post written by: Marc Chernoff

12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You


12 Toxic Behaviors that Push People Away From You

Your behavior is a little thing that makes a big difference.

In our line of work, Angel and I hear from hundreds of coaching clients every month.  Through this experience, we’ve come across scores of toxic behaviors that push people away from each other.  And we’ve witnessed the devastation these behaviors cause – to relationships, to personal and professional growth, and to the general well-being of both the individual behaving negatively, and to everyone in their life.

Let’s be honest – we’ve all acted in toxic, damaging ways at one time or another.  None of us are immune to occasional toxic mood swings, but many people are more evolved, balanced and aware, and such occurrences happen only rarely in their lives.

Whether your toxic behavior is a common occurrence, or just a once in a blue moon phenomena, it’s critical for your long-term happiness and success that you are able to recognize when you’re behaving negatively, and consciously shift your mindset when necessary.

The twelve most common toxic behaviors we see are:

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  1. Being envious of everyone else. – Don’t let envy (or jealously) get the best of you.  Envy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.  There is nothing attractive or admirable about this behavior.  So stop comparing your journey with everyone else’s.  Your journey is YOUR journey, NOT a competition.  You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself.  You are competing to be the best you can be.  If you want to measure your progress, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.
  2. Taking everything too personally. – People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, is more about them.  I’m not suggesting we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally.  In most cases it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of other people’s good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own intuition and wisdom as your guide.  (Read The Four Agreements.)
  3. Acting like you’re always a victim. – Another toxic behavior is persistent complaining that fuels your sense of victimization.  Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no power over the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck.  Working as a life coach with people who have suffered major trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know we all have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe.  When you stop complaining, and refuse to see yourself as a helpless victim, you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept this reality.
  4. Hoarding pain and loss. – One of the hardest lessons in life is letting go – whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss.  Change is never easy – you fight to hold on and you fight to let go.  But oftentimes letting go is the healthiest path forward.  It clears out toxic thoughts from the past.  You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you.  Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus your thoughts, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster.
  5. Obsessive negative thinking. – It’s very hard to be around people who refuse to let go of negativity – when they ruminate and speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the scorns they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life.  These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s happening.  Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in a negative mindset is another.  Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a twisted way of thinking and living, and you can change that.
  6. Lack of emotional self-control. – An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you.  We all know these people – those who explode in anger and tears over the smallest hiccup or problem.  Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor.  If you find that you’re overly emotional, losing your cool at every turn, you may need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your inner angst.  There’s more to it than what appears on the surface.  An independent perspective – and a new kind of support – can work wonders.  (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Happiness” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
  7. Making superficial judgments about others. – Don’t always judge a person by what they show you.  Remember, what you’ve seen is oftentimes only what that person has chosen to show you, or what they were driven to show based on their inner stress and pain.  Alas, when another person tries to make you suffer in some small way, it is usually because they suffer deep within themselves.  Their suffering is simply spilling over.  They do not need punishment or ridicule, they need help.  If you can’t help them, let them be.
  8. Cruelty (or lacking empathy and compassion). – One of the most toxic behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others.  We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others just because they can.  They tear people down online in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield.  Cruelty, backstabbing, and hurting others for any reason is toxic, and it hurts you as well.  If you find yourself backstabbing and tearing someone else down, stop in your tracks.  Dig deep and find compassion in your heart, and realize that we’re all in this together.
  9. Cheating and cutting moral corners simply because you can. – Cheating is a choice, not a mistake, and not an excuse!  If you decide to cheat, and you succeed in cheating someone out of something, don’t think that this person is a fool.  Realize that this person trusted you much more than you ever deserved.  Be bigger than that.  Don’t do immoral things simply because you can.  Don’t cheat.  Be honest with yourself and everyone else.  Do the right thing.  Integrity is the essence of everything successful.
  10. Hiding your truth. – People cannot connect with you if you’re constantly trying to hide from yourself.  And this becomes a truly toxic situation the minute they become attached to your false persona.  So remember, no matter what age, race, sex, or sexuality you are, underneath all your external decorations you are a pure, beautiful being – each and every one of us are.  We each have light to shine, and missions to accomplish.  Celebrate being different, off the beaten path, a little on the weird side, your own special creation.  If you find yourself feeling like a fish out of water, by all means find a new river to swim in.  But DO NOT change who you are; BE who you are.  Don’t deny yourself, improve yourself.  (Read The Untethered Soul.)
  11. Needing constant validation. – People who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around.  Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to win over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.  Know this.  Over-attaching to how things have to look to others can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down.  There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve in the eyes of the masses.  It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning, how you’re helping others learn too, and the growing process you allow yourself to participate in.
  12. Being a stubborn perfectionist. – As human beings, we often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection.  We do so when we are searching for the perfect house, job, friend or lover.  The problem, of course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state.  Because life is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing.  What is here today is not exactly the same tomorrow – that perfect house, job, friend or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.  But with a little patience and an open mind, over time, that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable home.  That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career.  That imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on.  And that imperfect lover evolves into a reliable lifelong companion.  It’s just a matter of letting perfectionism GO.

The floor is yours…

If you can relate to any of these toxic behaviors, remember, you are not alone.  We all have unhealthy personalities buried deep within us that have the potential to sneak up on us sometimes.  As stated above, the key is awareness – recognizing these behaviors and stopping them in their tracks.

So, what toxic behaviors (or mood swings) sometimes sneak up on you?  What toxic behaviors push you away from others?  How do you cope?  Leave a comment below and share your insights with us.

This article was co-written by Marc and Angel and Kathy Caprino, and inspired by Kathy’s insightful work which can be found here.

