*Disclaimer: As I have never been in a romantic relationship myself, the advice I give may not be applicable to such bonds.
We all have our relationships, may they be friends, family, colleagues, boyfriends, girlfriends. It is so important, to treasure and maintain them, because they make our lives so much better. But there may be occasions when we hurt these people, or when these people hurt us. Some days, it's unintentional; others, it's purposeful and constant. Constantly draining. Constantly demeaning. Constantly painful. And that is where the line should be drawn.
Toxic. That word is so often thrown around on social media, but don't dismiss it just yet— it's a real issue. The concept is subjective, but ultimately, it can be described as someone who behaves in a manner that is detrimental to those around them.
In my years, I have been through a lot, especially when it comes to friendships, so I definitely know a thing or two about people who fit the label. Allow me, then, to describe the 10 different signs that warn of a person who is just toxic.
1. They never accept their faults
It's standard. No one is perfect, and no one ever will be. We will make mistake after mistake, learn from them, and consequently grow. If someone is hurting you and you highlight this, those who care for you will acknowledge your point, apologise, and make concrete efforts to be better. Those who don't, very simply, will not.
2. You can’t talk to them about dreams and successes
I'm quite an open person, yet have time and time again found myself hiding my hopes and achievements from particular people because of my fear of negative energy. Bad friends have led to my doubting myself and my abilities, but no more. And no more for you, either, my dear reader, because "loved ones" who get bitter when those around them progress are scary.
My mum always taught me that what you wish upon others is what will come to you. If you hope for the success of friends, such will be bestowed upon you, as well. Likewise, bitterness towards the elevation of others leads to one never experiencing similar triumphs. The same can be said for people who speak negatively of your plans and ambitions.
If those around you are like this, be careful. And remember, haters will hate. Never dim your light for anyone. In success, be humble and seek ways to keep improving. Otherwise, use your friends’ achievements as motivation to work harder and make something of yourself.
3. You are always competition to them
Healthy competition is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I've found that competing, may it be in sports, in the arts, or with my classmates, has brought out the best in me and pushed me to grow as an individual.
But unhealthy competition is different. You feel as if the other person genuinely cannot stand it if you’re better than them, and will sacrifice anything to take you down. They constantly have to one-up you to feel superior. That is toxic.
4. They are users
What I mean by a "user" is a person who only reaches out or checks up on you to gain something for themselves. I have had multiple former classmates disturb my evenings by pretending to care about how my day had been, when all they really wanted was the answers to the maths homework. Users do not care for you— they're only by your side when they have something in it for them.
5. They constantly bring up all they’ve done for you
I see friendship similar to the way I do marriage: as long as you do not betray my trust, 'till death do us part. And a large component of that union is doing things to make each other smile. If a person does you a favor or gives you a gift and constantly brings it up to reinforce just how amazing they are, however, it's pretty safe to say that they didn't do it to make you happy, like a real friend would have. They did it to inflate their own ego.
6. They only speak badly about others
If the only conversations you and that particular person share revolve around talking negatively of others, chances are that they speak the same way about you behind your back. The most delusional people will be the ones who honestly believe that pointing out the faults of others for no good reason or purpose makes them productive individual.
7. They make it their mission to exclude you
Naturally, people will have other friends with whom they may make plans. But if you're in a "friend group" and you're constantly being left out of things, you should know that those aren't real friends. The worst ones make plans you're not included in right in front of you— disrespectful and attention-seeking.
8. They feel entitled to your life
This is one of the reasons I closed off from others for so long. Some people I was friends with were upset that I had kept some secrets to myself, and it was honestly exhausting.
If you're in a relationship, there will be some things that you feel comfortable sharing, and others that you won't. No one should feel forced to talk about anything they don't want to. If you are made to feel bad for maintaining whatever level of privacy you need, they're toxic.
9. They constantly disrespect your boundaries
I see boundaries as a person's level of self-respect. Establishing boundaries for yourself heightens and preserves your self-esteem and allows you to never settle for less than what you deserve. Boundaries are your way of exemplifying what you stand for and living out your beliefs. Anyone who doesn't respect them, doesn't respect you.
10. They make it their mission to make you look bad
This makes absolutely no sense to me. Why would someone try so hard to diminish those around them? Because if it's to make yourself look better by comparison, it's pointless; in reality, you're making yourself look so much worse. Those who truly care for you would never want to damage your image in any way.
I grew up caring so much about what people thought of me, and in the end, I only felt drained. I was trying to paint myself in a perfect light, which definitely wasn't me. I'm perfectly imperfect— we all are. The reality is that not everyone is going to like you, and that's fine. Those who matter will love you not only despite, but with, your faults and shortcomings.
As for people who speak badly of you, use that as a reminder that they see something within you that they don't have themselves, and they're jealous. Personally, I use it as my motivation to continue working hard and being me— you should, too.
There will be times when we make mistakes and hurt the people we care about. It may not be "okay," but know that it's absolutely normal. For example, I recently left a mean comment initially meant as a joke on a video one of my very good friends had posted; she did forgive me, but that definitely doesn't excuse my behaviour. But because of our friendship, she put it aside and let it go, and that's what a healthy friendship is all about. Unintentionally hurting those you love every once in a while doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you human, just like how trying to make amends doesn't make you toxic, refusing to change after you have been made aware of your actions does.
If you do notice these behaviours in your friends, don't give up on them. Be careful, and communicate your feelings. If they still don't change, the choice is yours to make.