6 Signs You're About To Let A Toxic Person (Back) Into Your Life

How can you know someone is toxic before it's too late? For starters, read this.

Love & Relationships

Not too long ago, while looking around in Twitter world to see what was going on, I noticed a tweet that had me be like, "Yeah, I need to save that for personal reference and an xoNecole piece." To me, it was so good that I'm going to share the tweet itself. Are you ready to exhale in a way like you probably haven't in a really long time?

Y'all. Y'all. If there's one thing that can keep us caught up in the kind of unhealthy, counterproductive and emotionally dangerous relationships that are totally beneath our self-worth and extremely threatening to our purpose, it's allowing manipulation, control or even fear to serve as the motivation for remaining someplace that is toxic—or going back to something that is toxic. That tweet right there is a clear-cut example of how that can happen.

Another example is believing that you have to experience everything the hard way in order to learn what you need to know. That couldn't be further from the truth. Me? I'm a firm believer that one of the most underrated superpowers is discernment. And yes, there are some things—many things, actually—that you can avoid, simply by discerning that they aren't good for you; hopefully beforehand.

That said, if you're someone who has a tendency to constantly get into toxic relationships, have toxic friends or you're always caught up in some sort of drama with toxic family members, here are some telling signs to help you to finally break that cycle for good—whether it's your first time dealing with a toxic individual…or (le sigh) your umpteenth one.

So, how can you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you're about to let a toxic person into—or back into—your life?

Their Personality Impresses You More than Their Character Does


I promise you that if you get this one down right here, it will spare you from experiencing so much unnecessary stress. I can't tell you how many times in my life that I've encountered someone who is charismatic, funny, smart or all of the above, so I let them in more than I should have, only to find out that they were also shady, arrogant and opportunistic as hell. How did that happen? I allowed their personality to be more important to me than their character. If those two things seem one and the same to you—yeah, that's a part of the problem.

Someone's personality is basically what they lead with. By definition, it's "the visible aspect of one's character as it impresses others". I don't know about you, but the two words that stood out to me in that definition are "visible" and "impresses". Meanwhile, someone's character is their "moral or ethical quality". For years, I was literally embroiled with a user because while they were charming (personality), they were also extremely selfish (character).

Whether it's someone you've just met or someone you're considering letting back into your life, it will only benefit you to take a moment to make sure that the "gift" (their character) is indeed as beautiful as their "wrappings" (their personality).

They’ve Got a “Pop Off Spirit". Online and/or Offline.


Not too long ago, I was talking to someone who met another individual through me. As they were asking why we weren't close anymore, my response was two-fold. "I don't think that we were ever close so much as we were cool. But as I got to know that individual more, it just seemed like they could never take what they dish out. They also seem to have very little accountability in their life so, when someone brought something to their attention that could help them to become a better individual, they would go on the attack. I just don't really like being around someone who constantly has a 'pop off spirit'. It's draining." The older—and hopefully wiser—that I get, the more that fact rings true.

The Dalai Lama once said, "Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace." Sometimes, the best way to do that is to send love and light to someone from afar. That said, if there is someone in your world who is always combative, always needs to have the last word, and/or always has a "word of wisdom" but can never receive it—whether it's online or off—not only does this show signs of leaning towards being narcissistic, a know-it-all and/or totally self-unaware, it can also serve as a heads up that they aren't going to bring peace into your life. If anything, they are gonna straight-up disrupt it. Often.

They Rarely Take Responsibility or Accountability for...Anything


I've got a family member who—give me a sec because I wanna make sure I am not exaggerating when I say this—has never apologized. Ever. You can catch them in something that is dead wrong and either they will go tit for tat with you on it—you know that, "Well, you do that too" game—or they will go into hard defensive mode, even ghosting you, if need be. Or, they will take the super manipulative route and be on some, "I'm sorry you pushed me to do that." What in the world?

None of us are perfect. This means that there are going to be times in our lives when we're going to need to take responsibility for the things that we've done wrong or we'll need to hold ourselves accountable to the things that someone has said offended them or hurt them in some way. If there's a person you're dealing with who has never done either of these things, even when you have brought wounds that they have caused to their attention, you are, as the elders say, "crusin' for a brusin'" if you keep them in your inner circle. Because, how can someone stop hurting or harming you if they refuse to even acknowledge that they did so? Which reminds me, please check out "If They Are Truly Sorry, They'll Do These 5 Things" when you get a chance. It's a reminder that someone who apologizes for doing wrong is humble and healthy. People who refuse to do so are the exact opposite.

