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Sometimes You’re the Toxic Friend: Recognizing Toxic Behavior

     It is in our human nature to form relationships, of all types, with the people around us in an effort to live a “happier” life. At this point in your life, you may have noticed that not all the relationships you form, however, are healthy. There is a plethora of content in the world that encourages people to get rid of the bad in their lives. Bad people, bad food, and bad habits. Obviously those things HAVE to go! While that advice is helpful, it’s also important for you to self-reflect on your own toxic tendencies.

    There is not one person in this world who is only good or only bad. Even the kindest people have the potential to be someone else’s villain. Identifying when a relationship starts affecting you negatively can be difficult. Start by understanding what types of behavior can be toxic, reflect on what behaviors your exhibit, and work to change those behaviors. Some examples of toxic behavior include: 

  • Being controlling

  • Selfishness

  • Being defensive 

  • Manipulative behavior

  • Gaslighting

  • Negative talk (including negative self-talk)

  • Divulging very personal things too early in relationships

  • Abuse

These behaviors aren’t always super apparent within a relationship and oftentimes, toxicity is subtle. Sometimes it’s not what you’re saying, it could be how you’re saying it that is toxic. 

    If you’re anything like me, it can be super hard to admit when you’re the problem. Playing the victim instead of analyzing why others don’t want to be around you is just easier. Being honest about the excuses you make when you do something wrong or selfish is hard. However, self-reflecting and realizing your mistakes is a sign of maturity and will inevitably help you become a better person. It’s hard to apologize without getting defensive and accept that you hurt someone instead of denying it. Reacting without listening and communicating effectively is toxic. In the end, reflecting and actively working to change will help you create more meaningful and healthy relationships.

    The first step to changing these behaviors is honesty. Be honest with yourself about the problems in your relationships. Start rewiring your brain to increase compassion for yourself and others. When working to rewire your brain, sit down with a close friend and ask “is there anything that I’m doing that makes you uncomfortable or unsupported within our friendship?” Be open to the feedback that they give you and refrain from jumping on the defensive. Someone I work with always says that this feedback is “given in love” and with the full intent to create a stronger and more meaningful relationship. Growth is hard. It’s uncomfortable. Yet it bears such sweet rewards in the form of authentic and life-giving relationships. 

    Toxicity can exist in all types of relationships: friendships, familial relationships, romantic relationships, work relationships, etc. Just because you’re not toxic in one of these relationships, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not toxic in another. When removing your toxic behaviors, don’t do it with self-hatred, do it by loving yourself and being mindful of others. Admitting that there is a problem is the hardest step. Reflecting on your relationships and realizing you’re a toxic person does not mean that you’re the only one. Sometimes it can be both people in the relationship, but instead of automatically blaming the other, first work on your own toxic behavior. Make the changes for the people around you but most importantly, for you.

Cassandra Shin currently serves as the President of Her Campus at Baylor and is a senior majoring in Professional Writing & Rhetoric at Baylor University. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas and enjoys the constant live music around the city. When Cassandra isn't studying or in class, you can find her on spontaneous adventures with friends, performing, tending to her plants, learning new things or reading. She absolutely loves the Harry Potter books, meaningful conversations with people, spending time with Jesus, and writing.
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