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Time for a change: 3 subtle signs you might be a toxic person (+ what to do about it)

Growing up, I learned heard quite a bit about being careful not to allow toxic friendships and relationships in my life. You know those people who make you feel you are less than, leave you feeling yucky, and completely drained whenever you are around them.

Most of us will deal with at least one toxic person in our lifetime, often from someone close to us.

But what happens when the person with the toxic behavior is you?

Being willing to take a hard look at yourself and your unhealthy behaviors is not easy, but it is needed.

Sadly, many of us walk around surrounding others with our toxic behaviors making it simply exhausting for others to be around us. When you have a bad day, your negative words become daggers piercing the heart of the ones you love most. You allow your attitude to disrespect your spouse and fuss at your children. I know you don’t mean to act negatively. Often, you may not even realize you are the one with toxic behaviors in your relationships. But those behaviors are there–lingering in your attitude, the tone of your voice, the manipulation in your response.

Dealing with toxic behaviors is challenging, especially when someone with toxic behaviors is you.

The first step toward living a life whole and free from toxic behavior is to acknowledge you cannot fix you; only God can. When we are willing to change, God can meet us right where we are and begin the healing process. And it is a healing process.

Toxic behaviors come from a broken, hurtful place deep within our hearts. People are not born toxic. The environments we grow up in and the experiences we have in our relationships both in and out of the home help shape the way we react. Unfortunately, some of us have embraced toxic behaviors as a regular part of our personality.

This is a lie. God designed our hearts to love, to give, to serve, and to forgive. Toxic behavior does the exact opposite. It’s time to kick toxic behaviors out so that love can grow.

Now let’s talk about three subtle ways toxic behaviors are manifesting in your life and practical steps you can take to move forward in the healing process

Behavior #1: Negativity.

Negativity is more than just fussing because your spouse left the ONE thing you asked him to pick up at the grocery store. Negativity is a slippery slope we go down without even being aware. When we talk about subtle ways negativity become a toxic behavior, we are talking about individuals who stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life. You focus on the flaws and errors of others, continuously complaining and being critical. You often choose to take charge of doing things because others can never do anything right. A lousy moment often turns into a bad day, bad week, then a bad month. We hide our negativity behind “just keeping it real,” “I need to tell it like it is,” “I am only speaking the truth,” “I just need to vent” statements.


Want to know if negativity has subtly become a toxic behavior in your life, ask yourself do you:

  • criticize others for making mistakes
  • when something positive happens, do you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed by all the ways it could go wrong?
  • have difficulty celebrating and appreciating your blessings?
  • refuse to try anything new, preferring to stay in what is familiar and comfortable?
  • you are always defensive and feel like you can’t do anything right?

If you said yes to any or most of these things, then negativity might have taken up residence in your heart.

So what do you do?

  • Be mindful of what you say and how you say it: just because you can complain about your hard day, difficult co-worker, or challenging child doesn’t mean you should. Discipline yourself to be aware of how you are using your words over your life. Your words matter.
  • Use a gratitude log: Spending time each day identifying the blessings of your life helps retrain your brain to see the good in every situation. When we spend time expressing praise God there isn’t any room for criticism or negativity.
  • Use an accountability partner: Allow someone else in your life to hold you accountable to your negative attitude. For this to work, you must choose someone you respect and someone you will receive redirection. Someone who will not become a partner to your negativity, but will remind you of God’s word, prayer with you and for you, and celebrate your steps of improvement.

Behavior #2: You must be right

Early in my marriage, I would tell my hubby “I don’t have to be right unless I am right.” I cannot tell you the just how many times I sat on my bed praying for God to MAKE my husband apologize because he was wrong. I would rather sit on my bed, upset, not speaking to my husband than be the one to initiate reconciliation. He messed up, and I had to be right. There were times I even forgot what we were arguing about, but I refused to let go because I had to be “right.” I wanted him to give in, see my point of view, and say he was wrong. Any time we focus on our desire to be right over reconciliation, we have subtly allowed toxic behavior to permeate our hearts.

Not sure if the desire to be right is an issue for you, ask yourself

  • would you rather be angry and correct than reconcile?
  • you change the way something happened, so you don’t have to be wrong?
  • you bring up irrelevant details about old arguments?
  • you turn the argument to what is important to you instead of what is important to the other person?

Okay, so what do you do now?

