We call people “toxic” in the same way that people like to refer to every ex they’ve ever had as “trash.” (Not everyone who rejects you is necessarily a bad person, even if they made you feel a bad way.)
It’s become a buzzword that’s so popular, it seems like everyone is dealing with an onslaught of “toxicity” in their lives because it seems like a fitting word to describe anyone who challenges or irritates you. It seems like most people don’t really understand what really qualifies someone to be “toxic,” and if they do, clearly don’t understand how to draw lines with them.
Toxic people are not people who you happen to arbitrarily dislike. They are not just anyone who has issues, has trauma, occasionally judges someone, is going through a tough time, or leans on you for help. These qualities make us human, not toxic.
Toxic people are those who are wounded but aren’t willing to take responsibility for their feelings or their problems. They then do one of two things: make you responsible for those wounds, or to wound you, too.
A toxic person seems to consistently judge or belittle you, and then deny it. It is the person who feeds off of negativity and can’t seem to talk about anything else. It is the person who knows they need help but won’t take it when offered. It is the person who gaslights you, or who constantly lies to you in order to capitalize upon your goodwill.
Toxic people are manipulative, codependent, and reliant on you to deal with the overwhelming negativity in their lives. They are not just people with problems – they are people who don’t take responsibility for those problems. They are people that you need to set boundaries with before those issues become your financial, mental, emotional problems, too.
The more we smile, nod and let ourselves be cajoled into their games and manipulation, the more we are targeted by them. It is naïve – if not dangerous – to not acknowledge that there are some people who absolutely qualify as “toxic,” and whom it is not always our responsibility to save. But it is also wrong to assume that anyone we have an issue with is a bad person we can’t tolerate.
There’s a difference, and understanding it is important. Toxic people are first harmful to themselves before others, and taking responsibility for your life begins with deciding who, and what, you’re going to allow into it.