“That’s just who I am, and that’s on period.”
Most of us have been there.
We have said those words many a few times. In fact, chances are we have settled nicely, not leaving anytime soon. Deep down, however, we know it is just deflection and avoidance most of the time. The deflection and avoidance of uncomfortable emotions like guilt or shame that stem from toxic behavior. Rather than being self-aware, we give our ego the reins and allow it to do the talking.
It is undeniable that we all have our fair share of “dark” traits that conflict with societal values and norms. When these traits occur over time, calling them our “toxic” traits isn’t so wrong of an idea. In fact, that we are aware of is a big deal in itself. Unhealthy traits are often elusive to the sensors of our minds. We can hardly point them out ourselves. Correcting them on the other hand? That’s another problem in itself.
Before outlining some common toxic traits, it’s only right that I properly define the term “self-awareness”. Self awareness isn’t what a large fraction of people think it is. It is not some “temporary” state of consciousness. Rather, it’s the clarity of our outlook on our values, passions, aspirations, and reactions – including our thoughts, feelings, demeanor, strengths, weaknesses, and the like. It goes even further. It is the ability to align our behavioral traits with our values and how others view us with the above-mentioned factors. Self-awareness is a rare skill. Why? Many of us tend to spiral into emotionally charged perceptions of our situations and circumstances.
The first common and elusive trait harmful to our outlook on life is negativity. A negative person is pessimistic and always has a negative outlook on matters. What’s more? They tend to rub it off on others. They will frequently complain, ruin the fun and dampen lively spirits with negative speeches and actions. A lot of people, from which even I am not excluded are guilty of negativity.
Another is Entitlement. Many are in fact guilty of this and do not know it. Entitlement is expecting people to change or do things for us because we want them to. People with a strong sense of entitlement hold a belief that things are all about them and what they want without the consideration of other people’s feelings.
Yet another which we often fail to acknowledge is the inability to take responsibility for things in our lives. We like to hold others responsible for our actions and inactions. Avoiding responsibility is more often than not a sign of immaturity. One grating aspect of this toxic trait is that it is the basis of the unhealthy trait of not apologizing for our wrongs. It is very unlikely that one who does not even own up to their mistakes will be willing to apologize for them.
Being judgemental is another worthy mention. The unpleasant thing about being judgemental is that we do not even realize we are doing it unless our attention is called to it. We tend to judge how others are living their lives and even go ahead to define them with minuscule things that don’t define their character.
Other toxic traits and behaviors include: gaslighting (guilt-tripping others to get your way), draining others’ energy by dumping our emotional garbage onto them (this we do by venting a lot), being control freaks, giving opinions but not willing to listen to others (and even when we do, get upset at others’ differing opinions), getting jealous at others’ success and undermining their achievements.
Acknowledging and accepting our toxic behaviors that are hurtful to others is a sign of maturity and self-awareness. This way, we sit with those uncomfortable feelings resulting from our actions and do not avoid them. This acceptance will enable us to make conscious decisions that will influence the person we will like to be – for ourselves and for others who come in contact with us.
Introspection, Empathy, and Understanding are key attributes that beget self-awareness. They beget learned lessons and in turn, change. Confronting our toxic behaviors requires foremost taking responsibility for our actions. This becomes easy when we cease to expect perfection from ourselves and accept the fact that we are all works in progress in a constant state of growth and evolution.
However, something that is worthy of note is that while seeking the change we want, we should not go to extremes and beat ourselves up with guilt or shame. This will not bring about the necessary modifications we are looking for. Moreover, like it is said, you don’t shame a flower into blossoming. You only inspect its surroundings for the changes it may need, and you adjust accordingly.
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