Words and Illustration by Jaqueline Bautista
As the New Year started, social media platforms were flooded with inspirational quotes, new gym videos, and memes about toxic relationships. Recently I have been seeing posts about spotting toxic relationships and leaving toxic people in the past. This whole movement begins with the idea of bettering yourself. The concept of self-care has extended from face masks and adding fruit to your water, to cleansing yourself of any negative energy and people in your life. A post I found on Instagram on the account @Selfcarettiippss, lists the following as toxic behavior in a partner:
- Everything is about them.
- They’re jealous of your other friends.
- They try to control you.
- They only talk to you when they have a problem.
- They don’t listen to your problems.
- They get mad at you easily.
- They aren’t happy about your successes.
It’s easy to point fingers, but the truth is we all have dabbled in toxicity. As Valentine’s Day approaches, the concept of toxic relationships weighs heavy on my shoulders, and I want to express my thoughts on a few things that I consider to be toxic behavior.
1. Speaking in the Second Person
We often try to detach ourselves from the way that we feel or from beliefs that we have. Instead of saying ‘this is how I feel’ we may choose to say “people feel this way in general.” For example, someone asks, “How do you make an egg?” you would respond, “First, you put the pan on the stove.” With this response, you have assumed that everyone puts the pan on the stove first. Instead, your response should be “First, I put the pan on the stove.” Take ownership of your actions. In this way, you speak only for yourself and never generalize for others.
2. I Just Know
Many of us believe that we know how other people feel. I am guilty of doing so myself; I will often find myself believing I know how the other person will feel about a situation. In reality, I know nothing. I only know how I think the other person will feel. This behavior ties to the idea that only you have control over your own actions. Stop thinking that the other person will get upset, when they may not think the situation is too serious. You will find that if you put your feelings first, you will accept the other person response with ease because you know you have no control over their reaction.
3. Get Some Rest
I do this all the time. All of the sudden I cannot stop thinking about the one time I did something embarrassing, or the one time I might have told somebody too much information about myself, or whether or not I remembered to add page numbers to my assignment for class. Now I am anxious and I cannot sleep because of things that have happened in the past. I must remind myself that I have no control over the past. If I was really embarrassed about something, it is too late, it already happened. I cannot take it back. So do yourself a favor, and accept the past for what it is so that you can move forward move forward; create solutions instead of reminiscing on the problems.
4. Put Expectations to Rest
Not everyone will have the same level of maturity, nor be raised with the same principles as you. Expecting people to think the same way you do is a naïve belief. If everyone saw things the way you did, there would never be any conflict. If someone tells you they think something is a problem, and you do not, ask them why it’s so important to them, instead of telling them it’s no big deal. By getting to know where the person is coming from, you not only allow the person to vocalize their feelings, but you learn a little about what the person is like. Although it is important to put yourself first when it comes to problem-solving, learning to listen before getting defensive is imperative as well.
Toxicity is not limited to how another person treats you. You can have toxicity in the way you think, and that can, in turn, impact your relationships with others. Most important, you may have toxic traits that affect you directly. Learn to become more aware of your toxic traits and how you bring negativity into your own life. Have patience with your own growth, and happiness will come.