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7 Signs You Have A Toxic Relationship...With Yourself
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7 Signs You Have A Toxic Relationship...With Yourself

A few years ago, I wrote an article for the platform entitled, “Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships.” A part of the reason why I did it is because I totally agree with an article that ran on TIME’s site earlier this year: “Gaslighting, Narcissist, and More Psychology Terms You're Misusing.” As a life coach, I can tell you that it can be super annoying (at times) to see folks just throw words around when it’s clear that they are just parroting what they heard someone else say.


An example? Narcissist. The more I watch people rant about how an ex in their life was a narcissist, the more I oftentimes see narcissism in that very individual. A narcissist is entitled. A narcissist has an inflated sense of self. A narcissist refuses to see someone else’s side of things, they constantly need attention and validation, and they don’t take criticism well. So no, someone isn’t a narcissist simply because things didn’t work out with you or they didn’t get on the same page as you as far as your relational expectations are concerned.

Okay, but that’s another discussion for another time. For now, what I want to talk about is another psychology term that gets worn out: toxic. While the dictionary defines it as something (or one) that is poisonous or harmful, in the world of mental health, toxic is about being an abusive type of individual — whether it’s mental, emotional, verbal, spiritual, relational, or otherwise. Someone is not toxic just because they don’t see eye to eye with you or their views differ from yours. “Toxic” is significantly detrimental to your overall health and well-being.

That said, can you have a toxic relationship with yourself? Absolutely. I’m about to share seven ways that it can manifest. And not from the casual TikTok angle either; these all can be significantly poisonous and extremely harmful if you don’t get a hold of them — even if doing so requires therapy. And sis, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. Good therapy is toxicity’s kryptonite.

Okay, so what are some signs that you truly have a toxic relationship…with you?

Identifying the Telltale Signs of a Toxic Relationship with Self

1. You Don’t Hold Your Own Self Accountable

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The amount of people in my past world (including my own family) who were masters when it came to lacking personal accountability? LAWD. That’s why I make it my personal mission to hold my own self accountable. In fact, several people in my world say that I am almost too self-aware, if that’s possible (it’s possible; Aristotle once said that the excess of virtue is indeed a vice. Anything in the extreme is out of balance). I’m pretty sure that’s why I talk about it and write about it as much as possible (check out “What It Actually Means To 'Hold Yourself Accountable'”).

Personally, I find people who lack personal accountability to be dangerous to themselves and others. If you think I’m exaggerating, ponder how a lack of accountability operates. It doesn’t take responsibility for its actions. It deflects, excuses, and justifies wrong behavior. It plays the victim a lot. It finds a way to blame everyone in the world for what it does. It tends to be personally and professionally stagnant. It’s emotionally immature and superficial. Does that sound un-dangerous to you?

So, why do so many people struggle with self-accountability? If you grew up in a home where your parents, quite frankly, sucked at it, if you’re not used to people owning their stuff and apologizing to you, if you’re afraid to really deal with your areas of weakness — all of this could have a starring role. Whatever the case may be, no one can be a fully self-sufficient and thriving adult unless they are willing to take accountability for what they say and do. Folks who think otherwise — yes, on some level, they have some sort of toxic relationship with themselves.

2. You Don’t Honor Your Own Boundaries

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Listen, as someone who knows what it’s like for someone to know my limits and then be like, “Girl, whatever. I’m gonna roll right over them” — I will forever be on-repeat when it comes to screaming from your rooftop and mine about how important it is to have clear and firm boundaries — not walls or barbed wire fences…boundaries. A boundary is a limit, and you have every right in the world to set the limits that you need in order to live out your life to the fullest.

So, why is this such a struggle for so many people? Fear is a huge reason. They might be scared that they will lose someone if they set a boundary. They might be afraid that other people’s boundaries in response to their own boundaries will change relational dynamics (sometimes it will, and that is okay). They might not want to deal with the consequences (or fallout) that come with setting boundaries.

When it comes to all of these, not doing what’s best for you because you’re fearful of how someone else will react? That simply isn’t a good enough reason because, as a boundaries-setting queen, I can promise you that the people who are healthy for you are going to honor your limits — and even honor you for having them.

You know, it really is true that people who are upset by another person’s boundaries are very oftentimes the ones who like to run over them or take advantage of the individual who set them in the first place. I don’t care if the boundary is with a friend, co-worker, romantic partner, or (please catch it) family member. People who respect others will get that a limit is set for that person’s own protection — and healthy people support those who do what will keep them safe and secure.

If you’re the one who keeps shifting your boundaries around to accommodate others…guess who the main culprit is when it comes to not protecting you? Yep…YOU.