Photo by: Brett Arthur Donar

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87 Comments

  • A toxic behavior of mine that I’ve been working on: “Shoulding everything” - I “should” myself way too much! Instead of just being, I tell myself that I “should” start a load of laundry; my house “should” be as nice as my friends homes; I “should” be working out like all my co-workers; it’s like by doing the “shoulds” then I’ll be happy and successful, but will I? This answer I’ve learned is “no.” In fact all I do is drive myself and those who love me nuts.

    My sister put it very well when she retired. When asked what she was going to do to be happy, she said she was going to become a “human being” instead of a “human doing”. I like that sentiment.

  • The first one is a toxic behavior of mine that I am working on fixing - being envious or jealous of others and comparing myself to others.

    Envy means you are focusing on what others have or do and believe that they have it better than you. Similarly, in comparing yourself to others, you often think the other person knows better or does something better than you do.

    I know very well that this way thinking is destructive. And I am really working on making changes. It’s a struggle sometimes though.

    Great reminders in this post.

  • In the past I often let self-deception get the best of me in so many ways, and it was so toxic to my wellbeing and my relationships. I let the little negative voices in my head run rampant. They basically scared me out of living and growing to my potential in all walks of life.

    The bottom line is that listening to your own lies and refusing to admit that they are nonsense is a sure road to regret.

    These days I’ve been calling myself out and have become much better at stating the truth in my head. In most cases: “I’m not doing these things because I am SCARED, not because I don’t want to.”

    As always, thank you for the continued guidance through your blog, book, etc.

  • I liked this post too, and also the comment that Mr. Hickman said.

    I think another destructive behaviour that is very usual nowadays (and it is not addressed enough) is the lack of focus in what you are actually doing. There is a tendency of doing everything quickly, non-thinking critically, scheming instead of looking and multi-tasking. This is an attitude increased by the use of tv watching and social media. Not that I don’t think that there are positive consequences of those creations - but rather that I can see people are less concentrated on the “present” and the current people standing in front of them since they are always looking for the next adrenaline rush, whether virtually or physically.

    I am trying to improve this a little bit each day, for example, by taking the time to comment on this article instead of just leaving it as another random reading I have read in two minutes and in which, in two more, I will no longer remember. I am sure this time I WILL remember it, and I hope, if I could express myself clearly enough, it will serve other people as well.

    We need to appreciate each moment as much as possible =)

  • Great post, once again.

    It’s amazing how much pain and tension comes from our sense of identification. Seeing ourselves as separate to the environment and to each other, when really it’s all one.

    We go to space? We take our environment with us, or we perish. We weren’t born into this world, we were born out of it.

  • Wonderful, wonderful!

  • Reading all your tips for having a productive life has been an effective strategy for me to get through whatever comes my way. This list is incredible and genuine. It reminded of many things that I want and can accomplish, yet I procrastinate endlessly. I thank you as your words of wisdom add great changes to the way I think and act each day.

  • The toxicity I have been fighting with is dealing with negative people - I worked with this guy for close to 3yrs and he is a manipulative cheat. Everyone complained of him and could not stand him. Luckily for us the project we were working on was subcontracted to a new director who made me the project manager. With this cheat with the old setup, the funny thing was he still wanted to control our part which I resisted and made it clear that I would resign if he was allowed to influence anything. Anyway, dealing with toxic behaviors and people is tough. Thanks for the post.

  • What you wrote on #7 brings to mind a quote I have to tell myself often. ‘Do not take to heart an unkind word. It is just the echo of another’s hurt you’ve heard.’

  • This is a powerful post that I will pass along to others. More people should read it.

  • Suzanne Schiavoni
    August 11th, 2014 at 7:18 am

    I loved this blog because it hit home. Although I feel loved by my husband, and a few close friends, I find myself unliked by many… I am guilty of many of the offenses listed above. I’m in a constant state of guilt and wishing… Come to think of it, even reading the blog made me feel guilty… Ugh.

    I loved the suggestions you gave, and appreciate your insight.

  • Thank you for this post! It has helped me see where I’ve improved, and where I need to focus and grow!

  • I find all your articles brilliant. Listing in points makes the quality information - the help - so accessible. I loved this one, but a bit disgruntled to realise how many of the points relate to me! With this article I will do what I occasionally do with some of your articles and that is print it off and re-read it at random - to remind myself of how to think, how to be, how to try and be the best me! As Romina said it is easy just to rush through articles and, however good they are, they sometimes still just end up, unwittingly, in a mental dustbin.

    Thank you so much for these articles. I will try to keep these points in mind.

  • Oh oh….got a “perfect” 12 out of 12 score. Have much to work on. Thank you so much for this post. Was just what I needed. My stomach dropped a little more as I moved down the list and realized this is who I have let myself become. Hopefully, these choices I’ve made will not be static and my perfectly toxic behavior will change….now.

  • I have spent the last five years or more “Hiding My Truth”. When I tested the water to be more open and authentic ; it usually did not go well. People disappear when truth is ugly. Even my close friends and much of my family fade away or into the background. My truth is ugly and I feel like # 2 -6 because the trauma and ugly have worn down my resilience, my ability to discern through the emotional pain, and my strength to hold back my emotions is non existent anymore especially if I make the attempt to “Tell my Truth” I cry! Do you realize how many ghosts (people that are in pain) are walking amongst you at any given time? They try to hide themselves lest they make you too uncomfortable. While there is some good information in all of these tips it really is not black and white all the time. We must take the information that applies.

  • I have lived a long life and in my 80s now, so have learned, I hope, most of life’s lessons.

    Yet I think I must still have one kind of toxic behaviour. I constantly do what good I can and often give much time and thought to giving support to others, usually younger than me. It always comes as a shock when so often when the people I help, having sorted their problem out, totally disappear from my life and do not even send a card at Christmas.

    Then I confess I do say “I wonder why I bother” Maybe the ‘victim’ syndrome?

