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:
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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
What if you realize that you do ALL these things! Yikes. I have a lot of work to do. :/
Eva. L says
May be you should talk to someone close to you like a family memeber or someone you can trust or perhaps a seeing counsellor . I see your point of view, have you been hurt or something happened in the past? ( Don’t have to answer your personal details).
Becky me too!! Or at least 50%…. I think many of the above are symptoms of depression.
Alexandria Jones says
I just had a massive epiphany and realized that in the past 3 years I have successfully pushed my whole friend group away. I realized just now that it was my doing. After I took a step back and saw that everyone is still so happy together but me it really made my start searching for an answer. I ran into this article and it has some dark truths I was not willing to confront. There is only one habit I don’t practice that’s listed here and that’s being a perfectionist. I self destructed, talked bad about my friends to other friends, put myself down, and filled myself with jealousy for what? Everyone is saying these habits are linked to depression however my experience with medication and therapists is not a great one. Is there a way out of this cycle on my own? I would love to have a rich life filled with love and happiness and I may not be able to get back what I had but I’d love to just enjoy things again, instead of sitting here reflecting which feels like is my only hobby. Btw this is my first time doing any sort of online post about personal stuff so I apologize if it’s uncommon or out of line.
Well I had 10 when I was a kid and, 6 now. When I was a kid I’d hide who I really was because I thought people wouldn’t like me but, when I decided to be myself then people liked me. Today I had a spurt of number six with family members, I apologized. Extremely tough week may get laid off and, my sister-in-law is taking advantage of my husband and father-in-law . Trying not to say anything, it will only make things worse. I figure they will get tired of it, my father-in-law already is. Anyway see this is how I blow off steam. ? Thank you, internet peeps.
I have many of the issues described above. Who could I go to to get help on making the improvements I need?
The first thing you need to be able to do is to become aware of the issues. It seems you are on your way since you can recognize and admit to them.
If you have insurance you can look up online for a therapist to talk to. Or start working on them yourself. Write things down, then go do something that you will enjoy that would not negatively harm you or another, then come back to your writing and see how you feel about the situation then. Don’t go backwards. Use your feel good moments to help you positively work through the bad ones.
Finding time to do positive things and following through will also help. Even if you have to go by yourself. Most people are so afraid to do things by themselves. They schedule things with a partner, and when it doesn’t happen they blame the partner.
Sometimes other people are at fault, but you also have to admit and be responsible for your part. Then you make positive changes to you, or cut out toxic people when you can, for the better. Fact is you learned and can take the right approach next time. Wanna do something positive? Earn your money and Nike!! “Just Do It!”
Living your truth is also important. Stop lying to yourself and others just to seem important or get over. It’s not worth it, and you will have to do more work to keep up with the lies. Also, being midful and respectful of others is one of the most important factors. Being grateful to even your haters, and recognizing that you are a winner. They help you be a better you. Just stay humble, and give as much as you receive. Balance is key.
This website has many other key points that can help you. I recommend browsing and reading their articles for an hour or so a day. Then just apply them as safely as possible. Do not worry and work at your pace as best you can. It is hard work, but hard work tastes so goooood! And it pays off, because you go to bed with a feeling of “Ahhhhhhh”. You will be all right! 🙂
Good luck! #nevergiveup
My sister in-law has a drug addiction. She went through a lengthy rehab and did great for a while. During that time we became close. Then she got into a very bad but short relationship. It was the that she started using-again! When she uses she lies and steals to everyone she comes in contact with. I stopped communicating with her recently. I don’t want this kind of negativity in my life or the life of my family. I have small children and children that are at a very impressionable age. Plus it really makes me feel like a negative Nancy! The only thing is is that I feel like I’m being a major bitch for feeling this way. I feel like I’m not being supportive. But I also feel like I’ve supported her so many times only to be let down! Is this wrong of me?
Great response back. Liked what you wrote. Loved this article.
Actually I do have the bad habit of wanting to talk about the harrowing things that happened to me in the past. I always thought that talking about this was a way of making it less traumatic. That isn’t always the case. And having read this article I will keep it in the forefront of my mind whenever I wander off into that toxic way of thinking. Thanx for posting this.
While I agree that discussing negative past experiences all the time can come off as negative and unwanted behavior, sometimes that constant discussion is what helps you to ultimately heal and eventually let go of that pain. Please don’t stop talking to people about harrowing and unfortunate situations you’ve experienced. If you ever meet someone new and somehow they ask enough questions that it’s relevant and you wish to discuss, definitely do. I would just not suggest bringing it up constantly to people who’ve you already talk to about it unless they bring it up. No one will fault you for having a traumatizing past, in fact it may allow some to understand you better. If you still feel the need to talk about it beyond that, speak to your partner or a very close friend who is willing to talk it out with you on occasion, or even seek help from a counselor. Sometimes talking to a stranger and starting from the beginning is one of the most healing things you can do.
