You can sympathize with pessimists; they may have gone through trauma that has left them stoic and sad. But they don’t steal your joys.
Toxic people, on the other hand, are a bad-natured breed. They will find you, suck your joy, and infect you with their bitterness.
They can trigger toxicity in any relationship. Seeing the worst in others and wishing the worst for them comes naturally to them.
So, do you think you’re just being pessimistic? Or have you actually become toxic without realizing it?
Are You A Toxic Person?
You are a toxic person if you make life difficult for those around you. You are toxic if you cause mental distress, damage relationships, blame and guilt-trip others, bully and troll people, cheat others, and are always mean to those weaker than you. If your sole delight is to see others suffer losses, then you are toxic.
Toxic people are harmful to others in their words and their behavior. There are several ways one may harm others once they turn toxic.
7 Signs That You Have Become Toxic In Life
A toxic person is more than someone who always sees the negative in others and their surroundings.
Here are some signs to know if you have become a toxic person:
1. You always look for and point out faults in others.
Some fault-finders are crucial team members because they allow the team to spot problems and rectify them before a product’s final release.
The problem arises when you take it as your personal mission to find flaws in everyone and everything. So, you put down even the most brilliant ideas with remarks like “But it’s not going to work because …”
That unwarranted fault-finding is a toxic habit.
Then, if you are a narcissist, you try to manipulate them by serially lying about what they should do rather than what they are doing.
“A toxic person is a malicious and manipulative person who finds pleasure in bringing and seeing others down.”
2. Your natural reaction to people you meet is sarcasm.
Are you the type of person who, when someone says something nice about you, responds with,
- “That’s a pathetic attempt to impress me,” or
- “What favor do you want from me?” or
- “Can you really flatter me like that?”
Then, you are the sarcastic person who doesn’t know how to be kind when someone is being good to you. Your act of making a mockery of their compliments toward you makes you a toxic person. By the way, sarcastic people are smarter than people think of them.
If you always push people around you to act happy and see the bright side of things, then you are spreading toxic positivity.
3. You are a wicked pessimist who wishes bad things for others.
The American Psychological Association defines pessimism as “the attitude that things will go wrong and that people’s wishes or aims are unlikely to be fulfilled.”
At times, anyone can get pessimistic and see the world through a glass-half-empty lens. However, if your attitude of expecting negative outcomes, even when everything is going well, is pervasive, then you qualify as a toxic person.
If you always look for ways to demotivate others, focus on what could go wrong, think that the risks outweigh the benefits, undervalue people’s abilities, or kill people’s dreams and hopes, then you are an extreme pessimist.
An extreme pessimist also tries to deflect criticism by falsely claiming to be a realist (someone who sees what is real or actually possible) while denying that they are actually toxic.
4. You impose your opinions on others while discarding theirs.
You’re considered a toxic person if you always try to see others through your own values.
You ignore their unique situation and set out to judge them solely based on your own righteousness.
When you witness people in misery, you feel obligated to preach to them instead of simply empathizing with them. In fact, you might not even know what empathy is.
This is a toxic attitude since it assumes that every problem must have a solution that worked for you or that you think will work for them. As they say, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
“One man’s gospel truth is another man’s blasphemous lie. The dangerous thing about people is the way we try to kill anyone whose truth doesn’t agree with ours.” ― Mira Grant, Blackout
5. You run away from taking responsibility for your actions.
You find it very hard to feel responsible for your own actions, and instead, choose to blame others for your issues.
Toxic people often find it difficult to admit fault, and may even go as far as to deflect responsibility onto others.
If you find yourself constantly pointing fingers and never taking ownership of your mistakes, it may be time to take a step back and reflect on your own behavior.
6. You love to engage in gossip and drama.
You indulge in rumors and gossip, which can create a toxic environment for everyone involved.
By the way, gossip is idle talk about someone’s private or personal matters, especially when they are not there.
Toxic people often thrive on drama and gossip, and may even start it themselves to create a sense of excitement or control.
If you find that you are usually in the thick of the drama, talking negatively about others in their absence, it may be time to re-evaluate your behavior.
If you always assume that others have a bad side that you must expose, you might be negatively harming their reputation with your half-truths.
“People are almost always better than their neighbors think they are.” ― George Eliot, Middlemarch
Beware, your “rumor-mill” behavior can harm others as well as also harm your own reputation and relationships. And, as they say, your reputation precedes you.
7. You constantly criticize and demean others.
You are always hyper-critical of other people and have a negative image of them.
If you find that you are always putting others down and never recognizing their worth, it can be a sign that you have become toxic in life.
This can also harm your relationships with others, as it can make even your closest people feel unsupported and undervalued.