  • Choose your relationship: Sitting on that bed, I choose my desire to be right over choosing reconciliation with my husband. When I remember to choose my relationship, I can keep things in perspective, which might mean choosing to apologize first.
  • Admit you are wrong: When difficulties arise in your relationship, focus on what you did, how you responded and how you can improve. Taking responsibility for your actions go a long way to repair and restore a relationship.
  • Choose physical connection: Often when we choose to be right, we will use isolation as a form of punishment and manipulation. Instead of pulling away, decide to connect physically. Hold the hand. Give a hug. Be in the room together (without an attitude, eye rolling or any other negative response).


Behavior #3 Comparison

Comparison is perhaps one of the most subtle and universal toxic behaviors. We allow comparison to rob us of our worth, our God-designed identity and robs us of our praise. Comparisons become the measuring stick in which we evaluate our value in our homes, workplace, and relationships. Whether we realize it or not, when we compare our journey, our gifts, or our talents to others we subtly believe what/who God created us to be is not enough.

Envy begins to creep into our hearts. Sure we all have friends we say we want to be like. The subtle lull of comparison causes us to go from inspiration to jealousy. You start competing with others (even if it’s in your head) to have a better marriage, to make more money, to be fitter, or to have a more athletic kid. You work hard so that you can stay ahead. Remember friend, the success of others is not your failure.

This might be you if you:

  • compare the worst of you against the best of others?
  • when celebrating others, you feel sadness or lack in your own life?
  • you feel the need to highlight your life when talking to others?

What do you do?

  • Remember no one is perfect: When we compare ourselves against others, we only see the highlight of their lives. We see the happy marriage, the well-behaved kids, and the successful career. It’s important to remember we are all flawed individuals doing the best we can to live our lives. Everyone is going through struggles we may never know about. So instead of comparing, cover. Cover those around you in prayer.
  • Choose inspiration not comparison: Inspiration causes us to step up to be the best version of ourselves while comparison causes you to try to be like others. Every day allow the strength and fortitudes of others to inspire you to go after the dream inside of you, love your husband, appreciate your children, or do well on your job. The goal is to be YOU.
  • Praise: Your greatest weapon against the thief of comparison is praise. God creates with intention. Every single part of you God intentionally designed. He made no mistake. Praise God at all times in all places for your life. Praise Him for your friendships. Praise Him for your home. Praise Him for your creativity. Praise Him for your progress, no matter how small. When you praise, you won’t have time for comparison.

Disconnecting from your toxic behavior is essential to your mental and spiritual growth. No growth can occur until we are willing to acknowledge toxic behaviors within ourselves. Take ownership of your actions, submit them to God, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, and apologize to those you have hurt. There is hope! You can change. Start today.

Cheering you on friend,


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54 comments on “Time for a change: 3 subtle signs you might be a toxic person (+ what to do about it)

  1. Latascha Williamson

    Admittedly, I have some of these characteristics. Hopefully, what I believe about myself (that I’m not overall toxic) is true. I have to find a way for me to share informative this with those that I do consider toxic so they can self evaluate without offending them :/

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yes, many of use are guilty of allowing some of these characteristics to pop up (me included), but it becomes toxic when it is others allow it to become a way of life. I had to start with doing my own heart check. Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Wow! This was such a powerful post that definitely made me step back and evaluate my own character. Trying to better ourselves everyday is always such a healthy thing to do. Let’s all try to detox ourselves of those yucky toxic vibes.

  3. This is a great post! Sometimes I think I am toxic because I am often negative. This is something that I am constantly working on.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Identifying your toxic behavior is the first step toward changing and living life whole. I use scriptures to help remind me of being grateful and being aware of what I am speaking.

  4. Terrific post! Thank you for all the info.

  5. Great post. Thank you for sharing your experience. We can all learn from this.

  6. Wonderful tips. Made me reevaluate myself.

  7. I needed to read this!! I hope it will help me be a lot more aware of what Im saying to others!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      The more we are aware of our own behaviors, then we can make the necessary changes.

  8. ariannepeters6986

    This really makes you look at yourself and practice some insight. This was really enjoyable and thought provoking to read.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Thank you! Self-Reflection is always a good place to start.

  9. It’s good to know the signs and do something about it, whether it is someone you know or if it is yourself. It can be tough not to dwell on the negative if you are surrounded by negativity.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Our surrounding do matter, but we can choose to influence the atmosphere instead of allowing the atmosphere influence us. It can be challenging at first but the more you do it the easier it becomes.