Linda Batchelor says
I think I have many of the issues described above. I know I overly think stuff & often think the worst case scenarios in many situations. I definitely take things TOO personally as evidenced by a recent flub of mine on Facebook & certain peoples reactions to it. I have since unfriended many people including a co-worker & my sister because of their negative reactions to what I have posted. I thought I was a much more positive person since leaving my nursing career of 30+ years behind me 6 yrs. ago. My late husband often said I had become so after leaving that profession.(I was a Mental Health R.N.) My 16yr old daughter informs me I am not more positive & am an unhappy person. I am happy in many aspects of my life-my daughter & who she is for one,my home & my job. But beyond that I have no real friends & no real activities other than the computer. It is & has been my choice to be so because many have let me down throughout my life in important ways. I am 58 yrs. old & need a friend.
I will be your friend! ?
I need one too.
Janis Carrier says
I’ll be your friend, I need one too..I relate to you..
I woke up in the middle of night and got to thinking. For some reason the word toxic popped up in my head. I don’t know how such a random word appeared in my mind. So when I googled “im toxic,” this article appeared in the search results. Lo and behold I can easily relate to all these points.
Lately, I’ve been messing up my relationships with my friends and even family. I want to stop feeling sorry for myself and need to really look at the bigger picture rather than worrying about such minuscule things.
Was it faith that brought me here? I just find it hard to believe this was a coincidence that the word “toxic” popping up in my mind and everything I read was so familiar to me. It’s weird how life and such works. I guess I’ll never know the real answer as to how I got here to searching this word. Maybe I manifested my destiny?
Ok, I think I should stop wondering so much about this and get straight to working on myself. You never really stop working on yourself in life because things are constantly changing. I hope to successfully implement most of these points in my life, if not all. If I say anything is possible, is that thinking too far?
Anyways, I’ve lost myself in my thoughts and where I was going with this. Let’s just see how I will manage myself after making some of these positive changes.
Optimism for the win! 😀
I fall under number #2 and #5. I really try not to take things too personal, but whenever something that bothered me crosses my mind, I can’t help it at all. Lately, I have been thinking negative a lot because every time I try to make things go right, something goes wrong and it repeats itself. I can understand if things go wrong once in a while, but everyday though?? It gets tiring.
The same scenario happened to me, too, KC. I often do overthinking, which usually resulted to some small arguments with my boyfriend. He kept on telling me that I don’t have to mind small things that much because in his problems I’m not the one who’s stressing him, but other stuff. But, I can’t help thinking why he’s getting withdrawn or whatever at times. I know myself I have this problem, but I know how to control it by doing something that makes me smile, laugh, forget. One of the outcomes is creating my own website misscreativejournaler.com to help others to be motivated, and maintain positivism. Hope we could connect, KC. 🙂 xoxo
I love your posts!
Except the cheating part as in with another partner I pretty well nail all the above. My relationship with my wife has deteriorated beyond repair. I could honestly say I have 12 parts of this and she always said I was toxic and would end up with no one but I would rather shut her out and think she was just being a bitch. We have 4 beautiful kids who I’ve neglected and my wife has suffered the most. I am not and never will be physically assaulting towards my wife but I know I’ve assaulted her spirit. We are now making plans to finish our house , sell and go our separate ways. As much as I do not want this I believe it has to be done. I love my family with all of my heart and have been blind for many years. Wake up to yourself people before it’s too late. Nobody is perfect but if your any of these things wake up or you’ll soon lose everyone. I just hope now that my wife, my soul mate and my friend has a better life.
Cynthia Giles says
Paul, it could possibly be too late for your marriage, but you can always get married a second time, even to the same person! Don’t let the “too late” thing stop you, start being positive, joyfully happy, and appreciative for your life and everyone in it. Just start doing it, if you are thinking of something positive you should say but hesitate, JUST DO IT! be happy, silly, loving and POSITIVE. It may not save your marriage but it can change your world and that of someone you love. People who know you may very well think you’ve gone crazy but just DO it anyway, they will learn to adjust. Many years ago when I worked as a waitress, often times I would encounter a gentleman flirting & I would remind him that he was married, which often led to a string of complaints about the wife. After a short convo I would tell the guy to just start doing things differently himself, take her flowers or some small thing that she liked for no apparent reason. Then don’t wait for praise or a response, do it just because. She may question it and doubt his motives, but just do it. Then if asked, just say “because it’s Tuesday”, or “because I care about you/want you to be happy”. Just do it with no anticipation or expectation of anything, and keep doing it. (Do it with your kids too and others as well.) I’d sum up the conversation essentially by saying, “take the attention you are trying to put on me and give it to your wife”. A few times I got really good reports back. Read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, also “The Secret” and “The Celestine Prophesy” and James Redfield’s follow up book, “The Tenth Insight” and pay attention to the power struggles & “control dramas” it speaks of. They may be difficult to get into, I struggled with that myself, but just read it with an open mind & willingness to hear the message. They helped me pull out of a rut I’d gotten into after a bad & abusive marriage, and still help me today & has also helped others when I have passed along copies I buy from second hand stores or online specifically to give to those who come to me looking for advice. It is never too late until it REALLY is…too late. Don’t wait because that could be today, tomorrow, or who knows. Also, as I tell my kids, “you don’t really fail until you just stop trying”, (A. Einstein). Best of luck to you!
