behaviours in others, we label them as toxic, tell ourselves that they are bad people with difficult personalities and try to avoid them.
It's true; nobody wants to spend time with selfish people. But being judgmental and scornful of them isn't necessary. In fact, labelling them as toxic could itself be toxic behaviour.
When your plans don't work out, and others don't act as you'd like them to, what's your response? If you feel inferior or insecure, how do you behave with those you claim you love? It's all too easy to hold others responsible for our own happiness and very easy to label them as toxic when it appears that they are not considerate of our feelings.
We are quick to forget that we are the only ones in charge of our behaviour and emotions, so we end up thinking angry, selfish thoughts. But it's precisely this kind of behaviour that toxic people show. So who's the toxic one now?
Labelling people as toxic distracts us from real, underlying problems. It lets us feel better about our own actions, thoughts and feelings, allocating blame and elevating ourselves rather than trying to gain a better understanding of other people and our relationships.
When we can accept responsibility for our own feelings, we are less likely to blame others for how we are feeling. But that doesn't mean we have to blame ourselves instead. Blame restricts our personal growth. We all make mistakes! The thing is to acknowledge the mistake and learn from it so that we don't make the same mistake again.
You don't need to be best friends with those who behave badly towards you or condone their behaviour, but you also don't have to make the problem worse. Instead, understand that toxic behaviour usually arises from a place of insecurity and personal inadequacy. We need to accept that everyone is at a different stage of emotional development and surround ourselves as much as possible with those who love and respect us.
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