I am an optimist to a fault. I believe in second chances, and third, and fourth. I feel like anyone can change and grow and be kind to you. And if you try hard enough, or understand enough, you can like anybody, and anyone can like you.
I am also wrong about certain things.
Don't ask me why it took over 2 decades for me to figure this out, but some people just do more harm than good. They're not meant for you, if you believe in that sort of thing (which I do).
I like to categorize these sort of people: toxic.
In the same way that nature presents dangerous things as the most desirable of all, for some macabre and bleak reason, such is the toxic person in your life. Magma and lava flow rivers of danger and promises to burn, yet dance before your eyes in brilliant brightness. Poison dart frogs are colorful and cute yet possess the power to destroy you. Ironically, roses, the floral symbol of love, have thorns. I'm sure you get where I'm going with this.
Here are the top 5 signs to look out for if you think you have a toxic person in your life.
1) The way they poke fun isn't funny to you. If this person constantly makes jokes at your expense, they probably aren't funny and worse, they’re bullying you. The best way to spot this is the immediate feeling you get when their little jab ends: is it sadness? Anger? Disappointment? Your true, gut feeling is always there, if only for a fraction of time before your mind can rationalize the situation. Honing in on your feelings can never do you wrong.
2) Your relationship isn't reciprocal. You pick them up their favorite snack at the grocery store. They come home empty handed. You write them a card for the holidays. They forgot, as usual. Though this isn't necessarily a tell-tale sign that this person in your life is complete trash (maybe they have a lot on their mind—use your judgment), if they are exhibiting a pattern of selfishness and thoughtlessness when you haven't, this person is mooching, taking advantage of you, and holding you back from someone that would appreciate your kind gestures. Know your self-worth and when it’s time to cut ties.
3) They are emotionally unavailable or unintelligent. They have either verbally expressed that they're not ready for some next step in your relationship/friendship/whatever, or they just haven't opened up and it’s been a long time. Maybe you've spilled your guts about something personal to you and, thinking back, they have never done the same. Feelings are important, and sharing them is the only true way to be close and have a meaningful relationship with another person. If the person in your life is afraid or unwilling to ever be vulnerable with you, run.4) You see them as a work-in-progress. You adore certain qualities about them, sure. Maybe you love how funny they are or how people tend to gravitate towards them. But you don't really like their lack of motivation or drive, and you think to yourself that in time, you will be the driving force to make them better. While it’s true that we become most like the 5 people we spend the most time with, tigers don't change their stripes. Recognize that personality traits like reactions in times of stress, anger, celebration, etcetera will not ever fully change. If you aren't 100% okay with who this person is, right now, today, take the hit to your ego and realize you can't change them. They shouldn't be changed and neither should you. They're just toxic for you
5) You have that gut feeling. What's funny about every person that has ever been a force of toxicity in my life is that I can remember the exact moment that I knew. I knew, but I didn't want to know, and so I didn't address it. Some people call these red flags, and I wish they were always that obvious. To me, they're more like... blips. I'll be in a moment of pure bliss perhaps, and something they say causes my smile to abruptly settle as I think to myself:
There always seems to be space around the thought. As if that’s my mind’s way of elevating this small message amongst the rest that zing through my head due to its importance. I wish it were more revolutionary, more neon, more stop-you-in-your-tracks, but it really is that painstakingly simple. That brief moment of recognition that, hmm, something is up. What I've never been able to do is turn and leave at that moment, and I wish I would have. My hope is that, in the future, you will have the strength to do that.