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“Am I toxic?” – 25 clear signs you’re toxic to others around you

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“Am I toxic?”

Are you asking yourself this question? Wondering whether or not you are problematic for the people around you?

Toxic is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, but it can tough to figure out what it truly means and whether you are actually toxic.

So in this article, we’re going to explore 25 clear signs that you’re the toxic person in people’s lives.

But before we get stuck into those signs, let’s first define what being toxic means.

What does toxic mean?

A toxic person is someone who makes others feel bad with actions or words.

They bring others down more than up, and they leave people exhausted, emotionally drained, and negative.

Obviously, there are different levels of toxicity.

Some people are highly toxic, leaving everyone worse off with even brief meetings. Others cause harm over a longer period of time.

Are you a toxic person? Here are 25 signs

Image credit: Shutterstock – By Roman Kosolapov

1. Your Relationships Never Seem To Last

There’s one definitive similarity in all of your relationships (platonic or not) and it’s that it never seems to last.

Every single connection you have formed seems to always have an expiration date.

You’ve never been on long-term relationships and every single friendship you have is on an as-needed basis.

You might think having a revolving door of people walk in and out of your life is pretty exciting but deep down you know it can be draining too.

You’ll be best buds with someone one day and you won’t be speaking at all the next.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you can’t really keep track of who your friends and enemies are because the line is often so blurry.

Whenever you talk to people, they seem to be doing their best to get out of the conversation and start doing something else.

More often than not, you’re wondering why you’re the only person not invited to the party when all of your other friends are there.

2. People Feel A Bad Vibe After Spending Time With You

Even with the best intentions in mind, you tend to notice that people you come across more or less have the same reaction after speaking to you.

They’ll be slumped down, eyes down cast, and just outright disengaged. Some might even come off standoffish and annoyed.

You don’t really know what their problem is; all you know is that you spoke your mind and gave them something they needed to hear. It’s not your fault they can’t take an honest beating once in a while.

If your thought process is somewhere along those lines, take a step back and consider how your “honesty” may just be coming off as plain critical.

Toxic people will rarely recognize how their words and actions are affecting others, even when the results are right in front of their face.

You could make a friend cry and all you’ll probably say is “not my fault.”

So ask yourself how people generally act after speaking to you. Are they happy? Or do your friends and family often cut conversations short and keep engagements formal and curt?

If it’s a recurring trend, chances are there’s something wrong about how you interact with people.

It’s not easy to admit, least of all to yourself.

If people have a distinct change in their body language after spending time with you, and if this happens consistently with every single person, it’s safe to assume that you’re being a lot less enjoyable than you think you are.

3. Friends and Family Don’t Tell You About Their Success

Every news of a promotion, engagement, anniversary, or any other celebration you have heard of seems to have been passed around by literally everybody else before you got to know it.

To add insult to injury, you’re never invited to any of the celebrations.

Before you take it as a personal vendetta against you, think back to all the times people actually went to you for good news. What was your reaction then?

Did you congratulate them and showed enthusiasm for their happiness? Or did you shrug it off as luck or downplayed their achievement in some other way?

Achievements may not always feel big to us, but they are very important affirmations for some people.

Celebrating with them validates these positive emotions and reaffirms their self-confidence.

Showing anything but happiness and support can put a damper on the mood, especially if people were so excited to break the good news.

4. Your Life Is Like A Reality Show

Drama follows you wherever you go even though you insist you don’t want drama in your life.

At the back of your mind, you know you’re causing all these little scuffles wherever you go.

You won’t admit it to yourself, but you enjoy stirring the pot. There are little flames everywhere you tread.

What you call “non-aggressive” behavior such as ignoring someone or repeating arguments are actually toxic behavior, especially if they’re purposely done to try and aggravate someone.

You don’t always have to be explosive to be toxic.

Reactionary behavior such as oversensitivity and general moodiness can mean that you’re deeply insecure about your own feelings, and try to project that onto other people.

