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How to Recognise The Toxic People in Your Life

by Harinder Ghatora Mental Wellbeing Personal Empowerment Healthy Relationships


How to Recognise The Toxic People in Your Life

You probably know as well as I do that the quality of our relationships directly affects the quality of our lives.

Healthy relationships are good for us. They have a positive effect on our mental and physical health, enhance our lives, help us grow into better versions of ourselves, and even cause us to live longer.

Unhealthy relationships are not good for us. They have an adverse effect on our mental and physical health; they diminish the quality of our lives, cause us pain and hurt, and degrade us.

People who value their inner peace and happiness always keep their relationships under regular review.

They learn to identify toxic people, and work to either gently remove them from their lives or, if this is not possible, be vigilant and keep them at arm’s length.

Toxic relationships are characterised by:

  • abuse of power
  • control
  • demandingness
  • selfishness
  • insecurity
  • self-centredness
  • criticism
  • negativity
  • dishonesty
  • distrust
  • demeaning comments and attitudes
  • and, jealousy.

Have you taken a look at your relationships lately and asked yourself how healthy they are?

Are there any toxic people in your life: at home, in your wider family, in your friendship groups, or at work?

Do you know how to recognise a toxic person or relationship?

Here are 15 signs to look out for.


1. It’s all take, no give.

Be alert to relationships where you seem to be doing all the giving and getting little in return. This can include sharing your physical resources as well as your time, attention and support.


2. They leave you feeling drained.

Pay attention to how you feel after interacting with different people in your life. On the whole, do you feel happy, calm and motivated after an encounter, or do you feel drained – mentally, emotionally, and even physically?


3. There’s a lack of trust.

Do you have reason to distrust certain people in your life? Perhaps they’ve betrayed you in the past, you’ve discovered they’ve lied to you, or you just have a gut feeling that, given the chance, they would deceive you in some way. Suspicion and dishonesty undermine trust, and trust is a crucial aspect of any healthy relationship.


4. You sense or feel hostility.

Are there certain relationships that are full of hostility? Perhaps someone is always angry or putting out antagonistic or intimidating energy. Some people are not outwardly hostile but you can sense their passive-aggressive nature. Constant hostility is not healthy; it makes us feel unsafe.


5. You’re constantly judged.

Are there people in your life who persistently judge you? Perhaps they criticise you, and you have a feeling that the criticism isn’t intended to be helpful but rather to belittle you. Feeling judged in this way is painful and erodes a person’s self-esteem.


6. They’re unreliable.

Do you often feel let down by someone you know? They never arrive on time or do what they agreed to do? Mutual reliability is important in building trust and is at the core of any good relationship.


7. There’s a persistent negative energy.

Are you in a relationship with someone who’s constantly negative in their attitude towards others and towards life in general? Negative people have the power to energetically drag us down with them. It’s almost impossible for anything positive to come out of a relationship that’s filled with negativity.


8. They disrespect you.

Do you know someone who consistently treats you with disrespect? Disrespectful behaviour is rude, unpleasant, inappropriate, and unprofessional; not only does it cause hurt feelings, it also causes distress and offence. Mutual respect is critical in a healthy relationship.


9. You try to avoid them.

Is there anyone in your life that you actively try to avoid? If you spend your time trying to stay away from this person, then there’s clearly something wrong. Trust your feelings.


10. There are endless control issues.

Do you feel there are certain people who try to control you all the time? They may openly dictate what you do and when you do it, what you wear, where you go and when, whom you see and how often. Or they may play mind games to emotionally manipulate you. They may seek to prevent you from making your own decisions or doing what you want. This kind of coercion can be subtle and is very dangerous. It’s designed to undermine your personal power and your confidence. It’s highly toxic, and you need to spot it and address it as soon as it starts.


11. You feel like you’re in a never-ending drama.

Are there any drama queens in your life? People who always have a crisis going on. Someone to be angry with, something to complain about, something to cry about. Good relationships improve your life and bring peace and happiness. Drama queens simply don’t allow that. Life with them becomes irritating, volatile and messy.


12. You end up betraying yourself.

Do you often find yourself changing your opinions to please a certain person? If anyone makes you feel that you can’t speak your truth and be your authentic self when you’re around them, they’re creating a toxic set-up that is damaging to you.


13. They undermine your self-worth.

Look out for people who make you feel ‘less than’. Some people derive their personal power from undermining and belittling others. When you’re in a relationship with someone who doesn’t acknowledge your value, it can be hard to see it yourself. Over time negative relationships can leave you feeling as though you don’t deserve any better.


14. They’re full of envy.

It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others, but is there anyone in your life who is disruptively envious of you? Perhaps they seek to put down your achievements or are openly competitive. We are never equal to others in all respects, but that should be a source of strength, not envy.


15. You feel unhappy and/or uncomfortable.

Relationships should benefit us in some way and make our lives better. If you spend time with someone who constantly leaves you feeling unhappy and/or uncomfortable, then you owe it to yourself to let that person go.


We all deserve to have relationships that support and nourish us.

Healthy relationships are characterised by:

  • compassion
  • security
  • safety
  • freedom of thought and speech
  • sharing
  • listening
  • mutual love and caring
  • healthy debates and disagreements
  • and respect, especially when there are differences of opinion.

You can’t be happy if you allow other people to abuse, control, disrespect and demean you.

Awareness and taking appropriate action are essential if you are to deal with the toxic people in your life.

If after honestly assessing your relationships you decide that you must – and can – remove someone from your life, then make a commitment to do so. Decide once and for all that you’re going to end it. Enlist support from trusted family and friends and make a clean break. Sure, it’s not easy, but it is possible; and it is essential for your well-being.

If there’s no way you can remove this person from your life, perhaps because they’re a family member, related to someone you care about, or a work associate, then be super vigilant and get a handle on the power games they’re playing with you. Limit your exposure to them as much as you can. Put in place some healthy boundaries and learn to challenge them if their behaviour crosses your red lines (your personal limits).

And, remember, it’s up to you how you allow others to treat you. It all boils down to your level of self-worth. Take heed of this advice:


“If you aren’t being treated with love and respect, check your price tag. Maybe you’ve marked yourself down. It’s you who tells people what you’re worth. Get off the clearance rack and get behind the glass where they keep the valuables.”

(Source unknown)


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