December 30, 2019

You Might be the Toxic One.

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal views of the authors, and cannot possibly reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


Cancel culture is a virus that has spread immeasurably throughout Western society, with many throwing shade on others by labeling them as “toxic” or “canceled.”

The dilemma with using these terms is that it places all of the negative attention on the accused, whose behavior is unaccepted by the speaker, with little recognition given to the responsibilities of the accuser.

Making Toxic Choices

Many share the belief that to grow in self-love, one must remove themselves from toxic people. However, toxicity isn’t one-sided; it is not a person who is toxic, but rather the shared relationship between the two people. If a person treats you poorly, you cannot hold that person accountable, as you have chosen to remain in that situation.

Thus, it is not a person who is toxic; it is our choices. Complaining about a person’s behavior consistently will not result in a better outcome. The person is simply living out their life, just as you are, and by choosing to remain in their presence, you are in fact the toxic one because you are submitting yourself to behavior that does not align with who you are.

Granted, it is not always easy to walk away from toxic situations, especially when career and finances are involved. However, there is a certain level of submission, in choosing to remain in situations where boundaries are not respected, passively accepting things as they are, and not speaking up.

The true art of self-love is a balance between respecting the self and respecting others. Recognizing and acknowledging when a person does not love or respect you and having the courage to walk away will create a positive ripple in your life as you are choosing to respect yourself. Thus, it is an empowering choice. The outcome cannot be changed by stressing over how another person disrespects when you should be asking why you don’t respect yourself. You cannot change others. You can only change yourself.

Toxic Thought Patterns

Every second of every day, we are making choices—many are unconscious, but we are always choosing where we are going, what we are eating, who we are seeing, right down to our kryptonite: what we are thinking. Negative thoughts emerge and can trap many in a downward spiral, planting viruses in our head that we then share with the world around us.

Doesn’t it feel good to talk about things that excite you? Then, why is that many people spend so much of their time stressing over things that may not happen or do not leave them feeling good? What’s most ironic about this is that it’s completely free to feel good. It’s a choice.


Walking away from toxic situations is a huge step on the self-love journey. Having the courage to remove unhealthy attachments and trust that things will work out is no easy feat. But it doesn’t end there.

In order to truly free yourself, you must forgive the behavior of the other person, forgive yourself for submitting to the behavior, and forgive the situation, as it has taught you a valuable lesson. This does not mean that you need to invite this person back into your life, but instead it means that you have released the experience from hurting your present reality. To truly do this, you hold no animosity toward the person who hurt you (you are not a victim), and you humbly understand how the experience has served to move you into a better version of yourself. I have found that those who point the finger and blame others for their pain seem to struggle the most, as they are not taking accountability for their choices.

Tips for Making Empowering Choices

  1. When you find yourself thinking negatively about another, make a conscious effort to think of a few qualities about that person you admire.
  2. If you are constantly complaining about a situation in your life, change it. If you can’t change it, find the parts of it that you like and focus on them.
  3. Write a letter of forgiveness to the people who have “wronged” you. Forgive yourself in the letter as well. Keep it or toss it.
  4. Take a moment to think about why the person you are viewing is “toxic.” Why might they be acting in a certain way? Usually, the behaviors that bother us in others mirror the behaviors we don’t like in ourselves. For example, “Why doesn’t that person respect me?” The real question is, why don’t you respect yourself enough to walk away?
  5. If you are feeling stressed or trapped in a loop of negative thought patterns, kindly acknowledge it, focus on your breathing, let it go, and make a conscious effort to shift your thoughts to joy.
  6. Do something for yourself every day. It doesn’t have to involve money. It just has to be something that makes you feel good—dance, write, paint, work out, take a bath.

It’s not always easy to just get up from a life you have created where you are unhappy, but it is easy to start making empowering choices that bring you into alignment with your best self. I hope these words find you well and you reconsider the labeling of someone else as “toxic.”

Let’s cancel that together.

Read 25 Comments and Reply

Read 25 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Bonnie Jean Warren  |  Contribution: 2,070

author: Bonnie Jean Warren

Image: João Silas / Unsplash

Editor: Kelsey Michal