They’re Extremely Prideful


One of my favorite movies of all time is The Devil's Advocate (a great scene is here). If there is a revolving theme throughout the entire film, it's what pride (and vanity) can do to a person if they don't get a hold of it. What are some of the signs of a pride-filled individual? The article "15 Subtle Signs of Pride In Your Life" offers up some real doozies—being unteachable; constantly talking about yourself; being overly-critical; not heeding the advice of others; always needing attention and affirmation; not respecting authority, and name-dropping are just a few of 'em.

Since I grew up in somewhat of an entertainment industry home and I then became an entertainment writer, I spent a lot of years not realizing just how prideful a lot of the people in my space actually were. The fallout from that is, you can't constantly be around folks with the "pride flu" and not catch some of their symptoms after a while.

On this side of self-awareness and healing, if there is one thing that I loathe and try to avoid being around (and being), it's pride. Aside from all of the other traits that I just shared, a prideful individual takes more than they will ever give. Not only that, but between them and their ego, there's not much room for real friends. Only fans.

You Can’t Immediately Name Five Ways They Benefit Your Life


A couple of days ago, I was sharing with a friend and his co-worker Aristotle's theory about all of us needing to have utility (work), pleasure (kick it) and good (character) friends. As they were discussing what they thought they were to each other, things got a little uncomfortable when my friend said to his co-worker that he saw him as a pleasure friend, not a good one. When his co-worker asked why, my friend (being the tell-it-like-it-is Gemini that he is) simply said, "My friends are people who make me a better person. Sure, you and I have a good time, but you're actually someone who tries to get me to do things that I'm trying to stop doing…like drinking." When the co-worker asked why they weren't at least utility friends, my friend followed that up with, "Dude. Since I've known you, I've covered you more times than I can remember when you come to work late. I've lost track of how much money I've lent you. You're good for a good time, but that's about it."

It's another message for another time, how many of us remain in unhealthy relationships with folks, and it's all because there's a disillusion that things are one way when they are totally different. But the main thing that I want you to get from this particular point is my friend didn't really share anything truly beneficial that his co-worker brings to his life—well, other than fun and being a "vice trigger" (if you consider that to be a good thing). Their lil' convo is a good reminder that if you can't think of the ways someone will influence and inspire you to be a better person (other than perhaps them being a cautionary tale in your life), this is just one more sign that they could very potentially be a toxic individual to you instead.

If They’re from Your Past—Nothing Seems Much Different in Y’all’s Present


A word that's oftentimes used when it comes to recycling is repurposing. An example of doing this is back in the day when I used to turn my jeans that were too short at the ankles or too tight around the thighs into a jean skirt. Anyway, the older that I get, the more I like to apply repurposing to my relationships as well.

It takes a lot of introspection and patience to come to this conclusion, but the truth of the matter is some folks don't need to be "cut out of our lives"; sometimes, time needs to be allowed for maturity, growth and maybe a little bit of forgiveness so that you can explore repurposing—"adapt for use in a different purpose"—the connection. A good example of this is how some people can remain friends with their ex or they're able to even consider bringing a former friend back into their lives again.

Repurposing is cool. So long as the new purpose is mutually beneficial. On the other hand, if you reconnect with someone and you see the same red flags in their being that caused the two of you to go separate ways to begin with, why in the world would you want to get back on that hamster wheel of toxicity?

I'll be honest. Something that I hate about social media is how folks tend to not extend the kind of mercy that they'd like to receive. What I mean by that is I know that I was a different person 10 years ago. To not allow me the space to evolve out of how I thought or acted a decade ago is…really sad (pretty unrealistic too). So no, I'm not of the full belief that because someone was once making poor choices or wasn't a good friend or partner that they are doomed to remain that way forever. Oh, but hear me out when I say, at the same time, while I try to extend the mercy to see if things are different, if I notice that they aren't, then I am being boo-boo the fool for allowing the toxicity back into my life. The motto isn't "once a cheater always a cheater". It's more like, "Once a cheater shows that they are still a cheater then I'm cheating myself to remain."

Same goes for you. If a once-upon-a-time toxic individual tries to enter back into your world, you are not weak, crazy or stupid for considering taking them back. Just make sure that you function from a place of guarding your heart, setting boundaries and allowing time to reveal what it needs to. If you see that they are still up to the same ole' same ole' but you romanticize or flat-out ignore this fact, not only is it a sign that you're allowing toxicity back, there is a chance that they will do more damage than before. Use discernment. Proceed with caution. Choose wisely. To a certain extent, the quality of your life depends on it. Real talk.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Here's Why You KEEP Not Getting What You Need In Your Relationships

The Self-Care Of Ghosting Toxic Girlfriends

How I Handled Four Relationships That Totally Took Me For Granted

How I Learned To Forgive People In My Life Who Weren't Sorry

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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