5. You Tend To Dominate Conversations

Human beings are egotistical and it’s only natural to want to pivot the conversation and make it about ourselves.

We can’t help but talk about what we like and project our beliefs onto other people.

But even then, conversations have to be a two-way street. If your conversations are more of a one-man spiel than anything else, you might in fact be a toxic person.

One defining trait of toxic people is having to one-up others.

When friends share about their problems or successes, do you listen to what they have to say or do you put the spotlight on you?

Selfish people don’t really care about what others feel and blindly talk about themselves.

When someone talks about their pain, you might feel the need to compare their pain with yours or even talk about how your pain is more important.

This need for never-ending competition and constant validation puts you in a position where you’re constantly treating someone’s pain or success as an opportunity to talk more about yourself.

6. People Say You’re Only Nice When It Benefits You

Toxic people aren’t always exploding on others. In fact, some are even so charming you’d want to hang out with them.

They can be flattering and pleasant up until you no longer serve a purpose.

The minute the internal clock in their heads comes to a head, it could feel as though you’re talking to a completely different person.

It’s not surprising that most toxic people would describe themselves as kind. But kindness shouldn’t only exist when it matters.

When you’re talking to someone who you’ll benefit from (a boss for a promotion, a friend for a favor), it’s natural to want to suck up to them to get what you want.

But how do you act when people disagree with you or reject your requests? Do you maintain your friendly demeanor or do you turn into something else completely?

It’s also important to examine your interactions with people who have no use to you.

Toxic people might be nice to friends and family in order to save face, but may take “non-essential” social interactions for granted.

Are you mean to waiters? How do you interact with the office’s receptionist? Strangers you pass by on the street?

Genuine kindness manifests even in situations that don’t matter. Otherwise, you’re just using kindness to get what you want and manipulating people, which can be quite toxic.

7. Friends Have Called You Competitive

Competitiveness is a trait most people are proud to have. It drives us forward and forces us out of our comfort zones.

It’s natural to want to compete with others and rise on top and become the best version of yourself.

But competitiveness is a double-edged sword and can be driven by insecurity more than productivity.

Toxic people have an ongoing race in their head that nobody else knows about.

They’re constantly on the look-out for opportunities to make people feel they’re ahead of them, even if no one’s really counting but themselves.

Do you have a tendency to count victories and failures? Do you tend to compare things more or listen when someone is opening up about their life?

Even if you’re not openly comparing yourself to other people, you are brewing this inner competition and letting it fester in your brain, which makes you more toxic because of it.

8. People Always Ask For More Space

Just when you think the relationship (platonic or not) is going well, you hit a speed bump and they ask you to slow down.

You try to backtrack to the first week you’ve been talking to figure out what you did wrong.

All the texts, calls, emails you sent left unanswered and you realize you’re probably putting in more effort than you think.

Codependence is a neglected trait of toxic people particularly because it’s often mistaken for affection. In reality, this is just one of the ways their immaturity manifests and inconveniences someone else.

It all boils down to self-perception.

If you’re a toxic person, you have a hard time believing that people have an entire life that doesn’t revolve around you, that your friend or the person you’re dating has interests that have nothing to do with you.

Threatened by their independence, you seek to let your presence be felt in every aspect in their life and become more invasive the more they push you aside.

9. People Have Accused You Of Being Jealous

Your friends won’t often tell you that you’re being toxic, but they will tell you when you’re showing signs of being toxic, and one major sign is jealousy.

And you have a history of being called jealous to the point that you think it’s normal, but the truth is most people can go all their lives without being accused of significant jealousy.

You stir fights out of nowhere by simply seeing issues where they don’t exist, driven by your own jealousy of the relationships other people like your friends have with each other.

During issues with your friends or significant others, they’ve called you out for your jealousy — saying that you expect too much of them and that you want all their attention on you.

Any kind of diversion from your own relationship makes you feel threatened and insecure, but your mind always comes up with another reason for why you might be feeling that way.

