How to break your toxic traits

emotional health healing self-awareness tips Mar 11, 2022

When we think of a toxic person, we often think of someone who is rude, manipulative, hostile, selfish, and so on. It is not always easy to tell if someone is toxic immediately; usually, it takes a little time to acknowledge the red flags that are there. What can be even more difficult to recognize is those same toxic traits or behaviors in ourselves. 

Our brain has interesting ways of protecting ourselves and justifying our beliefs and actions. It can often be hard to see a toxic trait in ourselves, or if we do, we can underestimate its effect on our lives. So what should we watch out for? How would these toxic traits look to us? 

Our Toxic Traits

It is easy to point out toxic traits in other people, but these can look slightly different when we are looking within. Let's look at some common toxic traits and how they would present to ourselves:


There is a fine line between persuasion and manipulation in an argument, and it is easier than you think to cross it. The biggest difference that you were being manipulative and not persuasive was using emotional control or deception to influence someone. An indicator of being persuasive or manipulative is looking at your goals and what you were focused on. Were you empathetic and focused on how this could benefit your partner? Or were you focused on getting something that you wanted? We can often justify this to ourselves because we know that we don’t mean to take advantage of the other person. That we care about them and really want this for them. When we are in tough situations or excited by an opportunity, it is easy to be focused on what we are wanting and end up barely acknowledging what the other person wants. Persuasive becomes manipulative when we frequently try and force our belief and want onto the other person.


Though having some spontaneity in life is good so you don't get stuck in a never-ending routine, it's not good to always be impulsive. The difference between being spontaneous and being impulsive is the thought given to it. Spontaneous is when certain conditions are right, and there is an immediate opportunity. Impulsiveness is closer to a reflex, where you jump into a situation without thought. Think two sides of the same coin, one side is an intentional action while the other is a lack of restraint. When we consistently act impulsively, we can often be thoughtless, selfish, and disruptive. 


It's your way or the highway. When we say it like that, it is easy to see that this is not okay behavior. But for some reason, it is still hard to let go of control, and we can see this type of internal behavior as something else. Maybe we're a little picky about things being done a certain way, like the laundry folded "properly" so it can be put away nicely. We like our routine to be done in certain ways, at certain times, and feel like all of the chores and choices are on our shoulders. We feel the need to be the one who needs to take charge, plan, purchase, and so on. And that when we have other people's help, we need to make sure that they follow our plans and actions to get everything completed appropriately. 

We see our actions as simply correct, maybe even acknowledging that we are particular about how things are done. Being particular becomes rigid when we refuse to acknowledge other people's needs or recognize that there is more than one path. The biggest sign that you are being rigid is how you handle other people and the conflict when they don't do things your way. When your decisions are always absolute, and you refuse to move, that is being rigid. If you react angrily or in a hostile manner, we already know, that is a toxic response. 

How This Is Toxic Behavior

We are human, and we will at times act selfishly and at the expense of other people. When we are stressed, under pressure, excited, or feeling a strong emotion, it is easy to react accordingly. There were times in our life when we were manipulative, impulsive, and rigid; that doesn't mean though that is a toxic trait. It is still something we should watch for, but a toxic trait is a pattern of behavior. 

...Persuasive becomes manipulative when we frequently try and force our belief and want onto the other person.

... When we consistently act impulsively, we can often be thoughtless, selfish, and disruptive. 

...When your decisions are always absolute, and you refuse to move, that is being rigid.

Frequently, consistently, always. When you are repeating negative behavioral traits over a period of time, that is when you know you have toxic behavior. 

How To Break Them

The first step to breaking your toxic traits is to be aware of yourself and your behavior. There are so many other traits that can be toxic, including selfishness, judgmental, argumentative, apathy, and more. No one is perfect. You will do something negative at some point, whether it is to be quick to judgment and anger or be rude and arrogant. It is important to watch your behavior, thoughts, and feelings, and acknowledge your negative behavior. 

The next step is to be conscious of your actions. In certain situations, when we are embarrassed or hurt, it can be hard to let go of our ego, and we end up reacting to the situation. Give yourself time to think before you act so you can be intentional in your thoughts and actions. 

Then, you want to be mindful of your behavior toward other people. Be empathetic and compassionate. Listen to what other people have to say and what they need too. It can be hard at first, but it is important to acknowledge your role in situations and take accountability. To be able to grow from our past mistakes, we need to take ownership of them.

Finally, you want to reach out for help when you need it. Changing behavior takes time, and it can be difficult to see negative and toxic behavior in ourselves. When we have a support network, we can discuss these behaviors and situations to determine if we are the ones behaving negatively or inappropriately. These support networks can also help us with accountability and handling this toxic behavior.