Write down one thought that comes to your mind when you think about the people in your life. If the bulk of them are critical, you must start changing yourself for your own and others’ well-being.
Can you change from being toxic?
We can change from being toxic. Science suggests that our personalities are not fixed. It is true that our personalities are shaped by our life experiences, but they are not static. All of us can be better versions of ourselves, though it takes effort to change our habits.
Our results, therefore, suggest that personality can change and that such change is important and meaningful. ― Boyce, Wood & Powdthavee (2012)
We shouldn’t carry shame for life for our toxic habits. Instead, we should take pride in that we are working to overcome them.
How do you change your toxic personality?
Acceptance is the first step toward transformation. The ball of self-empathy begins to roll when we recognize our harmful behavior. This, in turn, raises our self-awareness and prods us to become better versions of ourselves.
Here are a few suggestions to change your toxic nature:
1. Don’t offer unwarranted critiques or help.
For a change, keep your critical opinions to yourself until you are invited to share them.
While being happy to help is a healthy attitude, forcing yourself to help on every occasion is a terrible habit. Stop that today.
2. Don’t react to everything with cynicism.
Don’t be cynical all the time. For a change, say “Thanks!” with a smile when someone praises you or your efforts. Gratitude has immense power to raise your happiness levels.
The modern definition of a cynic is someone who believes that human actions are entirely motivated by selfish interests. But the original Cynics were a school of philosophers who believed that the purpose of life is to live in virtue. It was a Cynic who mentored Zeno, the first Stoic.
- Don’t force someone to be happy when they are grieving. Grief is an individual experience and everyone can have their own time to process their grief.
- Don’t justify why someone should be sad when they just received a piece of great news. The happiness of the moment is the only real joy of living.
Instead, try to focus on positive conversations and activities that uplift those around you.
You always have the power to choose what kind of energy you bring to any situation, and choosing positivity can make a world of difference.
A positive environment can improve your relationships and contribute to a healthier, happier community.
3. Don’t seek advice only to dismiss it.
As a toxic person, you may have the habit of asking people for advice and making them believe you are in desperate need of their help. But as soon as they respond with their suggestions, you start to bring down their well-intended ideas with negativity.
Many of us have a few self-sabotaging toxic habits, like stress, indiscipline, mind-wandering, unrealistic expectations, and inappropriate language, though we may not always show them.
Actually, you merely desired their attention by posing as someone in need of aid and support. Over time, people become aware of your hidden intentions and distance themselves from you.
Stop asking for people’s advice if you do not intend to value them. Don’t lead people up the garden path to satisfy your narcissistic ambitions.
4. Take responsibility for your actions.
Learning to take responsibility for your actions can help improve your relationships with others, as it shows that you are willing to be accountable and work towards resolving issues.
It can also help you grow as a person and become more self-aware. Remember, taking responsibility is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength and maturity.
Can I be toxic to myself?
You can be toxic to yourself and your overall toxicity can cause you to harm yourself. You may try to justify yourself to yourself when doing wrong, and end up being punished. You may try to boost your self-esteem by comparing yourself to others. You may stand up for yourself so strongly that others leave you in fear. You may neglect self-care at the cost of scheming against others.
How do you become toxic in life?
A toxic personality habit can be the result of our childhood environment. We may have had a narcissistic parent who treated us poorly when we were young, or we may have had a teacher in school who was always hard on us. The way we reacted to those situations got ingrained deeply in our brains. When we face a similar situation as adults, we may react in the same way as our parents or teacher did. We may even react with increased toxicity.
Does everyone have toxic habits?
Almost everyone has a few toxic habits. We sometimes spread gossip, pass unkind comments, tell white lies, vent our wrath, and gaslight without intention. We may react with unexplained anger, put others down, boast of our achievements, get envious, or cheat a little. Some other common toxic habits include being overcritical, outspoken, confrontational, revengeful, impulsive, or overthinking.
A toxic person is someone who habitually exhibits hostile and hurtful attitudes and feelings toward others without taking the blame for their unkind acts.
However, it may be difficult to know if you are toxic to yourself if you’re not aggressive in nature and show the toxic signs only when stressed. In such cases, look for a poor self-image, constant anxiety and stress, and chronic anger as clues that you may be toxic to yourself at times.
Toxic people can bring their own brand of misery to daily life, depending on where they are, at the workplace, at home, in clubs and gyms, and even on vacations. Their toxicity rubs off on us to the point that we literally get a sour taste in our mouth the moment they are near.
Make sure you are not the one who unconsciously gaslights a relationship into becoming toxic.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental health, happiness, positive psychology, mindfulness, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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