Your Emotions and Convictions

10. You’re Critical Of Others Because You Think You’re Better Than Them

Take a step back for a second and ask yourself: how often do you find yourself thinking something along the lines of, “This person isn’t worth my time, isn’t worth listening to, or isn’t even worth being around because I’m better than them.”

If these thoughts are familiar to you, then you might be a toxic person.

Another person’s thoughts and decisions shouldn’t be automatically dismissed simply because you think you’re better than them.

After all, you shouldn’t be thinking that you’re better than another person in the first place, and secondly, because you might not even know what they’re really trying to say or how they really feel.

Learning how to not be toxic means learning how to treat others with respect, even when the tiny voices in your head are telling you to ignore them.

Give everyone a chance to thrive in their own ways, making their own decisions and enjoying their own accomplishments whenever they can.

11. You Manipulate People To Get Your Way

If you’re a controlling or manipulative person, it might be hard for you to actually see that you do it, because you’ve been doing it for so long that the behavior now seems normal to you.

But think about any time you might have persuaded someone into doing something that they didn’t necessarily want to do, just because you needed them to do it.

This is known as manipulation, and if you do it then you are definitely a toxic person. You use sly words to get things out of people without truly paying them back for it.

You love bossing people around, telling them to do this and that and this and that.

In fact, your brain doesn’t even register it anymore because you’re so used to doing it and a part of you thinks you deserve their obedience simply because you’re better than them.

And to top it off, you’re the opposite of subtle. You threaten people with emotional blackmail to get your way, using your unstable emotions as an advantage over their kindness.

12. You Never Apologize

Here’s a simple question: When was the last time you said sorry and truly meant it? Sure, you may be the kind of person who says sorry all the time, but in a joking, funny, not-so-serious way.

You are so spoiled with the easy forgiveness of people around you that when someone comes along who doesn’t accept your meaningless and fleeting apology, you find yourself flabbergasted.

How could they not accept your apology?

A true apology is something you don’t know how to do as no one’s ever forced one out of you.

You get out of iffy situations with cutesy tactics and minor apologies, but when you find yourself with your back to the wall and forced to finally apologize, your ego kicks in and you end up throwing a tantrum, refusing to back down and apologize no matter what.

You would rather destroy relationships and never see people again instead of apologizing for something that is clearly your fault, and this all falls back on your superiority complex:

People lesser than you don’t deserve a true apology, or so you tell yourself.

13. You Point Fingers A Lot

Toxic people have ego problems.

They’re plagued with insecurities and self-confidence issues, and much of their toxicity stems from that issue — the need to protect themselves, either by inflating their own image or bringing down others around them.

And one common way this is done is by shifting the blame and pointing fingers at other people.

So how often do you feel that you were unfairly judged, or that there was some secret conspiracy against you to make you look bad?

You can name countless instances in your life where, from your point of view, it felt like it was you against the world, and people were snooping around behind your back to hurt you?

If stories like these follow you around, it might be your own toxic behavior making them happen.

You don’t take responsibility for the problems and mistakes you make, because you can’t stand being in the negative limelight.

There’s always a reason, always a justification, always another person at fault for the things wrong in your life, and if it wasn’t for the horrible people around you, you’d have everything you ever wanted.

14. You Make Bad Jokes To Get A Laugh

You love being the center of attention, and one thing you learned early on in life is that people like laughing at other people.

So you take advantage of that: every time you get the opportunity to raise your own level at the expense of another person’s, you press the button and go for it.

You never stop and think — “how would this make this person feel?”, because as soon as you see the moment, you go full throttle, no questions asked.

You love gaining the favor and attention of the crowd, even if your only role is the person who breaks the embarrassing or humiliating secret that other people were trying to hide.

You know that your actions will have consequences, that other people will be left feeling terrible and embarrassed.

But you justify it in your head with lines like, “If it wasn’t me, someone else would’ve done it”, “People would have found out eventually”, “They shouldn’t have done it in the first place if they didn’t want anyone to find out”.

