One of the hazards of my job is that I am constantly surrounded by toxic people.
OK, maybe not quite surrounded. But sometimes it feels like it.
In every season of my life, there has been at least one person hanging around who is just not good for me. There always seems to be a toxic relationship in my life.
At this point, I'm starting to think that I attract them, that they are drawn to me by some unknown force.
Whatever the reason, having a toxic relationship is never a good time, but they always seem to creep up, no matter how hard I try to avoid them. Even though I've dealt with this situation so many times, I'm often unaware that a person is toxic until after I'm an exhausted, emotional mess.
Being an introvert, it is easy for me to feel overwhelmed by social interactions, so I often mistake toxic behavior for "oh, this is just what it's like to have friends."
That couldn't be further from the truth. And I've learned over the years that there are definite signs of toxic behavior.
I've put together the list of toxic traits that I now use to determine if I need to rethink a relationship.
Looking at them now, they all seem really obvious, even though they weren't obvious to me in the past.
But one thing to keep in mind as you look over this list: If you suspect someone in your life is toxic, and you're here trying to get confirmation of that, chances are you're right. They are toxic to you.
They drain you
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's actually pretty tough to tell sometimes.
As an introvert, every social interaction drains me a little. It's normal to hang out with people I like and feel drained afterwards. So how do you really know if someone draining you is toxic or not?
It's going to take a bit of observation to figure this one out.
There is a "normal" when it comes to how drained you feel after being around people. But if someone is toxic, you'll feel all the way drained... and fast. After a while, you'll begin to dread having to see them, because you know it's exhausting to be around them.
If you dread having to be around someone, especially if that someone is a friend of yours, that's a really good indication that they are toxic.
They make you feel guilty
Do you have a friend or someone in your life who always has a way of making you feel awful for every decision you make? This is a sign that someone is toxic.
Maybe they wanted to go to a concert and you wanted to stay home, so they constantly bring up how upset they are about it and try to make you feel guilty for saying no.
Maybe they use guilt to manipulate you into doing things they want to do and not the things you want to do.
Or maybe you go do your own thing and then you never hear the end of it for not inviting them.
This could play out a lot of different ways. But the bottom line is, if they're making you feel guilty for your actions (ones that you shouldn't feel guilty over), that is toxic behavior and it is not OK.
They are negative
Toxic people are often negative.
And by this I mean, they always have something to complain about, they always have some criticism to throw at you. If they constantly point out your flaws, even if they're making it seem like a joke, they are toxic.
Let's clear this up a little more.
Yes, friends joke around, and good friends are aware of each other's shortcomings and may even make light of them once or twice.
But good friends are also always going to find ways to build you up, to encourage you.
Someone who is toxic will not. They'll pick and criticize without ever offering encouragement.
But sometimes they aren't negative towards you. Sometimes a toxic person just complains a lot. They always see the downside of a situation. They are always the victim.
And while their negativity may not be directed at you, this is still a toxic situation.
Moods are contagious. We believe the words we hear the most. Words are powerful. And so if we spend all day around someone who only has negative things to say, we're allowing our minds to be programmed to also see the negative.
The more time you spend with a negative person, the more you'll become negative as well. And that isn't good.
They are demanding of your time
This characteristic can take several different forms.
Your toxic friend could be very demanding of your time in that they always need you to be with them. They may call you at crazy hours, always expecting you to answer.
And maybe they make you feel guilty if you don't.
Or, as is usually my experience, your toxic friend can be demanding of your time in a sense that they always need you to do things for them. They need you to use your time and talents to get things done for them.
They are only there for you when it's convenient
This is the characteristic that always gets me, the one that pushes me to actually see the relationship as toxic.
I've had friends in my past who, like we talked about above, were very demanding of my time. They always needed me. And because they were my friends, I always dropped what I was doing to go to them.
Because they needed me. And that's what friends do.
But sometimes, I needed them.
There were times when I needed a friend and I would call them. No answer. Or if they did answer, they were too busy, or not interested, or they told me I should just suck it up.
Yes, that really did happen!
They weren't there for me when I needed them. Because it wasn't convenient.
Now, there would be once or twice they might come to my aid, because they had nothing else going on. But that was always it.
If you have someone who you treat as a priority, but they don't treat you the same way, that's a good sign that it's a toxic relationship. That can be very draining.
And it's not fair.
They are always right
Another common trait of toxic people is that they are always right, even in matters of opinion. Know anyone like that?
Let's have an example. Maybe you hate pickles, and maybe they love them. To them, your opinion is just wrong. It's not even up for discussion. They are right, and you are wrong, because pickles are wonderful.
I've actually had that exact conversation. Multiple times. With several toxic friends.
I attract toxic pickle eaters, apparently.
But just to clarify, I hate pickles. I think they're gross. But if you love them, there's nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes, though, it's not a matter of opinion.
There are toxic people who simply just believe they are smarter than you. Which, maybe they are, but that doesn't necessarily make them an expert in everything. Sometimes, and this is what makes the situation toxic, they just don't value your opinion or trust you to know what you're talking about.
No one has time for that.
You deserve to have your friends treat you like a friend. You are valuable and you should surround yourself with people who think so, too.
Unfortunately, it's not always easy to remove toxic people from your life. It can be pretty messy sometimes, even heartbreaking. But, don't worry, I happen to have a list of ways to deal with toxic people that we'll talk about another time.
Until then, know that you are loved. And you are not defined by how other people treat you.