Our vet’s office sends wonderful emails every other week or so, with educational information that pet parents need to know. In preparation for the start of summer, they sent one regarding foods that are toxic to pets’ health. If ingestion occurs, reactions range from mild irritation to life threatening. Informative and interesting, it got me thinking about things that are toxic to humans. Now we are not talking about substances like food, medicines, or plants, but the kinds of things we encounter in our interactions and environments each day. While most of them begin as slight annoyances, they can quickly escalate toward soul sucking and life draining. In the interest of time, let’s look at just a few…
- Negativity – com defines negativity as “a tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and skeptical. It’s a pessimistic attitude that always expects the worst.” To be clear, we all have times when we can become frustrated and negative, but that’s not what we are talking about here. Toxic negativity is a PATTERN that never seems to let up, someone who somehow always seems to have a word of discouragement for whatever situation occurs. It’s that person who texts you several times a week to tell you everything that’s wrong with their life. Or the colleague who never seems to be happy about anything. Negativity can also manifest as gossip, slander, complaining or judgment toward people or circumstances.
A study at King’s College London found that a habit of prolonged negative thinking diminishes your brain’s ability to think, reason and form memories. Negative thinking doesn’t just drain the life out of others, it drains your brains resources. They went on to detail evidence that repetitive negative thinking may increase your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
This means that this person isn’t just toxic to others, but also to themselves, both in the short and long term.
- Arrogance – The Cambridge Dictionary provides this definition for arrogance “unpleasantly proudand behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people.” These are people who won’t accept feedback, help or insight from others. Consider the know it all who acts like they have nothing to learn from you or any other person they deem as “less than” themselves. Just as Wonder Woman deflects bullets with her golden cuffs, they will rebuff any help or guidance you attempt to offer. Each time you try to share a nugget of wisdom or a kernel of truth, they outflank you with defensiveness and reasons that what you said isn’t applicable to them.
- Perfectionism and Taking Things Personally – Perfectionism says nothing is good enough if it isn’t “exactly” right, according to their unattainable standards. Taking things personally plays the victim, continually taking offense and being upset by what others say and do. These behaviors often end up being two sides to the same coin. As humans, there’s no way we can ever be perfect, so being upset when we miss the mark, often leads us to worrying what others think and feeling badly about ourselves and them. In the workplace, perfectionism may be exhibited through procrastination, a desire to control others and frustration when their high expectations are unmet. Taking things personally can lead to constantly worrying what others are saying and doing, no ability to relax and increased mistrust toward others. Basically, a whole lot of unpleasantness for everyone.
Although we don’t have any control over how other people behave, you do have options as far as your reaction. You don’t have to let these things make you sick (literally or metaphorically). When possible, keep your distance. I mean, you wouldn’t knowingly go into a room where bleach and ammonia had been mixed, now would you? Think of toxic behavior the same way: no exposure equals no contamination.
Next, remember that we are all responsible for our own behavior, so remind yourself that others’ dysfunction is no reflection on your value, worth or place in the world.
Finally, put your mind on positive thoughts and depending on what’s possible, walk away, slip on some headphones, or go to your mental happy place.
You may not be great at avoiding the toxins at first but keep practicing and I promise you will get there. Because if there’s anything the last year and a half taught us, it’s that good boundaries can lead to better health.