Toxic: capable of causing serious harm to a person’s health and well-being.
There are certain behaviors that do nothing but drag you down, hold you back, and cause you to suffer. Whether exhibited by you personally or by another major figure in your life, these behaviors can rightfully be classed as toxic because of their negative effect on your mental health and well-being.
They have the power to suck the joy and happiness from within you and replace it with stress, anger, sadness, and other unwelcome feelings. Free yourself from these and you will notice an incredible shift in the way you view and interact with the world around you.
The first step of such a mental purge is to identify which toxic behaviors are present in your life. The following list details 30 of the most common and most destructive.
1. Comparing Yourself To Others
Perhaps the most universal of all toxic behaviors is the need to compare yourself to other people. This desire to look at others and weigh their lives against your own is an entirely futile exercise because of the complete subjectivity of existence. Physical appearance, material wealth, and life experiences cannot reveal how a person is feeling or what they are thinking. True contentment only comes when you are thankful for everything you have been blessed with.
Drama can only exist if there are people willing to participate in it. When you starve drama of your energy and attention, it fades into oblivion. Thus, your reaction to a given situation is of great importance, for it determines how things will ultimately play out. Make a conscious choice not to pour fuel on the fire, but to act with calm and composure, and drama will become a thing of your past.
3. Negative Self Talk
The way you speak to and about yourself has a significant influence on how you feel. If you are forever using self-limiting language and believing the worst will happen, you’ll be unable to enjoy and appreciate the good things that enter your life. Negative thoughts lead to negative actions and sooner or later you’ll find yourself in a downward spiral of unhelpful energy, expectations, and experiences.
4. Seeking The Validation Of Others
As much as life is about the people you spend it with, you should not be reliant on them to make you feel happy. If you are constantly looking for the reassuring approval and validation of a third party, you will never truly find peace. You must, instead, realize that the only opinions that really matter are the ones you have of yourself. Nobody else can give you the self assurance and confidence that you desire.
Following closely on from the previous point is the matter of bending over backwards just to please other people. When you put the needs and desires of others ahead of your own without a good reason, you act from a place of personal insecurity. This behavior can lead to people taking advantage of you and to you feeling resentful when you don’t receive the thanks and approval you are looking for.
While there is nothing overly wrong with striving to do your best at something, if you pursue the goal of perfection in everything you do, you set yourself up for a lifetime of frustration and disappointment. Perfection in its truest sense is a myth; opinions can be formed and consensuses reached among certain groups of people, but nobody can lay claim to it in any form. We all have limits and the reality is that you will be better at some things than others.
Some unkind acts and comments may well be directed at us, but there is also an unhealthy tendency to take things personally even when they are not. When you assume that a person’s anger, annoyance, sadness, or displeasure is your fault, you begin a dangerous thought process. It makes you believe that you are a burden to them, that they do not like or love you, and that you are undeserving of their respect. By taking responsibility for things that have little to do with you, you decrease your own sense of self-worth.
The past cannot be undone and it cannot be changed; it becomes a matter of fact as soon as it has happened. Letting your mind drift back to past events, then, has very little in the way of value. Aside from the lessons it can teach you, dwelling on things that have already passed only prolongs the negative emotions you associate with it. Generally speaking past pain is felt far more vividly than past pleasure, so the past is best left in the past.
Just as the past cannot be undone, the future cannot be foretold. Here too, the effects of negative emotions are far greater than their positive counterparts. Worry and anxiety can easily take hold of your mind, but you can never quite experience happiness over things that are yet to occur. Having goals, dreams, plans, and aspirations is not necessarily bad, but they should be looked upon as possibilities and not outright certainties; the same should hold true for future risks.
10. Playing The Victim
You may have been dealt some very undesirable experiences during your lifetime, but you should try not to allow a mindset of victimhood to develop. No matter what the past has thrown at you, your present and future are, to some degree, in your control. If you identify yourself as a victim, you will be more prone to act as one, and such behavior can hold you back from fulfilling your potential.
As much as you should not be a people pleaser, as was discussed above, it is equally as detrimental to your mental welfare to act in a selfish and egocentric way. Doing so only serves to drive people away, even those who may once have cared deeply for you. Focusing on one’s own interest destroys trust and respect and leads to superficial relationships with other people.
When you go through life believing that you are owed something, you will experience an endless sense of deficiency. As lucky as most of us are to have clean water, a roof over our heads, and food on the table, there is no natural law stating a minimum standard of living everyone is entitled to. You may desire to have more money, better living conditions and more lavish experiences, but you should expect to work hard for these.
13. Passing Judgement On Others
You can only ever experience the world from your perspective, and while you are free to observe the actions and choices of other people, you will never be able to fully comprehend their reasons for them. Thus, when you judge others for the way they live their lives, you are doing so despite having mere fragments of the wider picture. You project your own experiences and beliefs onto them even though they are a poor substitute for the real circumstances. Casting such judgements is more a reflection of you than it is of the other person.
One of the main reasons we judge others is because we fall prey to our own arrogance. Believing yourself to be superior or of greater importance to others is a trait that most people would describe as undesirable. Arrogant behavior pushes people away, not least because it is often linked to a lack of compassion and the selfishness described above.
