While it’s true that other people’s opinions about us don’t matter in the way we fear they might, it’s also true that other people’s collective response to us can tell us pretty much everything we need to know about who we are.
It is a brutal course in self-awareness, to realize the pattern in the way people react to us tells us so much about how we are in the world.
And yet it is so true.
It’s a good sign that you’re willing to wonder how your actions affect other people. The most toxic among us are also the least self-aware. They are the last to admit that they are the problem.
If you are a toxic person, you’re not going to resonate with the warning signs that are listed for people trying to identify one in their lives. If you’re well enough to at least recognize it and try to work on your poor relationships with other people, you will likely resonate with any of the following.
– You have severe social anxiety and fear of public humiliation.
– You avoid and criticize people as a means of dominating them.
– When friends share parts of their lives with you, you pick out what’s wrong rather than expressing happiness for them.
– You are constantly trying to coach or “fix” the friend or family member with whom you have a poor relationship. You are constantly harping on why their behavior is unacceptable, but at the same time you don’t remove yourself from your relationship with them.
– You have very few friends, and are highly attached to the ones that you do.
– You only express love or admiration when you need something.
– In the past year, you have not once admitted to another person: I was wrong, I will do better.
– You oscillate between feeling as though you have a grandiose, god-like purpose on Earth, and feeling as though you are one of the most disgusting, unworthy beings to ever exist.
– You do not get along with many people fundamentally, but you know you’re able to charm them into liking you one way or another.
– You notice that people tend to step away from relationships with you, and seemingly avoid you.
– Many people have negative things to say about you, but there seems to be a consensus about what those negative things are, and you seem to make enemies virtually everywhere you go.
– You are at least marginally aware of past trauma that’s keeping you feeling vulnerable, exhausted and in pain almost all of the time.
Whether or not any of the above resonates with you, the final litmus test is this: Are you a consistently negative presence in someone’s life, and yet seem to always manage to convince them to keep you around? Are you at least somewhat aware that you’re hurting someone, and yet feel too afraid to apologize, or stop?
The first thing you need to know is that you are not alone, you are okay, but you have a lot of healing to do.
Your toxicity in your relationships with other people is actually an extension of the toxicity in your relationship to yourself. What you have is not an issue with how you relate to others, but a fundamental trauma that is preventing you from being at ease within yourself. That is what you must address. You can enlist the help of a medical professional to help you, and in fact, you should.
But the first thing you need to do is listen. If someone tells you that you are hurting them, do not respond with a list of reasons why you are not.
Do not deny that you are negatively impacting someone’s life if they claim that you are. People do not say such things for no reason.
Right now, empathy might feel like too huge of a shift to fathom. That’s okay, you don’t have to begin there. Start, instead, with trying to have compassion for yourself, and gently removing yourself from relationships in which you are not a positive presence in another person’s life.
The coming weeks, months and even years will be a time for you to spend by yourself, sorting out your own traumas. You are not hurting others because you are a bad person, you are hurting others as a defense mechanism. That doesn’t make it okay, but it does give you an explanation.
And most importantly, it means that you have to heal.
If not for yourself, but for the sake of others.
Do not allow your legacy to end like this. Do not allow your life to be like this.
Apologizing is a start, but it doesn’t solve the problem. The work that is yours is to change who you are. It is time to be selfish in the sense that it’s time for you to stop worrying about what’s wrong with everyone around you and start really focusing on what needs to change within you first.
The happier you are, the kinder you will be. You are not helpless, you’re just wounded. There is a light, and you can see it.
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline, 1–877-SAMHSA7 (1–877–726–4727)
Get general information on mental health and locate treatment services in your area. Speak to a live person, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1–800–273-TALK (8255) or Live Online Chat
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.