15. You Think Revenge Is Better Than Peace

It’s inevitable that at some point in your life, whether you’re toxic or not, you’ll get into a major fight with someone, whether a classmate at school, a colleague at work, or even just a random stranger.

You can’t help it; some people are just destined to drive their negative energy towards you.

But the difference between a toxic person and a non-toxic person is how they respond to that situation.

Non-toxic people know that holding a grudge and letting another person’s negativity is the last thing you want to do; you should never let bad vibes enter your space, especially if they come from something as meaningless as a stupid fight.

But toxic people hold onto grudges and let those issues eat them up inside until they have nothing else going on in their minds other than the issue.

Toxic people end up changing the way they live, just so that they can let their grudge play out.

They let the single issue take over their entire lives, scorching the earth behind them and not caring at all for anything beyond the present.

16. You Always Feel Like The Victim

The world has been out to get you from Day 1. In every social situation you’ve ever been in, you have always ended up being the victim.

You were the person that others bullied, the person that everyone turned against, the person who no one tried to understand.

But here’s the thing: for normal people, life isn’t that hard.

People who don’t have toxic personalities don’t have the same kind of issues that you may have.

They don’t find themselves being the butt of every joke and the victim in every situation.

While it may be hard — if not impossible — for you to accept, the truth may be simply that you just turn people against you because of how you act, or you adjust the narrative in your head so far from reality to protect yourself from the truth: that you’re an incredibly difficult person to get along with.

17. You’re Excessively Needy

Everyone can use a hand on occasion, but you require attention and help all the time.

You make every molehill a mountain, every bump in the road a boulder, and each crack of life a chasm as wide and long as the Grand Canyon.

Not only do you need constant support, but don’t learn and grow from their experiences. Instead, you see them as great excuses for why you can’t succeed at, much less even try, something.

While your relationships begin pleasantly and it looks like you just want to spend lots of time with your family and friends.

But as time goes on, though, your devouring need for attention isolates your loved ones from others.

You only want them spending time with you, devoting their attention to you and you alone. As a result, your possessiveness makes them feel lonely.

Yet, you feel justified because you need their help, don’t you? Your life is one huge battle, right?

And when they don’t show up? When they dare to mention that they have other things and other people going on in their lives? You make them feel guilty for even having mentioned it.

The amount of effort they must devote to you exhausts and drains them physically and emotionally.

Also, it’s just a one-way street: all take and no give. The worst thing is that all their efforts are never sufficient.

You are never satisfied with all the attention they are paying you. In the end, if they don’t do enough, you will move on to someone else whom you feel will be a better source of what you need.

18. You Only Care About Yourself

You don’t care about the feelings and opinions of others. Their joys are not important. They are only a reminder of your own (obviously better) achievements.

Same for the negatives. Whenever someone tries to share their unhappiness, hurt, or anger, you shut them down by “one-upping” them with a story of your own (obviously worse) tragedy.

And speaking of negatives… You turn those situations around.

Instead of taking ownership for your share of a negative event, you make it 100% their fault. They are the “guilty parties” for bringing up such an upsetting subject or being involved in such a thoughtless act.

Further, no matter how small the decision is, it’s your way or the highway. The end result is that you make people feel uncared for, unvalued, and unloved.

Around you, people feel alone. You are so “into” yourself that there is no interpersonal connection at all.

Others are just around for some use—increasing your self-esteem, paying for your night out, fixing something in your home, etc.

19. You’re Incredibly Manipulative

Manipulators are basically liars. They pretend to be a friend, but in reality, they are only using others for their own ends. So, there is nothing true about your relationships with others.

In fact, to achieve your ends, you spend lots of time in detective work, finding out what your prey likes and what makes them tick.

This information helps you weave a more personal web for each victim, luring them more effectively.

Such cold consideration and attention to detail shows that you have no positive connection whatsoever with others.

You don’t care at all about their opinions and feelings. They are only there to serve your needs.

