If someone displays these 8 traits, they’re really toxic to be around

Ever find yourself drained after spending time with a particular person? You can’t quite pinpoint why, but you know something’s off. 

I’ve been there too, stuck in a vortex of negativity and emotional turmoil, all because of the toxic traits I failed to recognize in someone. 

But the silver lining is, now I can easily recognize these traits even early on, and avoid letting more people like that into my life. 

And I’d like to help you do the same — you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache and frustration.

So let’s delve into the 8 traits that signal someone is toxic to be around. 

1) Narcissism

The word “narcissist” gets thrown around a lot these days, but you may not even realize it when you’re up close and personal with one. What does it look like?

In short, they have an inflated sense of importance and a deep need for excessive attention and admiration.

Picture this: you’re excited to share news about a recent achievement or a personal milestone, but the moment you open your mouth, they hijack the conversation to talk about themselves. Again.

And whenever there’s a problem, they’re always focused on deflecting responsibility, seemingly unable to put themselves in your shoes.

That’s because narcissists tend to lack empathy, making it nearly impossible for them to genuinely care about your feelings or needs. 

The worst part is, it can be very hard to spot them. Narcissists often draw you in with their charisma, only to later reveal their true self-centered nature. So keep an eye out for these behaviors from the beginning so you can avoid letting them get too close to you

2) Insecurity

Insecurity is a funny thing. At first, it might look like humility or vulnerability, traits we’re often told are endearing. But don’t be deceived. 

I once had a friend whose insecurity seemed like a cry for help. They’d always fish for compliments or constantly belittle themselves, expecting me to chime in with reassurances.

The thing is, over time, their insecurity began to weigh on me like an anchor. They needed constant validation, which left me drained and feeling more like a therapist than a friend. 

And what’s even more toxic? Sometimes their insecurity would lash out, criticizing or belittling others (myself included) just to feel a little bit taller.

You see, insecure people have a knack for making their issues your issues. They often project their fears and inadequacies onto those around them, turning a simple friendship into an emotional battlefield.

If you find yourself walking on eggshells, always anxious about saying the wrong thing and triggering their insecurity, that’s a big red flag. 

Keep your peace and consider putting distance between you and the insecurity that’s leeching your emotional wellbeing.

3) Competitiveness

Let’s be honest, competition can be lots of fun! But when it goes overboard, it sucks the fun out of everything. 

Remember that one friend who couldn’t let you bask in your promotion or relish a small win without bringing up their own accomplishments? 

Or maybe they look for things that are wrong with your accomplishment, to make it lose its shine. 

Overly competitive people can’t stand to see others succeed if they’re not in the spotlight, too. It’s not just about healthy ambition; it’s an obsessive need to outdo everyone around them. 

I used to have a buddy who’d at least try to pretend he was happy for me when I achieved something, but then he’d go and try to beat it with another win of his own. 

Over time, it became clear: it wasn’t friendship, it was a rivalry I never signed up for.

4) Pessimism

We all have our ups and downs, moments when life’s glass appears half-empty rather than half-full. But being around a perennial pessimist is an entirely different experience. 

Imagine sharing your dreams and aspirations, only for them to shoot holes through every single one. I remember a friend who would always highlight the worst-case scenarios.

She wouldn’t blatantly tell me so, but she was essentially painting my ambitions as pipe dreams. 

Over time, her negativity seeped into my own mindset, casting a gloomy shadow over my goals and plans. 

Emotional energy is contagious, and a pessimist can quickly turn your sunny day into a downpour of doubt.

If you’re constantly subjected to someone’s bleak outlook, it’s not just draining — it’s toxic. Surround yourself with people who add positive, not negative, energy to your life. 

5) Distrustfulness

Trust is the bedrock of any healthy relationship. Without it, you’re basically building a castle on quicksand. I learned this the hard way when dealing with a distrustful friend. 

From the get-go, it seemed like she was always suspicious of my intentions, second-guessing my every move. 

When I complimented her, she seemed cautious, as if she wasn’t sure whether I was making fun of her. And well-meaning suggestions were met with a raised eyebrow. 

At first, I felt bad, wondering if maybe I was saying the wrong things. But over time, I realized that she was interpreting my intentions based on her own.

You wouldn’t suspect someone from lying to you in a situation where you never would — so if a person seems unable to trust you, it points to their own shady ways. 

If you’re always having to prove your loyalty, honesty, or integrity, you have to wonder what kind of friendship or relationship you’re really in.

6) Intolerance

In a world that’s as beautifully diverse as ours, intolerance sticks out like a sore thumb. I once knew someone who couldn’t help but voice his narrow views, making derogatory comments about people’s race, religion, or lifestyle. 

At first, I brushed it off as him being “old-fashioned,” and thought he would come around, or just had a very strong way of expressing himself. But let’s call it what it is: toxic.

This goes far beyond just political correctness; it’s human decency. 

If you find yourself making excuses for someone’s prejudices just because they’re a friend or a family member, it might be time to reevaluate. 

Intolerance isn’t just a personality quirk; it’s a corrosive attitude that can affect everyone around them.

Remember, you become the average of the people you spend the most time with. Choose to be around those who celebrate diversity, not those who try to squash it into a box. 

7) Vindictiveness

Ever had that one person in your life who seems to keep a mental scorecard? 

Maybe they can’t let go of past wrongs, real or imagined, and you notice they’re always finding subtle ways to get back at people. 

I knew someone like that. It wasn’t in-your-face revenge, but little things — snide remarks, passive-aggressive comments, or mysteriously leaving people out of plans or opportunities.

It’s unsettling when you realize someone takes joy in another’s downfall. And if they’re willing to go after others, there’s a chance they’ll aim that vindictiveness at you someday. 

It points to a way of thinking that’s pretty dark. A vindictive person tends to look at life through a lens of scores to settle, rather than opportunities to grow or mend.

While everyone makes mistakes and can find it hard to get over something, there’s a line. After all, relationships should lift us up, not keep us constantly looking over our shoulder.

8) Emotional volatility

Another type of toxic person is the one whose moods swing like a pendulum, keeping everyone around them on their toes. One minute they’re the life of the party, and the next, they get upset over a small comment someone made.

It’s like riding an emotional rollercoaster — you never know which version of them you’ll get, and what’s waiting for you right around the corner.

Eventually, this makes you go on high alert whenever you’re around them, ready to defuse the next emotional situation. 

Your energy becomes drained, and pretty soon, you may become their emotional dumping ground, the target of their frustrations or irritability.

It’s obviously difficult to have your emotions all over the place, but it’s even worse for everyone around them. It injects instability into relationships and makes open, honest communication a minefield. 

So if you find yourself always bracing for the next emotional outburst from someone in your life, ask yourself if this is the kind of energy you want to be around. 

My friend is toxic — what now?

If you’ve spotted these traits in someone close to you, you might be grappling with a heavy heart right now. Trust me, I’ve been there. Realizing that a friend or loved one is toxic is painful, but it’s the first step in protecting your own well-being. 

So what should you do? First, set healthy boundaries. Decide what you can tolerate and what you can’t. It’s okay to put distance between yourself and the person in question. 

But also remember, people can change. If the relationship is valuable to you, consider having an open and honest discussion. Sometimes, pointing out these behaviors is the wake-up call someone needs. 

At the same time, it’s crucial to remember that you can’t change anyone — they have to want to change themselves. If you find that nothing’s improving and you’re continually drained, it might be time to consider whether this relationship has a place in your life. 

The truth is, maintaining your own mental and emotional health should always come first. Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is to walk away from toxicity and never look back.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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