Eliminating Toxic Influences
Certain people and situations in life can trigger us to feel badly about ourselves or engage in
destructive behaviors. Identifying the toxic influences in our lives and taking steps to create
boundaries or a new life without them can improve mental and physical health over time.
Traits of Toxic People
- Manipulation. Toxic people are often very good at manipulation. They may
seem to be genuinely interested in your company and getting to know you at
first, but will eventually use the knowledge they gain about you to try and get
you to do what they want. They will often twist your words or make you feel
guilty to get their way.
- They make you feel bad about yourself. Insults are the most direct way that
toxic people can make you feel bad, but most of the time the ways they affect
your self-esteem are more subtle. When you are feeling happy or proud of
yourself, they will find ways to “rain on your parade” or downplay your achievements.
They might also act like they are smarter than you to make you feel dumb
- Being judgmental. Everyone can be judgmental from time to time, but a
toxic person is judgmental almost all of the time. They see things in black and
white and criticize anything that they don’t agree with or approve of, instead of
considering the circumstances or the feelings of other people.
- Negativity. Some people just can’t seem to see the good in life. They will find
something bad about everything and aren’t able to find joy in anything. Being
around someone like this can make it hard for you enjoy yourself and be
positive. Sometimes it can be easy to confuse the symptoms of depression for
negativity, so it is worth having a conversation with someone to determine if
they need help getting through depression or if they are truly being toxic.
- Passive aggression. These behaviors are a way that people express their
discontent without having a conversation about their problems. This type of
hostility is less obvious than anger and can be shown in a number of different
ways. Some forms of passive aggression include snide comments, sabotaging
the efforts of other people, and purposefully doing something or not doing
something to make things inconvenient for someone or get them upset.
- Self-centered. Toxic people care mostly about themselves. They don’t think
about how their actions affect others and believe they are better than everyone
else. Someone who is self-centered is focused on getting what they want and is
unlikely to compromise or consider another person’s point of view.
- Difficulty with anger management. Someone who has trouble managing their
anger will make you feel like you are walking on egg shells every time you are
around them. The littlest thing can trigger them into a fit of rage, and often
nasty, hurtful things are said while they are in this mental state. There may be
apologies the day after, but often they are insincere and the toxic person will
repeat their angry, hurtful behaviors soon after.
- Controlling. One of the most dangerous traits of a toxic person is controlling
behavior. They may try to restrict you from contacting your friends or family, or
limit resources like transportation or access to money to restrict your ability to
interact with the world around you. If you are in a situation where someone is
trying to restrict your movements or communication, this is domestic abuse and
requires immediate action. Call 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY, or if
you’re unable to speak on the phone, you can log onto thehotline.org or text
“LOVEIS” to 22522.
Detoxing Your Life
The worksheet below will help you think through ways to create healthy boundaries so you can get rid of toxic influences in your life. If you’d like a copy of this worksheet, printed or email, texted, or faxed, just let us know!