Here's a 5-step action plan if you're the 'toxic' friend everyone wants to cut off

Photographer: Daniel Adesina
Photographer: Daniel Adesina
Daniel Adesina

The biggest conversation relating to self-care in 2019 is toxic relationships, both in the intimate sense and otherwise. However, often we shy away from pointing to ourselves as being a toxic individual.

However, self-awareness and growth requires us to take a critical look at ourselves and find ways to improve in areas where we may be lacking. 

The first step is to realise that if you happen to possess some undesirable qualities, this does not make you a bad person, it only makes you someone who is on a growth path.

And finding ways to deal with the undesirable behaviour is a great sign of courage. This article focuses on traits in a person's character that are negative and damaging to themselves and others.

READ MORE: Are we becoming sadder? How to handle a bad mood, according to an expert

According to a registered counsellor, Sarah Cohen-Schwarz, a lack of empathy can be regarded as a toxic trait. "Empathy means being able to step into another person’s shoes and to see and feel the world from their point of view. Being un-empathetic becomes toxic when you are unable to have compassion or are criticising the people around you most of the time. If you do this, it's likely that you have little empathy for yourself too,” she says.

It is true that individuals may not be aware that they have toxic traits that are negatively impacting the people around them.

READ MORE: Here are 4 differences between stress and anxiety according to a pharmacist

Unfortunately, even if you are oblivious of your behaviour, your friendships and relationships may be negatively impacted in the following ways:

- People may find it hard to be around you.

- You may experience communication problems and constant conflict.

- People around you may experience self-esteem issues and mental health issues. 

- You may face rejection and damage relationships. 

READ MORE: How to offer comfort in 4 different situations

According to a registered counsellor, Phumzile Ndlovu if you want to be supported but are unwilling to support others, find yourself playing victim, are a people pleaser, always need to control others, do not easily accept responsibility for mistakes when you wrong, compare yourself to other or don't take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts and behaviours, then you may be displaying some toxic traits. 

"Toxic traits can be a defense or coping mechanism, a result of past trauma, self-esteem issues or unhealthy attachments," Phumzile says.

READ MORE: You probably don’t know what you really look like, here’s why it shouldn’t bother you

To get rid of toxic traits that you carry, Sarah and Phumzile recommend self-awareness and acceptance work. Here is an action plan if you want to work on the behaviour:

1 - Accept when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.

2 - Accept your imperfections and those of others.

3 - Take responsibility for your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.

4 - Get some counseling as it will help you with identifying the root cause of the toxic traits.

5 - Give yourself time - the toxic behaviour is something that has developed over time and so it will take some time to finally get rid of those traits. 

If you are on a journey of self-awereness, don't be too hard on yourself, life is a learning curve and if you have good intentions, you'll always be able to deal positively with challenges in your own character.

Do you have toxic traits that you are aware of? Tell us how you are dealing with them here.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
22% - 696 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 288 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
50% - 1585 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 41 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 563 votes