Sometimes the problem in your life is you.
Do you ever worry that the reason your relationships are heading south... is you?
An anonymous Vingler recently reached out to me with the question: How can you tell if you're a toxic person? I was touched, because first of all, that's a very difficult question to be dealing with. Toxic people get vilified a lot, without a trace of empathy or an attempt at understanding. I dedicate this card to them, and to anyone who can identify with the qualities below.
If you are in fact what we call "a toxic person," it's not because there's something wrong with you; it's because you're actually very normal. Like so many people (probably all of us, at one time or another), you've developed an unhealthy attitude or behavior in response to life's difficulties. Maybe it was your emotionally unhealthy parents. Or a past traumatic experience. Or even just a lack of self-love.
Whatever the reason, don't hate yourself because you have a problem – simply acknowledge your flaws, and pledge to work hard on fixing them. No one is perfect; you don't have to achieve that. Your only responsibility is to work to become better. And someday, with time, understanding, and effort, you won't be a toxic person anymore.
Now, without further ado...
Here's how you can tell if you're a toxic person:
A Negative Worldview
You are the victim of an unjust world. Every problem in your life is someone else's fault, and you blame anyone but yourself for your bad mood, bad day, and every little bad thing that happens to you.
You're self-centered. You spend way more time thinking about your own problems than anyone else's. You often steer conversations so they're about you – your life, your worries, your experiences. You talk more than you listen, and take more than you give.
You're perpetually locked into negative thoughts and attitudes. You're critical and judgmental; you regularly gossip and tear other people down behind their backs. Other peoples' flaws make you feel better about yourself.
You don't often say what you mean. You play games, expect people to guess when something's wrong, and manipulate people into feeling and doing the things you want them to. Passive aggression is your M.O.
You pick apart every little conversation, because with you, communication is a matter of subtleties. You don't say what you mean, and so you don't trust other people to do the same.
Your life is full of drama – enemies, frenemies, fights. Your relationship is like a constant battle. And you always need to be right. You continue to argue the same point, even when you know you're wrong, or when arguing is really hurting someone you love. Fights become about the way you're talking, not what you're talking about. And of course, they become the perfect setting for your habit of throwing tantrums, acting out, and manipulation.
You don't know how to deal with your emotions in a healthy way. When things go wrong, everything falls apart. One bad thing means the end of the world. You exaggerate, but it's because you truly do feel utter panic and confusion when big feelings come knocking. You just don't know how to process them, so they end up taken out on the people you care about, or fueling toxic and unhealthy behavior patterns.
You engage in compulsive behavior or addiction. Alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc. These are more signs that you can't deal with your emotions in a healthy way... so you deal with them in an unhealthy way.
Obsessed with control. You want to control every tiny detail of your life, including the people in it.
Need constant validation. Because you struggle to feel an inner sense of worth, instead you're constantly striving to improve your self-esteem through the achievement of outward signs of success – a good job, flawless appearance, jealousy-inducing Instagram, etc.
You're a little desperate. You rely on your relationship more because you're lonely, needy, or afraid of being single than because you actually envision an amazing future with this person.
You hold grudges. Because you're unsure how to communicate your feelings, and unsure how to deal with negative emotions, it results in you holding on tight to past wrongs.
They can't do anything right. Your partner frustrates you to no end, because it's as if they can't do anything right. You're highly critical of them, to the point of hurting them deeply. But of course, you've gotta think... when all you see in the people around you are their flaws, maybe the problem has more to do with your vision.
So this is, of course, based largely on my own personal experience, augmented by some internet research. These are just the warning signs that you need to work on your emotional health and your interpersonal skills if you don't want to be a toxic, energy-draining storm cloud in your relationships. It doesn't mean you're stuck this way – it just means you have a little work to do.
My advice is to talk to a professional if possible. Mental health professionals get a bad rap, but they've helped people I love CRAZY amounts in the past. Seriously, talking to someone could take you from misery to actual happiness. Give it a try, and stick with it if possible.
Best wishes to everyone who feels like they've got a ways to go yet in their personal journey to wholeness and happiness. You've got this. <3