    I get over it of course but that first sadness is always there.

  • I really like your blog… I start reading your articles when I am down. I realized that we can change everything but we have to start building positive behaviors into our lives

    Thank you Marc and Angel…more power to you.

  • Thank you so much for all the insights! Several are great reminders of things I need to work on improving in my own life. I especially loved the point about how you when you hide yourself, it is truly damaging to both yourself as well as others who only get a false impression of you. I know that I often hold back on who I am, though I am getting much better about it by engaging in love and acceptance of myself, out of fear of being rejected for who I really am. The pain of not being myself though is finally starting to win out over the fear of not pleasing others. I appreciate the take on it being deceptive to not give people an opportunity to see the real you. Thank you so much for your daily reminders!

  • Thank you so very much for this list. I opened it, thinking I could find some help for my roommate, who I view as being overly negative, and I found descriptions of MY behavior in this list, especially when I am dealing with her. Thank you for, once again, opening my eyes to the greater purpose of helping myself to become the best me that I am. I am trying to live a life of gratitude, and meaningful purpose, and your words, and the words of those who read and comment, are sincerely helping me.
    So, Marc and Angel, and your readers who take the time to think and comment and reach out to all of us, a heartfelt “thank you” from another inhabitant on this rock hurtling through space trying to make a difference.

  • Thank you. Feeling guilty all the way. Will make more effort on letting go.

  • I got a divorce around a year and a half ago and before I left that relationship of 28 years, I think I exhibited all if not 90% of these behaviors. I was always unhappy, seeing my friends treating their wives so sweetly and kindly, acting gracious, and I felt like my husband just ignored me and swept me under the carpet more often than not.

    I did also feel like a victim in a way, like I deserved better, but because I am the passive type (I will put up with a lot of things that others will call out) I would push my feelings down. I didn’t realize this until all the feelings of resentment came pouring out of me after the divorce. I thought we needed a separation and things would get better. Things got dramatically worse, and ended abruptly before I’d realized it I’d signed away everything to him thinking he could never live with himself asking me for a divorce and giving me nothing after almost 30 years but 12K to pay off my car, when he was living in a 300K house we built together and enjoying keeping his 500K 401 K which I ask for none of. I honestly didn’t even read the decree that day. I hadn’t slept. I just walked into the attorneys office turned to the last page and signed and walked out. I didn’t say a word to him I was so hurt. I have just always felt like he was mentally abusive to me and my friends validate that. I put up with it for a long time, and then I was done. I guess in a way I was still wanting to go back for more abuse. Time has been good for me. I feel happy and the money isn’t something I worry about now. I am grateful I have a good job where I can pay for a nice place to live, and I still have the support of my 2 boys ages 25, and 28 that help me from time to time when I ask. The divorce was tough on us all but we are making it. My ex-husband is no longer someone I talk to, mainly because he never would discuss the divorce once he was out of the relationship.

    After I left the marriage, I went thru a period where I had a lack of self-control. I wanted love but the physical act was all I was allowing. I soon realized that was just an empty path to nowhere. I had been married all my life, essentially since I met my ex-husband at 14, married at 19. I just knew that something wasn’t right over the years though. I was constantly seeking acceptance and never feeling like I got it.

    I’m still kind of a perfectionist. That part I really can’t change, mainly because I don’t want to. I have learned to give and take more and let people see me as I am, I don’t have to hide part of my for fear of rejection now. But I still have a hard time accepting friends that look down on me because I chose to leave a lifestyle my ex-husband thought was right. All the money in the world cannot change how I feel morally. I have met a nice man who seems to understand that I am a little overbearing at times and loves and accepts that about me.

    I am just in the beginning stages, but he has brought out hope, and I am feeling so much stronger now. Thanks for this article.

  • Along the same lines ar Mr Hickman, but at the foundation of the “should” was the “shoulda” for me. History won’t change for me (nor anyone), and for better or worse, is the foundation we rebuild ourselves upon. That I survived my past is the beginning of my remodeled life, one in which I consider this mantra:

    No one is more important than me.

    Caution: this does NOT say that I am MORE important than anyone else. It says I am EQUAL to anyone else. My needs, dreams and life matter as much as anyone else’s.

    One more: I admonished my self-denigrating buddy one day to “Stop talking about my friend like that!” They responded with “But I wasn’t talking about someone else, I was talking about me!” Weary of listening to their negative self-talk, I stated that they were trash-talking about my friend (themselves) and that I was not going to hear anything bad about my friends. Since then, I ask regularly if they are “taking care of my friend.” It’s almost magical when they realize how that poor self-talk radiates outward to everyone, exhausting the patience of those who care.

  • Great article! I heard something from a friend many years ago and it’s been my mantra since then:

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.” That’s how the envy can start with me plus it’s one of the Ten Commandments. That is a great list too!

  • My toxic behaviour got me fired and now I’m struggling as an unemployed 24 year old.
    I need to take all this on board and grow from what I know.

  • Excellent post! While we often don’t want to admit that some of these traits exist within, reading this post helps to realize that they do.

    I do hoard pain and loss. I have a very difficult time getting rid of the deep seeded pain. I put an emotional cloak around me to protect me from further hurt. But that’s not really living is it?
    I have taken some things personally. So to read your perspective on what that really is about, is very helpful. I assume everyone should know better and it is never good to assume anything.

    While having been on the receiving end of some toxic treatment, it has been hard to not feel victimized by it. Truthfully when bad things happen to any one of us, we are victims. But it’s when it becomes “a toxic stance that keeps you stuck” that you realize it has taken it’s toll. Thank you for the reminders. I’m going to work on the “human being”! I love that statement - thank you Larry’s sister!

