Studying Psychology shows you a myriad of complicated terms, endless name of disorders, personality types, etc. But let’s be practical here, everywhere you go there’s always a “toxic” person. They’re impossible to avoid, can give you negative feelings and worse affect your mental health.
But do you know that Toxic behavior is something that can manifest in us all?
We all have bad days but it is important to be aware of our actions and how they affect the people around us. “Self-awareness” – according to my professor and the author of best selling book Permission to feel – Marc Brackett, is the start of becoming an Emotional Scientist.
First, let us learn how to identify a toxic individual.
Being toxic is never fun to be around, you drive people away and usually encounter conflicts and misunderstandings. Keep in mind that these behaviors don’t happen overnight, it is developed through the years and has underlying causes or triggers like childhood trauma. They are actually unconscious and developed over time as their defense mechanism. Not an excuse though, that’s why we begin by realizing if our behavior is already hurting other people.
Ways not to be toxic.
1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
- it all starts with your mind, your thoughts drive and guide how you behave.
- In my psychology course by Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, we are provided with “thought strategies”.
- Professor Marc Brackett said that our brain is hay wired to think negatively right away, it is our automatic way of thinking. This is not good for the body as it activates our limbic system.
- Thinking positively takes time and lot of effort.
2. Be actively Grateful
- When we practice gratitude, our feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction increase, and the feeling of burn-out decreases.
- Toxic people are unhappy because they tend to look at the past and for them everything in their life is not good enough.
- Take a few minutes everyday to be actively grateful. This could be anything from your pet, sunshine or good weather, family, or the roof above your head.
- If you really want not to be toxic, know that acknowledging the good things in your life lets you focus on them and everything else seems brighter and happier.
3. Think before you react
- build the habit of pausing before reacting.
- toxic people are highly reactive, they tend to lash out on people around them.
- this is the best time to practice being a better listener, so instead of reacting try to listen first.
- being an active listener shows that you care.
4. Let your ego go
- a toxic person is desperate to maintain a certain image to the point of attacking others, or being defensive and becoming a habitual liar.
- they believe they’re entitled and people are beneath them.
- accept that nobody’s perfect and that you’re not always correct.
- kindness is free and without your ego this is easy.
5. Show accountability
- this is related to ego, apologizing is like admitting defeat to a toxic person.
- admitting you’ve made a mistake and taking responsibility makes it feel you’ve failed.
- if you’re not able to be accountable for your own wrongdoing — if you dig in, and have to maintain your image — this is a big potential problem. For one, it’s a sign of narcissism.
- it will be a struggle to maintain a real relationship to someone who can never ever accept fault. It makes other people uncomfortable, denies their emotions or needs, and leaves them feeling wronged too.
6. Avoid gossip
- here comes “marites” or the gossiper
- it becomes highly toxic when the objective of the story is to destroy other people and talk about their misfortunes.
- don’t be too quick to judge others and then spread rumor about them.
- try to know people first, listen, be kind and considerate.
7. Build others up, not test them
- we all want to be with someone who celebrates with us. They are happy when you’ve achieved something instead of belittling.
- this is related to gossiping, if we try to pinpoint the mistakes of other people.
- real strength is when you uplift and motivate others instead of pulling them down.
8. Seek help
- if you’re unsure about your own behaviour in certain aspects of life, that’s completely fine. It’ll probably best to act on it right away.
- whether it’s consulting friends, family, a professional (like a therapist), there are ways to learn more about ourselves and help us improve these areas in our life.
- toxic behavior doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s likely caused by something in your mind like unresolved issues and past trauma.
- connecting with others is also a way of healing. Strong social ties are linked with happiness, longevity and health.
Reaching this point means you care about yourself as a person and open to growth and maturity. Don’t worry, being toxic is not forever, it’s not permanent.
“when you let go of who you are, you become who you might be.”– RUMI