As a result of your cunning, people are confused. On the one hand, you “appear” to be their friend.

So, it may take them a long time to realize that they are trapped. Once they do, they are in so deep that it is very difficult for them to get free.

20. You Badmouth Other People Behind Their Back

For you, nothing is better than a little gossip, especially if it is dirt on someone else.

The truth or falsity of the information doesn’t matter at all. If you’ve heard it, you pass it on.

Their main reason for spreading the word is the pleasure you get from people’s misfortunes.

It makes you feel better by comparison.

Basically, you are an envious person. You measure your accomplishments against those of others. The more that others look bad, the better you look in comparison.

When people spend time with you, they can look forward to a “news report” of negativity: who got fired, whose relationships are on the rocks, who should have listened to your advice but didn’t and it serves them right what happened. The list goes on.

Others cannot confide in you because their secrets become your next “news flash.”

And on the rare occasion that someone does, you’ll most likely hurt them further by telling them how the fault was theirs…and then making sure that others know their bad news.

21. You Have a Short Fuse

Anything and everything causes you to explode into anger. Once your fuse is tripped, you turn off, often ignoring their “antagoniser” for days.

Your lack of control over your emotions means that people cannot have authentic relationships with you.

As we know, every relationship has its ups and downs. The problem is, with you, the downs are disasters.

Others never know when you are going to fly off the handle into a rage.

On a good day, you might cope with a big disagreement in a reasonable manner. On a bad day, the slightest thing might set you off.

In addition, you blame your rages on others. It’s always their fault, isn’t it?

As a result, people are scared to argue with you—a form of intimidation that you use to “keep them in line.”

People in your life feel like they are “walking on eggshells” around you. This constant attention to keeping you happy takes a toll on their physical and emotional health.

The worst part is when the other person is your partner. People you meet don’t believe that you are a Short-fuser because outwardly, you appear to be pleasant, calm, and quite likable.

You save your destructive, toxic side for your partner in private.

22. You’re Pessimistic

You consistently see the world as a “glass half full”. Being around you is a continuous repetition of what is wrong, what is bad, what is not working.

This form of brainwashing empties people of their positivity. The remaining emptiness is quickly filled by your diet of misery.

You can across as cold and distant to others.

So, not only are you a negative thinker, research shows that you turn others into negative thinkers as well.

23. You Belittle Others

You try to control people by playing with their self-worth. Instead of supporting them and emphasizing their good points, you shine the spotlight on any faults they have, showing how silly and stupid they are.

If they don’t have enough faults, you invent some. Who cares, right?

You’re equally happy belittling them in private as well as in public, and it doesn’t matter who is watching.

Should they ask you to stop, you pass it off as “just a joke”, but it isn’t, is it?

It’s your sincere and attentive way to make them believe they are so pathetic that they are lucky to have wonderful you for a friend or a partner.

Too much time spent with you will leave people with such poor self-images that they cannot even think of ending the relationship. Who else would want them?

24. You Enjoy Controlling Others

You use the technique of your choice to enslave people.

If you are a jealous/suspicious Controller, you go overboard, forcing the other person to prove their loyalty to you on a constant basis.

Either you are checking their phone or emails, or you are asking them where they were and who they were with every moment they are not in your presence.

You make others feel guilty for things they haven’t even done, causing them to be more and more isolated in an attempt to keep you happy.

When you bulldoze through boundaries, you are basically telling someone that they have no rights as an individual.

There are no “hands off” areas, both physically and emotionally. You create self-doubt in the other, causing them frustration.

Your choice to be either a passive or independent Controller is really two sides of the same coin. In both cases, you are making the other person responsible for every outcome.

In one case, they make the best decision they can, and you tear it down, “punishing” them with pouting and complaining or silence.

In the other, you seemingly make commitments but fail to keep them at the last moment—not your fault, of course. In some situations, your partner or friend will have to very inconveniently step in for you.