3. You’re Not Living Out Your Purpose (and You Know What It Is)

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When you get a chance, please check out “5 Signs You Are Living Your True Purpose” and “Please Stop Picking People Who Don't 'Fit' Your Purpose.” Y’all purpose is more than just important; PURPOSE IS PARAMOUNT because it literally means “the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.” This is why I am aggressively adamant in telling singles that if you don’t know your purpose or you are dating someone who doesn’t know theirs, the last thing that you need to be thinking about is marrying them. Why? It’s because two people need to know what they were put on this planet to do first so that they’re clear on who will best complement them.

And even beyond relationships, it’s critical to know what your purpose is. Personally, I believe that’s why a lot of people are dissatisfied with their life. I mean, how can you truly be fulfilled if you don’t know what your life mission truly consists of? And if you’re not intentional and in constant pursuit of answering that question, on many levels, that is indeed toxic — because to be here without knowing why, on some levels, is harmful to your well-being.

So, how can you know that you know what your purpose actually is? Something that I advise is if you can define your purpose in three words or phrases, almost immediately, you’re probably very clear. For instance, whenever folks ask me what mine consists of — marriage, sex, and the Sabbath are my purpose. They are all covenant principles and things that I am very passionate about. In many ways, they all work together, too. I pretty much breathe them. I write and teach on them daily. Money isn’t a huge factor on whether they will be a part of my life, for the rest of my life. And supernatural insights come to me about them (folks tell me that all of the time).

What about your life can you say those things about? Whatever “it” is, there’s a huge chance that it is directly tied to your purpose. And what if you have no clue? Check out these articles here, here, and here. They all contain questions that can help you to connect some dots.

In the meantime, never be comfortable with not knowing your purpose. To stay in that kind of space, knowing that it’s the literal reason for why you’re here? That is a toxic mindset. A billion times over.

4. You Make an Olympic Sport Out of Self-Deprecation

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Something that’s interesting about self-deprecation is that a lot of people think that it’s only about putting themselves down. Although that is a big part of it, self-deprecation actually has a few different layers. If you don’t know how to take compliments, that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. If you let others take credit for the work that you’ve done, that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. If you downplay yourself and what you bring to the table — any table — that’s a manifestation of self-deprecation. And that’s just for starters.

So, why do so many people struggle with it? If they weren’t affirmed much and/or if they received backhanded compliments throughout their childhood and adolescence, that could be one reason. Another could be if their religious experience defined humility in a very unhealthy way. Yeah, a lot of folks struggle with being humble to this day, and it’s because they think that it’s all about looking down on themselves when that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Humility is actually being so strong in your self-worth that you don’t need to hog the spotlight, announce everything that you do for other people, or always be in a mindset of competition. Humble people don’t need to be jealous or envious. Humble people can help others win. Humble people are empathetic and compassionate because they know that life isn’t all or just about them.

That’s why Scripture says things like, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 — NKJV) and “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4 — NKJV) If you were told something different, you could think that seeing yourself as “less than” or letting others treat you that way is being humble when really — it’s self-deprecating.

And surely you can see how problematic all of this is. How can it even remotely be healthy for you to speak poorly about yourself or to approach life as if you don’t hold enough value to be a relevant and necessary voice in this world? Yeah, you can’t have a healthy relationship with yourself if you don’t see yourself in a healthy way. Not sure how else to break down this one. If this is where you struggle most, make humility the goal; let self-deprecation…GO.

5. With You, Everything Has a Negative Slant

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One of my closest friends, I call her “glass half full” and she calls me “glass half empty.” Both conclusions are accurate. She almost always sees things with a mega upswing while I’m over here being slightly cynical with no hesitation or apologies. For the most part, it’s because one of my spiritual gifts is discernment (if you are a Bible follower and you’ve never taken a spiritual gifts test before, a good one is right here), and in the world we live in, discernment (which literally means “acute judgment”) is becoming a lost art and is definitely on the endangered species list. Yet, I do have to make sure that I don’t let my natural negativity bias get in the way.

A negativity bias is something that all humans naturally have. In short, it’s an automatic inclination to look for the negative or worst-case scenario of things. However, just because it’s common, that doesn’t make it “right” or beneficial. There are plenty of articles in cyberspace that address how negativity infects your health, your brain, your productivity, your sleep patterns, and 1000 percent your relationships. Hmph. There’s one woman I know who, pretty much everyone who knows her, says that she’s completely draining to be around — and that’s because she always sees things in a negative light. It’s almost like she’s unhappy if anything positive is going on. It’s bizarre.