  • “Hiding your truth” and “being a stubborn perfectionist” are the two toxic behaviors I relate to most. Especially when I was younger, I tried to present a certain image to the world that I was perfect and had everything under control. My husband even teasingly called me the “Perfect Princess on a Pedestal.” :-) I thought I had moved past such behaviors until I re-read a book I had published several years ago. In it, I tried not to say anything that would be criticized or create any controversy rather than just speaking my truth. Fortunately, I was a little braver with my current book. Some people may like it and some may not, but at least I am no longer hiding my truth. Thanks for the reminder to be aware of our toxic behaviors…which are obvious when we see them in others, but not so obvious when we’re the guilty party!

  • First time back on here for awhile but found this post very interesting. I’ve always had a bad temper for as long as I can remember, which has led to prison sentences and relationship break ups. But call it maturity or just plain old common sense, I’ve managed to control this very toxic behaviour through thinking differently and learning to walk away and distancing myself for awhile, which I never did before.

    Because my temper was getting me into so much trouble I saw a psychologist about ten years ago who helped me with this negative behaviour. But at the end of the sessions she told me I would have to learn ways and methods to control my anger myself without her help. And thankfully except for the odd wobble now and again I’ve managed to keep my temper in check. So having a bad temper is as toxic as you can get so to anyone having issues controlling theirs, I’d say do something about it or else it will bring only misery to you in the end.

  • Thank you guys as always for your insightful articles. Yes, we are all guilty of some of these behaviors but thank God I’m learning to acknowledge them and let God help me correct them. I have been guilty of a couple of these issues in the past and still might occasionally struggle, but the freedom of knowing yourself and adjusting is monumental in growth in the long run.

    Keep helping others…you’re a blessing.

  • These are all important to be aware of. I think for me, the biggest ones are taking everything too personally, needing constant validation, and no emotional self-control.

    Those three wreaked havoc on my life for years. Once I started to put the work into myself and change them, my life started turning around.

    Someone who is wildly emotional all the time will drive people away. Thanks for the reminders.

  • I’m actually really happy i read this. Definitely a wake up call, sadly. One of my horrible toxic behaviors is taking everything too personally. Sometimes I cant help when I overreact or get emotional when someone says something, especially when they’re being honest. Another one would be needing constant validation. I, though not much anymore, used to ask my boyfriend if he still loved me. Maybe just because its nice to hear or maybe because deep down I really do need to be validated. My boyfriend really hates when I do both toxic behaviors. I never realized that doing these could be exhausting and could easily make others around me not want to be around me. But after reading this, I know now that I have to watch what I say, control my feelings and realize not everyone is out to upset me.

  • Thank you both for this post. I read your e-mails whenever they come in but this particular post came at just the right time for me, as I’ve been having a tough couple of days and reading this made me realise that I do more than one of these toxic things involuntarily. Now I can actively change my behaviour.

    Thank you!

  • My story is a long & painful one, but I am now free! I won’t waste anyone’s time (or my own) telling the story. I will share that I obtained a divorce after 40 years of his addiction(s) alcohol, sex, money. Of course I was not aware of my own denial, co-dependency, enabling, and PTSD (also toxic). People remain in toxic relationships because of their own issues that have not been worked on. Everyone has to “get it” when ever the time is right for them. It doesn’t mean that individual is stupid. We are emotional beings…not logical. After three years of therapy, and the undying love of our Creator, I have moved from surrender onto sanctity. I have worked very hard to evolve to where I am now. Letting go of expectations (a big one), negativity, taking everything personal, and the need for validation. This is what matters in our lives: LOVE, kindness, empathy, compassion, forgiveness (of yourself & others sets YOU free), living in the present moment (a big one) love & nurture yourself, because You Matter! And take some time to be of Service. We all have the power through technology to communicate positivity. We can re-wire our brains for the Hope of our world’s future. Live your Truth! :o)

  • Thank you, Marc and Angel.

    A brilliant post. I find and reflect upon something new each time I read this… and I look at it frequently. Many things I can change and am currently changing.

    The reminders are so important.
    Regards from NZ,
    Lizzi

  • I am and always have been a ‘yes I can’ type of person, glass half full, nothing is gained if you don’t try, and why not ask, all they can do is say no. However, my ex was exactly the opposite. He would argue about how any idea I had would fail, try to find the negative in any accomplishment I had and, over the 25 years we were together, did his best to kill my spirit. And he almost succeeded. When I had evolved to speaking in a monotone, not looked forward to anything anymore and saw decades of cursing every morning I woke up to, I knew it was time to leave! So I did.

    The hardest part was realizing it and deciding to do it. I knew I had to get out, that his constant toxicity was hurting his health in a big way and would eventually get mine too. And it was only after I had left that his friends told him how badly he’d been acting toward me. He never even realized it. It’s now 4.5 years later. I live in another country, have been in a wonderful relationship that will become a marriage in two months, with a man who lets me voice my opinions, believes in my dreams and counts my optimism and faith as his greatest strengths. It hurts my heart to see my ex still living in his toxic world, unable to let it go. And I know that he most likely always be alone because of it. I wish I could send him this article, but I know he won’t see himself in it. But thanks for it…hopefully some will embrace this advice and change before it’s too late.

  • PS,
    for years I wondered why I kept pushing people away, when all I wanted was their love… This article explains it… and why I made the choices I did… all of it, essentially. I am finding peace in a new writing career, which allows me to use all of my training and experiences, and pass much of it on… The good and the bad, and hopefully it will shed light for some. :)

    Thanks again.
    Lizzi

  • I agree with all but one of these listed above, along with the reasons why they are so toxic. There’s such a long list of things which cause humans to push themselves into these states. And you’re right, the toxic repercussions that come from them can be dangerously wrecking to one’s personal as well as professional life.