Cynthia Giles says
Also Paul, one thing I forgot to mention, I would remind whichever gentleman I was talking to that things didn’t get the way they were overnight and it would likewise take time to turn things around & regain what trust & respect had been lost or damaged. You can only control yourself & let others have their own opinions/feelings etc., so be your best self & it will effect & influence others. I’d also like to clarify that when I said I was in an abusive marriage, it was abusive in every way BUT physical as most people assume. Looking back I realize that it would have been easier if he had hit me, I would not have questioned my decision to leave for so long, it would have been the first and LAST time, as I grew up with five brothers, a wonderful father and many uncles who were very good men & would never hit women, yet I saw my sister keep going back to more than one abusive spouse & witnessed the frustration it created in our family. Again, I wish you the best of everything.
Excellent Cynthia! I would say that awareness is the single most important thing toward progress. It is never too late if you desire it – go for it. Take one thing at a time – date your wife – be completely transparent. Tell her the one thing you are working on and ask her every day how you are doing. It may take her a while to believe real change is happening, and she may react poorly even at first, but consistency on your part will win in the long run. Blessings!
This was great reading material and helpful by explaining why people are rude, cruel, and negative to me. I’m one of the unlucky outsiders of my family that is constantly judged and treated like I’m horrible or something. I did go through 3 traumatic situations and believe me I try to let them go only it is hard when u are permanently disfigured, never compensated properly at all and lost a boyfriend to suicide in my yard and I found him hanging so needless to say I’m not a victim and I let go but I have unfinished business and it all left my life in such a mess wow it’s hard but I’m o,e of the most open minded non judgmental friendly helpful push over friend to all I can say I still keep my head up and try to productively pursue my dreams and goals. I continue moving forward. I have a few pep that judge me and want me to fall and don’t like me and never will Idk if it’s jealousy but darn all I been through who would want that and I have had friends unfriend me for no reason in fact I do way more for them then they will ever do. So this helps me stay on my best behavior regardless of those negative pep and I see why more then likely now that they have inner issues and it’s not me. I try so hard to be cool and happy w them but never they will never believe I’m a good person or something??
I admit being guilty to too many of these myself as well. That said; I will add another which I myself have done but know others who do more than me. It’s hijacking a nice evening/gathering by showing up with your baggage and making the whole day/night about your problem. It has pretty much taken over any jokes, funny stories, uplifting conversation and turned it into a therapy session. I make a point that if I’m going somewhere social I take my happy self there or if I simply can’t I stay home. No one likes a Debbie Downer and honestly though I’m sure the person may not realize or even see it this way it is imho rather selfish. When you’re out in a social setting this should be for good times. If you’re with your besty having coffee/drinks one on one go ahead and let loose.
Eva. L says
Don’t worry its not your fault. Its sad to hear what your going through. You should talk to some who you can trust. Social is very judgemental and they don’t know what your going through. Good Luck 🙂
Eva. L says
To the people who have been through Trauma, domestic violence, drug abuse and other events and issues in their past and present event… I have empathy for the ones that have been hurt, portrayed, rejected, confused, depressed and the ones who suffer from Post Stress Traumatic Disorder should talk to some who you can trust like a therapist, counsellor or even a close family member. There is a reason why people are here for and that is to help each other to able to overcome these horrific trauma and the hurt. We are humans and we make mistakes, no one is perfect. Don’t be discouraged even though it hurts so much deep down. Believe in yourself learn and from these bad experiences and mistakes and get an open point of view of what is going on. You never know what will happen in the future and never give up on life no matter what you go through. Be strong and have faith on yourself. Good luck
frances baca says
I hope it is not too late to get an answer or a response. I am having a hard time not manifesting all the above behaviors. Is it because I have been abused …rejected ..fatherless..? I don’t trust any man long enough to give him the time of day …My thoughts are like all men are bad because all three of my husbands cheated on me and those before me ..so I don’t take it personal ..can you help me to help myself? I realize that I can’t change the world but I can change my mind ….right ?
Yes, this hits home. I have a few of these traits. Validation is my biggest issue. I am an Empath. But I’m always wanting to ensure that people around me approve of what I’ve done. I really think it stems from my childhood. My dad use to hit me. He wasn’t a drinker. He would get upset with me for something I did or didn’t do. For example, he would back hand me in the car and sometimes stop and pull me out and hit me in the face. But this was just one example. So I always tried to please him or get validation from him. Of course it never came and now I’m a 56 year old validationist. How can I get away from this. I have depression and have tried to cope with it. Just yesterday, I went to the doctor and was prescribed some anti-depression drugs. Somethings go to give. It has cost me a few nice relationships by driving them away. I do realize that it’s unattractive to be that way.
Half way reading through this, I felt like Bob on “What About Bob”, … “you can help me!!!”
Although there are real issues in my life, I am reminded that I have the choice on how to react!!
1-5 and 12 are my battles. I have responsibility in them, but its also a great reminder that its not me, and I don’t have to take everything like a personal attack. Others suffer too. None are perfect.