Listen, the reason why I shared what I did about myself and my discernment gift is that it’s one thing to be practical…realistic…aware; it’s another to be out in these streets always thinking that something is too good to be true; constantly believing that everyone has an angle or agenda; making mountains out of molehills; being more problem-than-solution focused; being hypercritical; being contrary…just to be contrary; being a chronic complainer; thinking that everything that doesn’t go your way is the worst thing to ever happen to you and/or not being open to seeing things differently (than in “darkness”). If you felt triggered reading all of that, could it be because it reflects how you see a lot of the world and/or yourself? If that is indeed the case, there’s no time like the present to become a more positive person.

Get around positive people. Become proactive about your health. Be careful about the content that you take in. Get a sense of humor. Do things for other people. Respect your words more. Practice gratitude.

The thing about being negative is it takes far more than it gives. Settling for that, on any level, is definitely a toxic way to live your life.

6. Your Coping Mechanisms Are Unhealthy and/or Totally Counterproductive

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In short, anything that you do in order to manage the stress levels in your life is your coping mechanism (they are not to be confused with defense mechanisms, by the way; that’s another message for another time). By this definition, not all coping mechanisms are bad. For instance, if you meditate, unplug from social media, and go on solo dates — these are good tactics for dealing with life’s stressors.

On the other hand, if you’re a shopaholic or workaholic; you stay in unhealthy relationships (including friendships); you’re an emotional eater; you run to sex (this used to be one of mine); you sleep a lot (as a way of a mental or emotional escape); you abuse drugs or alcohol; you’re non-confrontational to your detriment (meaning, you keep letting people do and say whatever to you in order to “keep the peace”)…these are just some examples of having very unhealthy coping mechanisms — ones that are indeed toxic.

Right now, I have a friend who is realizing that she is a victim of narcissistic abuse. Her coping mechanism has been to choose men who love bomb her. It’s been a vicious cycle and, quite frankly, pretty painful to watch because, all of this time, she thought narcissism was confidence and love bombing was chivalry. Neither was the case — not by a long shot. So now…she’s in therapy trying to unlearn all of that mess. And what she’s also discovering is she hasn’t been “coping”; she’s been avoiding. For years, because all of this has been her pattern, she thought it would be easier to stay on the hamster wheel of dysfunction than to deal with some childhood traumas that are directly associated with why she does some of the things that she does.

And honestly, I think that’s why a lot of people remain in unhealthy or, at the very least, totally counterproductive coping mechanisms. They’ve built up such a tolerance to their habit of choice that they think it’s easier to remain with it than to get the help that they need to break free. And you know what? Even if the train of thought is understandable, that doesn’t make it any less — say it with me now — TOXIC. Bottom line, if you don’t deal with stress well and you seek out things that can exponentially make your life even more stress-filled (if not immediately, eventually)…that is toxic.

7. Your Relationships Lack Reciprocity

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As we prepare to close this out, I think the easiest way to explain this one is, if you see your own self from a place of lack, not deserving much or having to prove your value, you will choose people who mirror all of that. I know this to be true because I used to be one of these people. Certain childhood issues definitely played a role (your own parents can raise you to become codependent if you can never do enough to please them or they are emotionally manipulative in order to control you). So did having some really poisonous female friends (bad female friends aren’t discussed enough, y’all). And so, I thought that my life was to consist of constantly overdoing for others and doing without in the process.

YES. THAT IS TOXIC.

When you do things for other people without getting anything in return, that is an act of service, a form of ministry, and that is fine. At the same time, when you give someone the title of being your friend (check out “Allow These Things To Happen Before Calling Someone 'Friend'”) or a part of your tribe/circle, something that should automatically come with that is some freakin’ reciprocity. Yes, you should expect that they will be there for you, just like you are for them. Yes, you should expect that if you’re meeting needs, they are willing to do the same. Yes, you should expect that if you’re celebrating them, they should be celebrating you. Folks who try and tell you that you shouldn’t not just expect but require this from your “people”? Watch out for those folks…they are the ones who will drain you dry, chile.

When you have an unhealthy relationship with yourself, you don’t get how much reciprocity should be a part of your world. Oh, but the healthier “you and you” become — it’s so easy to see a relationship for what it is and then shift if it’s not really…a relationship (feel me?). Hear me when I say that reciprocity is not a “bonus” in true relationships — it’s a given.

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It’s the late Eartha Kitt who once said, “It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit.” So true, so true. And now that some signs of a toxic self-relationship have been shared, the good news is you have the power to change it — all of it. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to feel good about you and do right by you.

And sis, there truly is no time like the present. Gift yourself with a toxicity detox. It’s time.

PAST TIME. Don’t you think?

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Featured image by MoMo Productions/Getty Images

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