    The one I disagree with though is the last one “Being a stubborn perfectionist. ” - A successful person pushes those around him while pushing himself the hardest, and could EASILY seem to fall into this category. There’s a difference between being an unsuccessful perfectionist, and being a successful progressive success…

    The SCARY part is, they BOTH share a LOT of the same similarities… :)

  • Something I would like to add is trying not to tell other people what to do or what they should or shouldn’t do. People who want to make everyone else’s business their business are highly toxic. It makes them feel important which is very controlling. As someone who has been on the receiving end of this behavior there is nothing more effective at distancing one’s self from someone who does that.

  • I have a friend who is 20 years younger than I am and absolutely beautiful. She is everything I want to be. I used to be so envious until the day I realized that whenever I was looking at her with envy in my eyes, I was not looking at her with love in my eyes !! And I love her more than I envy her.

  • Another toxic behavior is not being “present” when you are with someone. Focus on what they are saying, what they are feeling … Listen to them instead of thinking what you’ll say when they pause for a breath. Eye contact instead of being on your “gadgets” and nodding and saying “uh huh” every once in a while. Don’t leave them lonely even though they aren’t alone. (If that isn’t already, that could be a great lyric for a song!)

  • @Kate: So very cool that a woman in her “80’s” is blogging with us! I myself am in my 50’s.

    First off Kate, you are not wrong to feel a little slighted over someone not showing gratitude. I think it is somewhat rude to not acknowledge the gift you have given them (which is your time, wisdom and friendship). The times have somewhat changed in terms of good manners and protocol. Now, not every young person is like this of course. (and sometimes these very people are old enough to know better) But…..at times people who are older feel invisible by the younger generation. We all have to remember that one day, we will all be there (if luck and fortune have it), we will live to our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s plus!

    Just the other day I met a woman at a friends birthday party. We had a great and authentic conversation. I offered to help her daughter find a new career. She sent me a hand written note of gratitude on personal stationary. It was one of the loveliest gestures I have received.

    So Kate, I don’t feel that you are being a victim. I’d say you got it all going on! You just want to be appreciated like the rest of us!

  • I am only 25 but I am a strong 12. I see more and more how it affects the way I do things and the way I interact with others. I do my best not to inflict my expectations on others because I know it is tedious but it often means I take on more than I can manage. It is hard to explain to others how little things that don’t mean anything to them and won’t matter all that much in the long term can be so important to me…. Makes me feel crazy at times, but it is hard to let go of the expectations I have when it comes to quality in all the projects I take on, whether I am writing educational information or baking cookies that have to be perfect. Thank goodness for my fiancés patience, working on yourself is a long process.

  • Wow, I had no idea how much of this applies to me.
    Got some work to do on myself!

    Thanks as always for a great post and blog.

  • Many of these toxic behaviours are unfortunately very familiar to me. The one that hit me the hardest is how I need validation. There comes a point in time when even your biggest fan is tired of telling you how worthy or wonderful you are. Also, I feel that it’s about time I start believing that I am actually quite a Nice person who is good at what she does! Thanks for the great reminder!

  • I live in constant fear. Thank you for some helpful reminders.

  • Being who we are, requires deep introspection, devotion to oneself and an unbelievable amount of compassion to be able to accept oneself and one’s personal nature. One master once said, “Stop making yourself bitter, just be a better being!”…reading this, just helps even more in letting go of deep wounds as they surface, especially around Full-moons…Gratitude to you both and everyone who responded!

    Letting light in & staying within…

  • My goodness, I cringed at every line of this article as it describes me. Such a wake up call very much needed. I need to work on me..sigh..

  • I thought I was alright til I saw last point. Seeking for perfection is not bad but push other people around to be perfect could ruin any relationships.

  • Check, check and check! I am guilty of some aspect of all of the toxic behaviours.

    Actually, literally, all of them.

    Must try harder.

    tj

  • WOW. WOW. WOW. I loved your words. So many of the statements you’ve made, I’ve made. I am by no means perfect but I strive to learn myself and how to deal with what I view as victims of the world. I find I have very little patience for the types of behaviors you have described. But again, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see the attributes. My journey is self discovery AND part of that journey is admitting when to walk away from toxic people.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  • @Romina: Thank you for taking the time to be present. :)

    @Marilyn: Great quote, thank you for sharing!

    @Suzanne Schiavoni: Start with forgiving yourself for your own humanity – your own moments of rage and darkness. Because, even in our darkest moments, there is a light that shines within us that has the potential to be of service to ourselves and others in ways we may never fully comprehend.

    @Renee: Know in your heart that there is strength inside you that is greater than the challenges you face. No one can do it for you – you have to choose to use your wings.

    @Ms Hanson: What a great influence you are. You friend is lucky to have you.

    @All: As a final thought, please don’t feel embarrassed or cringe if you recognize some of these behaviors in yourself. We’re all guilty at one point or another. As stated above, the key is awareness – recognizing these behaviors and stopping them dead in their tracks. Thank you for your insightful comments and personal stories. Angel and I can relate to so many of you, and we truly feel blessed that you share with us.

