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How To: Know If You Are Toxic

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.


This is just a guideline for people to identify harmful behavior with how they treat themselves and others around them. This is not meant to judge or diagnose people, as I am speaking from my experiences. The purpose of the article is to support you and heighten your self-awareness, not bring anyone else down.

Am I A Toxic Person?

Why do I do this to myself? The age-old question we have all been dying to answer. Either we lack the self-awareness to figure out what exactly causes us to self-sabotage, or we are too scared to admit it.

I read a tweet earlier today that gave me a rather refreshing look on healing: “Healing also means taking an honest look at the role you play in your suffering.” True, but a little painful. I know I felt called out by it.

Sometimes, when we go through challenges: a bad breakup, a falling out with a friend, conflict within our family, it is hard to see some of our harmful ways. You have to learn how to process your emotions, and more importantly, realize if you had a part to play in the issue. In addition to calling others out on their bad behavior, we must learn how to check ourselves. Sometimes the best thing we can do to remove ourselves from toxic situations is to realize that we may be the toxic ones.

It is difficult to identify some patterns in your behavior that might not be the best for a positive relationship.

These are three questions to ask yourself:

Are you self-aware?

Do you pay attention to how you treat yourself and others? Do you feel you have a good sense of self? Do you point out and criticize others for doing the same things that you do?

These can be tell-tale signs of whether you have a good sense of self-awareness. Someone who has self-awareness can check themselves as well as others when they step out of line. If not, they can end up letting others walk all over them. On the other hand, people who lack self-awareness tend to project their insecurities onto others as a form of bullying. They often accuse others of behaviors they exhibit in their relationships.

The way you judge others and yourself is an indicator of self-awareness. People who lack a strong sense of self tend to have difficulty processing their feelings because they do not recognize their emotional states. If you can not make sense of how you feel, it will be nearly impossible for you to properly manage your feelings healthily. Self-awareness makes us understand how we see ourselves and how the world may view us as well.

How do you handle conflict?

When you have an issue with someone, do you address it head-on or engage in passive-aggressive behavior? When somebody disrespects you, do you confront them about it or ignore them, hoping it goes away? Maybe you keep things bottled in until you can not anymore, and you explode. That could be a sign that there is some healing for you to still do. Maybe when you were a child, you never really got to express yourself. So, you learned to associate expressing your feelings with weakness. This could lead to passive-aggressive behavior, as you were never taught the value of asserting yourself respectfully. Or you grew up around a lot of fighting, and it caused you to avoid conflict. But, when you avoid conflict, you are also avoiding conflict resolution. If you never confront what is upsetting you, you will never solve the problem. The goal of addressing an issue is to identify the cause, take note of damaging behavior, and reach a middle ground. Sometimes we lose sight of the bigger picture, or we do not know how to express ourselves. The inability to communicate how we feel to others could be a roadblock in creating and sustaining healthy and positive relationships.

 Do you lift others or tear them down?

Do you have a positive outlook on life? When somebody gets good news, do you celebrate it with them or point out all the negatives? Do you put your friends down in front of others? Do you talk down or disrespect others? Do you resort to intimidation when you do not get your way? Do you have resentment that is unresolved with others?

This could be a good indicator that your pessimistic viewpoint makes you incapable of seeing the good in a situation. If you do not celebrate the accomplishments of loved ones, that is also a sign you are not truly happy for the success of those around you. It could be jealousy, or you may have underlying resentment for others. Maybe you are not where you expected to be in your life, whether in your personal life or career. This envy can rear its ugly head in your relationships. When you cannot celebrate others, you will passive-aggressively show your true colors via disrespect. One example of this is not congratulating your friends on their achievements. Maybe you do show up to celebrate, but you bring a nasty attitude right along with you. I hate to say it, but if that is you, you might be a fake friend, sis. And if you use intimidation as a tactic to achieve a goal, you may just be an adult bully.

It could also be attributed to the environment you grew up in. Maybe you did not get a lot of attention growing up. Were you bullied as a kid? Do you still have harboring resentment over your upbringing? These could be signs that you were not allowed to truly express yourself when you were younger. That trauma could be causing you to lash out at others. On the flip side, people treat you how you allow. If someone is bullying you, they know that you will not set personal boundaries of respect and stick to them in a relationship.


Take some time to answer these questions. If your answer tends to be on the negative side, you could be dragging down those around you. If you are filled with resentment, it shows. In your words, your body language, and your behavior. If you let people walk all over you, it shows. Other people around you can tell if something is upsetting you, even if you do not know or will not admit it. You could be acting out and not even realize it. But you know who does? The people who are around you the most, your family and friends. Have you been snappy or rude to them lately? Do you even know why? Maybe you should figure it out, or you may not have them around them for long.

👯‍♀️ Related: Are You Toxic?
👯‍♀️ Related: Am I The Toxic One?
👯‍♀️ Related: Are You The Toxic Person?
Hello! My name is Tayo Omoniyi, and I am from Tinley Park, Illinois. I am a 2nd-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, studying Biology with a pre-medicine track. My passions are writing, travel and medicine. My ultimate career goal is to become a pediatric doctor. Outside of school, I love spending time with my family and friends. I have two younger sisters.
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