In others, they will be left hanging since you didn’t follow through with the plan. Either way, you make them feel that your relationship is unsafe, unsecure, and unreassuring.

25. You Make People Feel Ashamed

You seek out reasons to make others know how “disappointed you are in them” and how “hurt the others have made you feel”.

It’s a never-ending cycle. There is always something to find fault with if you look hard enough, isn’t there?

Your unrealistic expectations pressure people into catering to your every desire. Whenever they do something you don’t like (or don’t do something you want), you play the “disappointed/hurt card”.

They feel guilty and try their best to fulfill your needs now (or make it up to you next time).

Yet, it is of little use. Each situation is stand alone. In other words, the fact that they came through for you 9 times does nothing to help them in situation #10.

They don’t get points for past “good behavior.” You make them feel just as bad as if they never paid any attention to your needs or requests at all.

Sometimes, you even agree with another’s decision just to have opportunities to make them feel guilty in the future.

For example, you might agree that your partner takes a ceramics class once a week, so you can tell them how “disappointed/hurt” you feel about them preferring to do ceramics than be with you.

What to do Now? Take Responsibility for it

If you display any of the toxic behaviors I’ve mentioned above, will you take responsibility for your actions and start treating people better?

I think taking responsibility is the most powerful attribute we can possess in life.

Because the reality is that YOU are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your life, including for your happiness and unhappiness, successes and failures, and for the quality of your relationships with other people.

If you want to take responsibility for your toxic behavior, one resource I highly recommend is Ideapod’s extremely powerful free masterclass on love and intimacy.

In this 60-minute masterclass, world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê will help you to identify your toxic behavior so that you can be empowered to make a change. Most importantly, he’ll also teach you a powerful framework which you can start applying today to truly improve the relationships you have with the people you care about.

Full disclosure: I have watched this 60-minute masterclass myself and found it a valuable way to mend relationships in my own life.

The thing is, Rudá Iandê isn’t your typical shaman.

While he does spend time with indigenous tribes in the Amazon, sing shamanic songs and bang his drums, he’s different in an important way. Rudá has made shamanism relevant for modern day society.

He communicates and interprets its teachings for people living regular lives. People like me and you.

Check out the masterclass here.

A word of warning. The teachings Rudá shares in this masterclass aren’t for everyone. He doesn’t help you to avoid your fears or sugarcoat what’s happening in your life.

This masterclass is for you if you appreciate honest and direct advice and want to be honest with yourself about what’s needed to change your life.

Here’s a link to it again.

The toxic checklist

Don’t recognize yourself in one of the 9 toxic traits above? Take a look at the descriptions below. You may find something more familiar.

How many of these apply to you?

1. When people are with you, they end up feeling worse about themselves because you make them feel guilty; belittle, humiliate and criticize them; and blame them for any problems you have.

2. You are a taker, not a giver. You are happy to enjoy the kindness of others but never offer any in return.

3. Sooner or later, everything becomes personal, and holding a grudge is one of your go-tos. You never apologize or compromise, and use threats to keep people on your good side.

4. You are not one to take ownership of your behavior but are very good at calling people out whenever they make a mistake, often with a snarky remark.

5. Celebrating others’ successes is a no-no in your book. Yet, you don’t support them during their misfortunes either, choosing to share their secrets whenever and wherever possible.

6. Others never know when you may blow your fuse. This is one way you manipulate them emotionally, controlling the relationship.

If you even fit just part of one of the above descriptions, chances are that people do their best to avoid you.

If that is not enough to get away from you, you may never see them again.

What now?

If you are truly upset about being a toxic person, the first step is to take responsibility for your past behavior. Own what you have done, even if you feel like the worst person ever.

Taking ownership of our actions is one of the keys to making long-lasting changes.

Next, seek help. Trusted family and friends could be one source. Counselors and psychologists are another group equipped to support you in your desire to change.

Although it may take some time, if you are sincerely committed, you will find that many of your family and friends will be quick to give you another chance. They will honor your serious decision with their support.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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