  • This comprehensive list is a rundown of the behavior that essentially makes us human, frail, mistake prone and NORMAL. The article points out the foibles of what it means to be human but fails to include the most important goal (may I even call it a gift) for ourselves and others - FORGIVENESS. To start the process of becoming our best selves, for ourselves and others, by not driving others away is to forgive. To forgive ourselves when we have not measured up and forgive others who have failed us. Before spending a single minute ‘working on’ ridding myself of any of the self destructive behaviors listed above I would rather seek the grace from within to forgive myself for any acts or attitudes that alienated me from someone wanting to become closer to me. If one truly wants to behave in a toxic fashion then refuse to forgive others for the very same acts that we perpetrate on one another daily.
    I am stressed for time so I may add more later.
    Be well.
    Nils

  • “This comprehensive list is a rundown of the behavior that essentially makes us human, frail, mistake prone and NORMAL. The article points out the foibles of what it means to be human but fails to include the most important goal (may I even call it a gift) for ourselves and others - FORGIVENESS. ”

    I’ve recently been in a tough life transition involving a difficult new job and relocation. This has made me less available for friends and I know I haven’t been communicating very well, and unfortunately, one friend (who I considered a close friend) has not been empathetic or forgiving about this situation. I have seen the “perfectionism” the article warns about in her before in unreasonably high expectations for friendships, and that is evident in the way she has cut off contact with me despite my efforts to reach out to her and accept my responsibility after our “communication breakdown.” I know I have my flaws, and recognize that I can be difficult at times, but I am disappointed that this friend has cut me off this way. It’s not easy to make good friends as you get older (we are 30 somethingds), so you would think she would be less perfectionist and more willing to be there for her friends during trying times.

  • A lot of these behaviors can happen when a person is really badly depressed; Or going through traumatic experiences; or going through grief. They my not have a whole lot of control over these behaviors at the time. Counselling and help can only do so much. This article is interesting for those who are in their full health, but I fear that it gives other people licence to be unforgiving and cut off people who are really struggling (When cutting that person off is exactly the worst thing that you can do) (I know that the article does go deeper than this but the title of the article and the titles of the chapters seem to lack compassion in comparison to the overall meaning)

    Like Nils Paladau mentions. Forgiveness is incredibly important. Forgiving others and yourself. If you are incorrectly perceived to be behaving like this when you are not, people may cut you off. There is only so much you can do about that. All one can do is let it go, sometimes. And hope that the other partly changes their perception in the future.

  • Almost all of them ring true with me, in some small way or another, like envy I keep it hidden in my mind cause I know it’s wrong so I look at what I’m envious of and turn it into respect for the person who has what I envy. Then I work on myself to be worthy of getting what it is that I truly wish I had. But there’s one thing I do constantly in every relationship I get and I am working on stopping , it’s hard and painful to do but, every once in a while during my relationship I get supremely introverted where I don’t even want any one near me I just want to be alone and hide in a hole. Not sure why just kinda happens. But yea that’s my toxic behaviors

  • My toxic trait that I need to work on is my high expectations. I expect perfection from everyone and it rolls into my business life, my friends, anyone I date.. I expect perfection which leads to disappointment. I just need to relax and be okay with imperfections.

    A trait that others have that are toxic that pushes me away is selfish people. People that don’t respect or value your time so they are always late. Or, they are so selfish that everything has to go on their schedule. That is my biggest pet peeve.

    Thanks for the good read. Much needed!

  • Hiding my truth is probably one of my biggest one although I do see myself in some of the others. Over emotional, validation, taking things to personally. I’ve came to a very hard realization in my 34 years that I have always put others happiness in front of my own and through that I’ve realized I started to compromise too much and I’ve lost sight of who I am. What bugs me is that this is no one’s fault but my own. I’ve changed and it’s time to change back. To be myself again, cause no matter what you do, you are the important one. I’ve always thought that it’s selfish to think of myself but I’m slowly realizing now that it’s the most unselfish thing I can do. “we wear masks for so long that when we take them off we take off a bit of our own skin”.

  • Numbers 2 and 3: I hate whispering. I’ve got this thing where if I hear friends whispering about something I automatically assume they are making fun of me or trash talking me. Maybe this stems from being bullied in school (#4)? I’m not sure, but I know it’s neurotic and damaging to relationships.

  • When my son died of cancer a few years ago I used that as an excuse to check out of life. My wife stuck with me and I am trying to get a hold of myself. This blog is helping me to get over this and back into life. I realized (finally) that I was being selfish and I had to go on with my life.

    Thanks for all the posts on your site. I try and read every one of them. It gets me thinking.

  • Nice work Romina! Good comment. It’s so depressing to think how out of the moment we all have become with the amount of lazy stimulation available etc. have you ever gone back to check a locked door or car? That really annoys me!

  • Thank you for this amazing article. I struggle with a few of these toxic behaviors. One of the main ones= a perfectionist. I live in constant fear and always shoot myself down even before I’ve tried to take on a task, in fear of not being able to give it my all(comparing myself to others and their accomplishments) I am indecisive in what I like& want out of life. The fear that if I fail, it will destroy every bit of my remaining self esteem and self-worth. I’m constantly looking for validation in others to accept me and I fear of being judged. Not pretty enough, not fit enough, not educated enough. As I get older, all these behaviors seem to be getting worse. I hope I can break out of this destructive routine and start to love myself.. thanks again for this well written article. =)

  • Cheryl McPherson
    August 19th, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Wow! Great post and great comments. I too am going to take a moment and live in today rather than “running through” life because so much of this touched my heart.

    I am a psychotherapist and it is true that every human experiences some and/or all of these (and possibly other) toxic behaviours. As one commentator said we are emotional beings (even when we build up our walls). But as Marc and Angel stated we need to acknowledge and re-adjust our behaviour when necessary.

    @Val - You can definitely heal from your past traumas, it just may take some help from someone else to guide you through it. If you have tried therapy before, it may be that you did not have a therapist that was compatible with you and your needs. Yes it is true we do not work well with everyone. I always tell folks to interview their therapist and ask them important questions about who they are as a therapist and human, how and/or why they got where they are, and how do they view their own practice. If you have other questions you think are important ask, the worst they can say is that they will not answer. If they are not willing to answer your important questions then there is a possibility that you may have difficulty building a therapeutic relationship with them, which is a two way street.

    Finally, I really want to say thank you to everyone who left comments! No one flamed anyone else, everyone was self-reflective and introspective. And in some cases even posting positive feedback to specific commentators. I often find I read/view something online and then I move to the comments section and it is the MOST toxic environment. Today the comment section lifted me up as much. if not slightly more, as the original article itself. I too will be printing this and passing on to clients, colleagues, family and friends.

