March 28, 2022

Please Stop Calling Other People “Toxic.”


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To be honest, I’m pretty sick of the word toxic.

Especially when it’s referred to…

Your family.

Your friends.

Your ex.

Your relationship.

Your boss.

Your friends.

Your…ahem…let’s just say anyone who lives and breathes.

If I see an article come in with the word, I (figuratively) just roll my eyes and refuse to even look at it (if at all possible).

It’s like one of those words that gets picked up in common lexicon and so everyone starts using it—because it’s catchy and popular and no one knows why they say it but they do because everyone else does and because it’s popular and it’s easy and it gets a lot of clicks.

But its usage should be questioned.

Let’s get something clear: nobody is toxic.

Your family isn’t toxic.

Your friends aren’t toxic.

Your ex isn’t toxic.

Your boss isn’t toxic.

The word toxic feels toxic.

We need to start using more human words when we talk about others.

Why not just say that a relationship wasn’t healthy? That it didn’t feel good? That you don’t like being with someone? That it feels unhealthy to have someone in your life?

Why not say a certain environment just isn’t healthy for you?

When you do, you can then own your actions. You can either set appropriate boundaries or speak up for yourself or remove yourself from the situation or person entirely.

People aren’t toxic.

People have issues. They have trauma. They have wounds. They have all sorts of unconscious stuff that influences every single thing they do. They have stress and overwhelm and emotional turmoil. Everyone. We all have our issues.

I genuinely believe people are doing the best they can with what they know. They are who they are because of how they were raised, because of their own conditioning. They have their own fears, their own subconscious beliefs. They have their own trauma and pain. They don’t know what they don’t know.

This includes our parents, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, exes, the random people we see walking on the street.

This includes us.

Everyone is doing the best they can with what they know with where they are on their life journeys.

It might not jive with us and that’s okay. We don’t have to force it.

Part of our own journey is understanding who we want in our lives, understanding what feels good to us. To determine what is best for us. Who we want to be around. What we want. Who (and what) helps us to thrive. What kinds of situations feel good to us.

And then taking the self-loving actions we need to honor ourselves. Which can (and should) include setting boundaries or no longer associating with those people who are not healthy for us to be around.

Instead of complaining about others being toxic, why not just admit that the person or situation doesn’t feel healthy? And then take ownership on how to move forward?

Nobody is toxic.

No one is inherently toxic.

Yes, people can say negative things and be mean and rude and self-centered, and they can nitpick and even be cruel—but they’re not toxic.

People can be total assholes, but they’re not toxic.

It doesn’t mean we have to like being around them or try to force ourselves to like them or fit with them.

If we don’t feel good around someone, we shouldn’t force ourselves to be around them.

But there’s a different energy to saying that something doesn’t feel good or right to us—than it does to call someone else “toxic.”

It’s like all those holiday articles we get each year, about “surviving the holiday with your family.” They make me cringe.

If your family is really that terrible to be around, then why even go? If you don’t enjoy it, why go? It does no one any good to be in a situation where they’re miserable. (If you have the option to leave or not put yourself in it in the first place, either leave or just don’t go in the first place.)

A few months ago, I read an article that another editor had edited. The author complained about her family the entire time was so incredibly negative. I left a note for the editor, something along the lines of, “For talking about how negative her family is…she sure sounds negative.”

Instead of just using the quick, easy word that everyone will jump on, why not just feel whether a situation is healthy or not and then take the steps to do what is best and healthiest for you?

It’s time to change the way this word is used.

And use more human words for talking about those we disagree with, don’t like, don’t feel good around, or don’t want in our lives.

I’d prefer if I never had to read the word toxic associated with any sort of human or relationship again.

It makes me cringe.


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