  10. Ashley Lavoie

    This is such an eye-opening post! Though truly I do think we are all toxic at one time or another. As long as we do not allow ourselves to remain that way or let the negative overtake ourselves, we can hopefully avoid straining relationships. Self-reflection should be done frequently to avoid becoming a toxic person as a whole!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Ashley I could not agree more. Continuous self-Reflection is an important part of growth.

  11. Great post! Really makes you think about what you say before you say them.

  12. Mamie, this is such a great post! I struggle with a lot of these unfortunately. I love the idea of an accountability partner. I think I will try this out! Thanks for sharing your wisdom <3

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Yay Lorena!!! I am so happy enjoyed the post. We must start with taking a hard look at ourselves before we start looking at others.

  13. This is such a great and humbling post. All to often we place the blame on others, and it’s so important to check in with ourselves. Also this is so great to show our kids that we need to look at both ends of a relationship struggle and see where we may have gone wrong.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Oh, yes Deb! We must start with us. It makes such a different to be willing to take a hard look at ourselves first.

      • Kathryn Meredith

        Really well written. A major key to mental health.

  14. thank you for this post; i know i have times where i do behave like this and then feel really bad after; i am trying to work on doing it lesser and lesser trying to go back to that calm collected person i was some years ago 🙂

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Life changes us. That is often how those toxic behaviors happen. Unresolved hurt, anger, or fear creep in often without us being aware.

  15. I really needed this reminder. I tend to forget things and do not realize that I becoming toxic. Appreciate the tips.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      We all have some toxic behaviors, but we can avoid being a toxic person by being aware and making changes.

  16. mylittleduniya

    Sometimes I feel I am a toxic person. These tips are great for self analysis

    • Mamie L. Pack

      I hope that we can start by taking a look at our own behavior and take responsibility for what we can do to create a healthier us.

  17. What an interesting read… definitely giving me some self reflection as admittedly I can relate to some of the characteristics. I think in general we all find it easier to blame other people for things going wrong but never truly stop to think that it is maybe our own actions that are causing our own upset.

    Holly xx

    • Mamie L. Pack

      The blame game is one all too easy to play. When we decide to take ownership of our behaviors and emotions starts the change in us.

  18. alunderfullife

    I love your ideas of how to fix each behavior. The gratitude log is a great idea!

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Thanks!! Keeping a grateful heart helps me out tremendously.

  19. I have a toxic mom so I struggle each day to not be a toxic person + mom to my own kids. I don’t think I have the last two straits but I have to work really hard every day to not be negative. Thank you for sharing this.

  20. Jennifer Maune

    I love this post. Sometimes even if we aren’t entirely toxic as a person, we can exhibit some of these traits and its important to identify these so we can fix it! Negativity is a big one I try to avoid!


    • Mamie L. Pack

      Negativity is a big one. Sometimes we don’t recognize it because we feel justified in our frustrations.

  21. Great post! Definitely signs to look for when choosing who to have in your life.

  22. Self reflection is a sign of growth. I commend anyone that reflects often and takes action.

  23. I can be negative so I get this. I think it’s because I grew up in negativity so I don’t see a lot of positive things. i have to spend more time with positive people

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Our childhood definitely impacts some of our healthy or toxic behaviors. Recognizing your behavior is the first step in making healthy changes.

  24. This made me realize that I’m not a toxic person, but I encounter quite a few at work. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Being aware of toxic behaviors helps us not to compound them on others and how to recognize when others are projecting on us.

  25. A lot to unpack here. We all have been guilty from time to time of such of this. The key is correcting toxic behavior and unlearning bad behavior habits. Fighting fair is important in a marriage and not escalating something. Definitely more important to be happy than right.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Leslie, we do all have some behaviors that are toxic often our responses to pain or trauma from pasts. Being willing to look at ourselves first is so important.

  26. Such a powerful post. I hope many are able to read this and reflect on their actions.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      It is so important for us to be willing to take a deep look at ourselves.

  27. nadaliebardo

    Oh snap, you went there. Maybe the problem is us? Hmm. It’s food for thought for sure. I try my best to be the voice of positivity. But it’s important to be able to correct when we are that toxic person.

  28. staciesayzso

    Ooh wee, I have to admit that I see myself in some of these. But that’s okay because that’s half the battle and there’s always room for growth.

  29. That negativity bit is everything. I simply can not be around negative people. I’m even trying to be better about being more positive with myself. I can be pretty hard on me.

    • Mamie L. Pack

      Oh, learning how to extend grace to yourself is so important on your journey toward healing.

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