15. Being Overly Competitive
One of the main roads leading towards arrogance is an intense competitive streak. While not inherently bad or unhealthy, having a competitive side to you can sometimes cause fractious interactions with other people. Take things too far and you become someone that many find hard to relate to. You are also more likely to fall under the spell of perfectionism and then struggle to function when you encounter failure.
16. The Overuse Of Technology
With the rapid pace of technological progress, the influence it has on our lives is growing almost daily. While many of these innovations are extremely helpful and generally harmless, there are instances where your use – and eventual dependence – on technology becomes a problem. From gaming to social media, the lure of technology can be highly addictive if it is not kept in check.
The world is a chaotic and highly unpredictable place which is why having an inflexible mindset can become a problem. When your views and opinions grow rigid even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence, you end up living a lie. Being stubborn prevents you from adjusting to a world that is changing all the time; if you aren’t careful, it will change beyond recognition and leave you feeling resentful.
18. Ignoring Self-care
A very obvious behavior which can lead to long term complications and unhappiness is neglecting to take care of one’s health. Whether this is through the physical impact of abusing your body or from the lack of attention paid to the state of your mind, we’re all guilty of not caring for ourselves as we should. If you let this go too far, however, the impact and damage may become irreversible.
19. Not Speaking Out
Not all toxic behaviors involve your actions; sometimes it is when you do not act that you are potentially harming your well-being. One such example is when you do not speak up and speak out when you disagree with someone or something. By not doing so, you allow others to dictate the terms by which you are then forced to live; you let them walk over you with little regard for your opinions or feelings.
Life cannot be without loss; it is a big factor whether we like it or not. We lose people, security, and even our own independence at various points during our lives. When we grieve for this loss, it helps us to accept it and then move on, but if we refuse to let go of what has gone, it keeps us trapped in a state of perpetual sadness. Until you can relinquish your hold on that which has passed, you will be locked in place, unable to more forward upon life’s path.
You have an important choice to make whenever you interact with the world: you can either be yourself or you can put on an act. You may think that your true self is not what people wish to see and that you will enjoy greater success by hiding it away, but there is no genuine joy and peace in deceiving yourself and others. When you act with sincerity, integrity, and honesty, you will find greater contentment and attract people who love you for who you really are.
It can be all too easy to exhibit cruel and spiteful behavior when you are feeling insecure and under pressure. Little slip-ups are quite understandable, but when you start relying on being mean to others in order to give yourself a lift, it can be incredibly detrimental to your life. It is highly unattractive and can leave you isolated as others distance themselves from your malicious ways. It is also far less effective than more positive acts in making yourself feel better.
Often related to the validation and people pleasing points made earlier in the article, seeking the attention of others is rarely a healthy long term behavior. If you allow the praise and amusement of onlookers to form the basis of your self-worth, you will never be able to enjoy the times when such attention is not forthcoming. Your need to be at the center of things will become insatiable and you’ll end up going to ever greater lengths to get what you desire.
When you feel jealous, you believe your enjoyment or possession of something is coming under threat from a third party. You resent someone else from gaining what you already have and this can manifest itself in spiteful attempts to deny them access. This is distinct to envy, where you may not begrudge someone else’s enjoyment, but wish to experience it too (see the very first point on comparing yourself to others).
Intrinsically linked to your worry about the future is the resistance you may have to trying new and different things. You find yourself in a comfort zone, which, while not always negative, may restrict your enjoyment of life. You may shun the novel in favor of the known even if the former would increase your overall satisfaction.
All types of relationship are, to some degree, built on mutual trust which is why lies are capable of such destruction and heartache. Honesty is not always easy, but it is generally the best option for your long term health and happiness. Even if the truth is going to hurt, it is better this than living a lie or having that lie discovered at a later date. Lying to yourself is as much of an issue as lying to someone else; you will not find lasting peace if you deny who you really are.
With respect to both cheating on another person in the context of a relationship and cheating your way through other parts of life, neither will do you any benefit mentally. Even if it is never discovered, you will always know that you cheated and it will weigh upon your mind for the rest of your life. You may enjoy some short term perks from it, but cheating in any form will haunt you.
28. Manipulation Of Others
Being manipulated is never an enjoyable thing and, when taken to the extremes, it can destroy a person’s sense of self. Seen from the other perspective, it may seem like you can get more of what you want by exploiting others, but you are being deceived by the promise of external virtues. Manipulating others can never provide the inner fulfillment that you desire because your gains are tainted by the grief and misery you inflict.
When someone wrongs you, your instinct might be to hold it against them for a prolonged period of time. What you might not appreciate is that as long as you are unable to forgive them for the harm caused, you are destined to carry it with you in your mind and heart. The burden of harm will weigh more heavily upon you, and so the gift of forgiveness is one you give yourself.
Things might not always turn out as you want them to, and there will be times when the whole world seems to come crashing down around you, but laying the blame at someone else’s feet will not make you feel any better. Not only will you end up resenting that person, but by failing to take responsibility, you risk losing the meaning that self-determination can bestow upon your life. If it’s always someone else’s fault, you begin to feel impotent and unable to choose your direction of travel.
As was highlighted at the beginning of the article, these behaviors are best avoided whether they come from you or someone else in your life. Try to recognize those you might be guilty of and then act to avoid behaving in such ways in the future.
Which of these do you need to work on and which have you overcome? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the world.