  • Hi, another great and awesome article. For me, it is really hard to let go, be it love, frustrations or anything that affected our life in the past but we’ve got to set ourselves free from all of these negative things. It is true indeed that it takes hard work to let go and refocus our thoughts, but as what you’ve said… It is all worth it. Thanks for sharing.

  • I recently came out of a deep depression. It only ended when a friend who seemed to have it all, committed suicide. I have struggled for years in each of the areas you mention above. My past, from a child, is so full of trauma that now that I am in my 50’s, I am still dealing with toxicity that pushes people away or places them in bondage to my need to be validated. It is sickening but I do not know how to break it. I went to seek therapy some years ago that was told that I was fine and coping well, in spite of all I have been through. After that visit, I never sought counseling again… I was not fine! However, based on Cheryl’s suggestions to Val, I may seek out a therapist again. Thank you.

  • Marsha Lee’s comment on envy hits home with me. I have so often felt that the experiences or advice of anyone besides myself was more valid or true, as if they had a better understanding of the world than I did. This has caused such damage in my life. Feeding 2-5, for me. It is difficult to move against this feeling, hard to convince yourself that those things aren’t true and that you can feel differently. But the work I have done so far is noticeable, and even with those days when I slide back into those holes, overall it is worth it to keep moving forward. I mean, what other choice is there, standing still or falling back is insufferable.

    Thank you for this list, and for these comments.

  • Overall, Brilliant!
    Also, all the comments I have read, Brilliant!

    “Hiding Your Truth” hits the nail right on the head. I never knew until recently how painful it is to hide from yourself. I only found out when I stopped hiding, and realized what a relief it was.

    I have recently come out as a transvestite. This was a big deal for me, my family, and some of my friends. Some people did fade away, but the ones who were always true to me remained. For the most part, the people who went away were pretty toxic themselves in the first place. I didn’t come completely out with it for several years, because I was afraid of how people would react to a man dressed in women’s clothing and makeup. Indeed, I have been asked a few times if I had “lost a bet” or something. But for the most part, the people I meet day to day simply take it in stride, or ask polite questions. One dear old lady told me once that my nail polish looked nicer than hers!

    The point of all this is, once I had come out and fully accepted who I was, and stopped being ashamed of it, the reaction I got was almost the exact opposite of what I was expecting. People liked me more. I seemed to become more approachable. And most of all, I feel this profound sense of relief in being completely myself, and having given myself permission to be OK with it.

  • #6. I think past hurts have me exploding in anger sometimes. It’s not a daily thing but when it happens the guilt afterwards is almost as.bad as the anger. I’m able to go back and say sorry, but the anger sorta sneaks up on me. By the time I realize what I’m doing I’m done. The anger sorta burns it’s way through me. I truly don’t know how to stop it or why I became this way. I was always the quit one in school, never complained or got angry. My home.life was not always the best but I wasn’t beaten or anything like that. Just had parents that fought a lot and yelled. But like I said as a teenager and younger I was never the dramatic, loud, fighting type. Never asserting my will on anyone. Not sure where it all went wrong…..

  • This is so timely for me. I have a sister who fits almost all of these characteristics. She does not cheat. But just this evening she started a giant fight with our other sister in front of our mother (who has a terminal illness, and thus should be able to have bigger fish to fry). Somehow my name got involved, even though I live 250 miles away from them. Now we are all left floundering in her wake, with anxiety and concern. She refuses to see that she has pushed away her family, friends, and even her daughter who hasn’t spoken to her in several weeks and even has had to go to a counselor to deal with issues stemming from their relationship. I have tried to distance myself from her, but I see her every time I go to my mother’s house. I love her, but I can’t open myself up to her abuse any more. Is there anything we can do? Please help us, I don’t want my mother to have to continue to witness this kind of anger when she is sick.

  • Words to grow by.

  • 4, 5, 10… I recently lost my brother to suicide. He left behind two beautiful children. Which changed my views on quite a few things, but not him. I looked up to him more than you could imagine. I feel this pain will never fully leave me. Sometimes I wonder if it does, it means I’ve let him go as well. Thank you for posting this, I think I can repair this before a month turns into years. If not for myself, for my amazing nephews.

  • I am glad I read this blog as it has given me some clarity plus some much needed food for thought. Numbers 2 and 3 — taking everything personally and always being a victim — are stagnating my life right now. Frankly, for me they are intertwined. Because I tend to believe every rejection or rude comment is due to a personal flaw or misstep on my part, I often feel the victim of others’ misunderstanding of me and my intentions and that I must somehow fix that scenario. It is good to be reminded that, yes, folks may indeed misunderstand me, but often it’s due to their own filters through which they are viewing the world at that moment and has nothing to do with my values, goals, or dreams.

  • Sad to say that almost all of these describe who I am or was. Coincidentally on yesterday I made a vow to begin again and then I ran into this article. My behavior has destroyed my current and past love relationships, friendships, family relationships, my self-esteem, worth, value and has made me stagnant in my career. I say all that to ask now that some light has been shed on these toxic behaviors where and how do I begin to remove, demolish, destroy and change these ways? I want to know how to recognize them and instantly nip them in the bud. I am disappointed in myself that at the age of 37 I am just recognizing these things. However on the other hand I am excited for change. I am so in love right now but my actions show otherwise and I’ve pushed them away. I don’t know where to begin to heal our relationship other than to start with the change in me. Thank you for this has enlightened me and given me a new perspective to move forward in being my authentic self and not a hurt, fragile, victimizing person.

