I used to be toxic. I was a train wreck, a flying monkey, and a whole three-ring circus all by myself. It took me a lot of years to recognize my toxic traits because it’s easier to deny, deflect, and project rather than accept, admit, and own. The key word is formerly. I changed.
Learning to become a better person
If you haven’t spent a lot of time around me since I developed mobility issues then you simply do not know me anymore. The drastic changes weren’t just physical. They were mental as well. Turns out you have a lot of time to reflect when you can’t do much.
The person I was before I started having trouble walking is gone. Some of you read my articles talking about how I had to find pieces of myself and build a person I was able to live with because I felt lost. I desperately needed to figure out who I was with physical limitations. During that process, I discovered I had to throw out even more parts of my personality.
Moving past making excuses for toxic behavior
It’s easy to make excuses. I did it for years. Yes, I was abused and mistreated and used and employed as a flying monkey. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. The moment I started lashing out at others and doing the dirty work of bullies and abusers, I became one of them. I became just as bad as those people.
The choices I made in how I reacted to abuse turned me into an abusive person. That was a very hard thing for me to admit even to myself, but it was the truth. Recognizing it as truth was the only way to make changes and move forward.
Taking a look in the mirror
Although I had started making changes before my physical changes occurred, I’ve made drastic changes since I developed mobility issues. I had to take a long hard look at who I was and I didn’t like it at all. I decided to stop making excuses and start making changes.
Taking a look at yourself and confessing all your faults is hard. It’s humbling to admit you’re a bad person and let go of excuses. I used to say I didn’t use my past as an excuse, but that was only partly true. I didn’t tell others I acted any type of way because of my abusive past. Instead, I told myself that and that’s much worse. I used it to justify my bad behavior to myself and that allowed me to keep acting like a terrible person.
How do you know if you’re toxic?
Some people say other people will tell you what kind of person you are, and that’s true…to an extent. Some people won’t recognize your changes and will still see you as your former self long after, possibly never acknowledging the change. And that’s okay. Not everyone grows with you.
Listen to yourself. Take some time to listen to your inner monologue. Do you find ways to justify your actions?
“They started it.”
“I can’t help it. I was abused.”
“That’s just how I am.”
“I don’t care what you think. Get over it.”
“They deserved it.”
Being in attack mode and defensive is toxic
People who are toxic are often in attack mode and on the defense. They blame others for their behavior and respond to criticism with excuses. They label others as scapegoats and shift blame to avoid responsibility for bad behavior.
“It’s not my fault.”
“They started it. I just finished it.
“They asked for it.”
I was guilty of this. In fact, it was one of my biggest flaws. I was always ready to pounce on someone. Looking back, I think I spent a good bit of time looking for someone to abuse. Yes, it was a trauma response but responding to abuse by becoming an abuser made me just as awful as my abusers. There is no excuse for being an abuser. Recognize it. Admit it. Change it.
Being involved in a lot of conflict is toxic
Most people call this drama. I loathe the word for a number of reasons (mostly overuse), so I’m calling it conflict. People who often find themselves in the middle of conflict are usually toxic. People who go seeking opportunities to be in conflict are toxic.
I’ll admit it. This was a hard habit to break. I’m not 100% sure why I had this need to be involved in conflict, but it was a constant need. It didn’t have to be any of my business. I just wanted to be in the middle of some bullshit. Toxic. So very toxic. I’m not going to say I am fully cured of it because I do occasionally find myself jumping into something when I shouldn’t. (See next section.)
Being a bully and lashing out is toxic
Belittling others is toxic. Lashing out is toxic. Some people do this to feel better about themselves and some do it because they need to feel dominant and in control. Some people do it because they need to vent emotions. For me, it was all these things.
I can tell you I needed to feel in control because of a lack of control in abusive situations and I needed to feel better about myself because of emotional abuse. I’m done with making excuses for my actions. It doesn’t matter why. It matters that I did it and it made me a toxic person.
Not only did I want to hurt people to make myself feel better, but I used it as a way to vent emotion. It was (is) an unhealthy coping mechanism. I sometimes resort to jumping into or creating conflict on news feeds and lashing out at random strangers to vent my frustrations. It’s rare now, but it does still happen from time to time. I’m working on it.
Being paranoid and projecting insecurities is toxic
I have horrible self-esteem issues. These issues have plagued me for decades and caused me to be paranoid. I often felt someone was judging my appearance or my behavior. That paranoia led to me projecting my insecurities onto others. It fueled an obsessive need for control and a need to feel dominant.
Being paranoid and treating others poorly because you think they’re judging you is toxic. Lashing out because of your own insecurities is toxic. I did it and now I work very hard not to do it. I recently found myself in a situation where I witnessed bullying. While I didn’t exactly participate, I didn’t exactly not participate because I didn’t shut it down and I felt horrible about it. I still have work to do.
The Consequences of Change
Unfortunately, change isn’t all pros. There are cons that come along with major changes. I gave up counting how many people I outgrew. Each loss caused me grief, and I did a lot of mourning. It was harder to leave behind some relationships, and I struggled to move on at times. Still, I had to accept that some relationships were bad for me.
When you make drastic changes in your life, you move forward. Everyone can’t move forward with you and you end up making moves alone. It’s never easy, and this was one of my least favorite parts. I lost a lot of people and I stood alone for a while. Loneliness made me doubt myself at times, but toughing it out and sticking to my guns proved to be the best decision. Knowing it was for the best didn’t make it any easier. Losing or leaving long-term relationships hurts.
Still a work in progress
I often tell people I wouldn’t change my life because it all came together to make me who I am. I feel like it’s still shaping me into a better person. Change is constant, and the more I learn about myself the better person I can be. I just have to commit to working on my flaws and fixing the bad parts of my personality.
I have come a long way but I still have things to work on. We never run out of things to work on because we are and will always be works in progress until the day we die. We are meant to evolve and arrested development prevents us from doing that.
My first step in committing to putting in the work to become a better person was admitting my faults to myself. I did that a couple of years ago and now I am opening up about my self-analyzation. Maybe you relate, and if you do I hope it inspires you to begin a journey of your own. Whatever path you chose in life, make it a good one.
Things you need to know
If you take away nothing else, let this stick with you:
It is not okay to shame, belittle, or mock anyone. It is not okay to judge someone for their appearance, weight, race, mental illness, religion, sexuality…anything. Projecting your own issues onto someone else will always make you an asshole. I’m a recovering asshole, and I am so very sorry for it. I promise to do better.