When thinking of toxic people and personalities, we most commonly think of other individuals around us and not ourselves. The youth are surrounded by content telling them how to act, feel, and respond to certain situations but sometimes they are not able to recognize that they are toxic themselves and it impacts the people around them. Having a toxic personality as well as toxic traits and being unaware of them can be a dangerous thing. It can heavily impact or strain personal and professional relationships alike. While some traits of a toxic personality have a bigger impact than others, leaving any of these traits unchecked can lead to a much larger problem than just losing friends and acquaintances.
What does it mean to be toxic?
Being a toxic person or having a toxic personality means perpetually bringing about negativity or negatively impacting the lives of yourself or the people around you. Apart from that, people with toxic personalities tend to live their lives with an insatiable attitude of wanting more, as nothing will ever be enough for them. They maneuver daily interactions in a way that will gratify them the most, regardless of the benefit or the cost towards others. Toxic individuals also tend to have selfish and narcissistic personalities which will directly reflect their actions and intentions.
There are many ways someone can be toxic. A very good example of toxicity is hurting someone’s self-esteem just because you don’t want them to feel good about themselves. Anytime somebody comes around with good news or is simply feeling happy and content, a toxic person will feel the need to find and point out negative things just to bring the other person down. This will result in the toxic individual having their jealousy satiated and feeling better about themselves as they may be lacking that same joy the other person felt and reacted in such a way to have the other person be on the same page as them.
When confronted with any scenario, a toxic person will strive to manipulate it so that they emerge victorious. Toxic people have an insatiable desire to 'win,' which may sometimes be at any cost. They will find a way to manipulate the situation, people, or the perception of others in a way that will benefit them the most. Even when an issue is hardly something to cause a fuss over, they will charge ahead.
Another aspect of toxicity that ties in with manipulation is indirect or violent expressions of anger. When a toxic person feels that their ego is being threatened, they will resort to displaying extreme reactions of anger or the threat of violence to establish dominance over another person regardless of whether they were in the right or wrong. A toxic person's purpose is to be louder and more terrifying than the other person because to them, the argument is won by whoever delivers the final blow, not by facts or reaching a compromise.
Finally, there's a superiority complex. To toxic individuals, there is no better person than them. They are the center of the universe and everything revolves around them. Even when confronted with facts that directly contradict their viewpoint or perspective, they will constantly claim that they are correct. This contempt for any truth aside from their own means that they are likely to be highly uninformed on any given subject. This also means that unless it is a deliberate gesture that eventually serves their objective, you will never receive a real apology from a toxic person.
How does this happen?
A toxic personality is not something you are born with. These are often learned behaviors as a result of an individual’s surroundings during their developmental stages.
Past trauma can lead to behaviors such as manipulating people, having bombastic and loud outbursts, and putting down anyone who is thought to be doing better than you. These behaviors are often used as a defence mechanism against what they perceive as threats. For example, if a person feels threatened by the possibility of someone knowing better than them, they might react by completely disregarding anything the other person says and shut down the conversation regardless of facts.
Toxic behavior can also stem from living in an ‘echo chamber’. This means living in a place where all your negative behaviors are mirrored and thrown back at you, thus reinforcing the idea that this kind of behavior is okay. There is power in numbers and when a person finds or is acquainted with other individuals who share the same characteristics, they will fall deeper into their toxicity because they are not alone. When your exposure to toxicity supersedes your exposure to normal behavior, your toxic traits become the norm and thus making it even more difficult to notice it in yourself.
Toxic behavior can sometimes also be the result of fear and internal insecurity. If you are not equipped with the knowledge of how to deal with fear in a healthy way, you are going to react based on extreme instincts. Behaviors such as putting others down to make yourself feel superior or trying to win an argument through fear and intimidation can be seen as defence mechanisms to maintain your own self-worth when presented with the achievements of others.
How do you know you’re toxic?
The first step in identifying yourself as a toxic person is to observe your behavior by analyzing the way you respond or react to different situations. For example in moments of insecurity, do you lash out and try to save face or do you take the time to think about why you are insecure?
Reactions to conflict and arguments are a huge sign of toxicity. Do you have the ability to approach an issue with an objective mind and accept views that differ from yours?
Accepting feedback from people about how your actions, words and behavior affect them is a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes it is difficult to think of ourselves as toxic but it is a very real possibility and one of the best ways to find out is to speak to those around you. They are the ones that experience or notice your behavior, so be open to criticism of your conduct from other people. Listen intently to what they have to say and how your behavior has affected them because chances are that if it affects one person, it has probably affected most people around you.
Does this make you a bad person?
It is never too late to change. Sometimes we don’t see our own toxic traits. Finding out whether you have them is only half the battle, what are you going to do next? If you choose to actively work on fixing those behaviors, then there is still hope for you to turn over a new leaf.
Having gone through traumatic experiences is not your fault. Developing undesirable traits as a result of that trauma is natural. However, healing and learning from your experience is your responsibility. You cannot control what has already happened to you, but you can control who you become as a result. Making a conscious effort towards self-improvement is necessary if you want to heal and become a better person.
Can you fix toxicity? Yes, here’s how:
The first thing you need to do is identify exactly what your toxic traits are. You can do this by asking the people closest to you. Get their opinions on how you behave, speak, & react to certain things and how that has made them feel.
Once you’ve identified your toxic traits, it is time to unlearn them. It is okay to work on one behavior at a time and to go about it at your desired pace. Unlearning behaviors is definitely not as easy as it sounds. If you react negatively in situations where others are happy today, work towards having a neutral reaction first. Try to work past your jealousy or resentment. Once you’ve mastered that, move up the ladder where you try to feel happy for the person that brings happy news with them or presents you with one of their achievements.
Commit to understanding and listening to how you make others feel. Validate the emotions of those who share them with you. Do not go back on your progress. People feel things for a reason and when it is about your behavior, take in every detail you can get and use that in your journey towards self-betterment.
Most importantly, be honest with yourself. No one wants to admit that they are the bad guy. Do not be ignorant. Acknowledge that it is possible to sometimes transgress against other people, whether or not you see it as such. Acceptance is always the first step towards recovery.
By: Areslan Bensaid