  • This is a great post. I am struggling with all of these behaviours. It is a constant battle that I am losing. I wish I could turn it off and enjoy life but I can’t. I’m losing my girlfriend who I believe isn’t the problem but continue to fight and blame her for things. I can’t get a handle on any of these behaviours and I hate myself more than ever.

    I’m trying to keep it together and move forward. I will be reading this post a lot in the next few weeks, hope it helps me get a little more stable.

    Thx

  • The humility & introspection of the comments following this post I find inspiring & beautiful. All the various experiences we’ve had bring us to where we are in life & that includes pain & suffering. Back in 2008/09 I had many dark, hopeless times. I didn’t think I’d ever be truly happy again, yet digging deep & reflecting on much of what is also in this post gradually changed my outlook & has made the past few years unbelievably rewarding & wonderful.

    Hang in there those who are hurting for so many understandable reasons; I believe much goodness lies ahead!

  • Number 1 might be my biggest problem. I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but I feel no matter how hard I try, there are some people around me who just want me to feel envious of them. I got out of an emotionally abusive relationship 2 years ago and I have been single ever since. I will be 29 soon and I don’t meet many single guys let alone date them. I am surrounded by married people who constantly ask me why I am not dating or getting married and it really hurts me.Because it isn’t like I want to be lonely for the rest of my life. It just hasn’t happened for me yet and their constant questioning and attitude like they are better than me is really very hurtful. Some days I just don’t see the point in doing anything with my life because apparently being in a relationship is the single thing that defines you.

  • People who require to be in control, who don’t encourage other people, who are filled with pride and put down others to show how great they themselves are, or demand to take over a project or role to try to communicate they are better, or who won’t take constructive criticism nor compliments from any they deem inferior to themselves, or who take undeserved praise and credit - that is toxic too.

  • A friend and I just had this conversation today about being controlled by fear. I want to live fully in the moment and enlarge my box. Its knowing what to do to make your box larger. Its the courage to look at yourself and then take that leap of faith. I am working on this one as I believe I need a vision to focus on to me make this happen.

    Also, changing the way I think of myself by turning my back on my victim and fear of mentality. #Done#movingontoabetterlife.

  • My ex boyfriend of 8 years was every single one of these, and then some. I saw the signs early on, but was already too deep in love. I thought I could help him. I thought he would change for me. man, was I ever dead wrong. I used to think I was the one with all the issues, cuz we all have them, I was the one who couldn’t adjust. I was too sensitive. But he would treat everyone nasty if things didn’t go his way. Blow up. Break things. Make assumptions. Lie. Name call. Makes excuses for his actions. You name it, he did it. Then try to make it ok with “I’m sorrys.” gets really old after awhile, and you stop believing anything they say. I love you means nothing. Toxic people do not realize or admit the damage they do.

  • This is an excellent article, I found myself in number 11. I have to do the best job I possibly can, I want the people I work for to know that what I do for them is because I truly care about them.

  • I think there are times when all of us have these behaviors(when we’re tired, stressed, etc).

    BUT when these behaviors happen on a regular basis it’s time to pay attention. I have a friend who is many of these traits. At first I thought it was do to some stressful situations but then I realized it was much of the time. As a friend I feel you have a right to tell a friend when it starts to feel overwhelming or like your being dumped on . If the person cries or manipulates with guilt-keep the focus…be direct without being cruel. Then keep some distance-Protect yourself . If the friendship is worth it…it will work out.

  • So true indeed. To overcome these deficiencies and weaknesses can be of great benefit for our peaceful future. Thanks for sharing. Its a reminder and a wake up call.
    Thanks with Love!

  • I can relate to a lot of these…ok all of them! My life was full of pain and suffering when the Lord came after me a decade ago. I had reasons to be envious of others. I was physically abused, sexually molested, and spiritually beaten up. I was bitter towards those who had less troubles, who could callously turn their back on me, citing the behaviors/attitudes that in this article, but overlooking the roots of those behaviors. Regardless, God called me to the church, called me to a community that I had to learn to relate to. I couldn’t afford to hold onto my envy and to sit in my wounds. If I wanted to heal, I had to do the best I could with the cards I’d been dealt. I still struggle with envy - Why ME!? - but mostly I struggle with the tension between my faithfulness in God and my questions of His goodness. That, I think, will always be a journey and a tension in this life. But, as will be healing from the wounds that led to these toxic behaviors, and as I become more mature in soul - meeting right needs in right ways - I have experienced and believe I will continue to experience greater wholeness, love, and less toxicity in my life.

  • Thank you.

    This is life-changing for me.

  • Number 11 validation. I look for this way too much from my best friend whom I teach with. I have never felt validated from my family and I look for her to make up for it. I have been aware of this for a while and am trying to work on it! Great article!

  • I engage in many of these, and try to be conscious of them. One of the things I do, which is the very thing that bugs me with others, is staying self-focused. I have to really stretch myself to just be still and listen, and not interject with the, “oh yeah, something like that happened to me…”, or suck up the other person’s time talking about myself. There needs to be a healthy mix. I’m still trying to find that balance, and I know others I am friends with do as well.

  • Great reading! I recognize myself in some of these although its hard to be self critical - I am getting better at it and this sure helps.

  • My biggest challenge is finding it impossible to let go of things . . . and move on. As with all instances of compulsive ruminating, you become a prisoner of your past, constantly hoping to finally re-write history and come up with a better outcome. But the only thing that’s ever going to happen is a poisoning of the life that you’re trying to live today. Learn to let go. When you can, you’ve set yourself free. What a great feeling.

  • I agree with many of these and have behaved and do behave in some of these ways… It is challenging not to be a victim when your partner is very dominant and/or inflexible , when having to stand up for yourself is daunting during decision making or just plain communicating within the relationship.

    I’m working on it , but I guess there comes a point where you have to take stock and see if you are really with the right person , especially if you keep bumping against the same issues time and time again.

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