If you're like me, you have repeatedly pinned a popular Sigmund Freud quote, "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by a**holes."
After two years of working for a public health non-profit, I've come to terms that I may be just employed smack in the middle of a toxic hub. I'm willing to bet most of my colleagues feel the same way I do: unmotivated and going through the motions.
If you Google "toxic workplace," about 33,000,000 results (I swear this one by Entrepreneur was written about my job) confirm that you're not crazy even if your place of employment actually feels like a psychiatric ward.
Toxic hubs can exist anywhere there is dysfunction, disorder, and people who feel depressed and powerless. What allows the toxicity to fester is when people enter a place where negative traits like narcissism, selfishness, and lack of empathy run rampant and begin to feel like the norm because that place itself becomes defined by its toxicity.
I've been working professionally long enough to realize that every work environment won't be a place you look forward to going to each day. However, as an adult with a mortgage, student loan repayments, and a spouse and child who like having health insurance with low copays, you recognize those bills don't care if you go skipping to work every day or hide in a bathroom stall, as long as they get paid.
The truth is, toxic energy within the workplace has had me hitting my turn signal on the daily.
There are people that I physically avoid in order to keep my energy level at it's best. I can wait a few extra minutes for coffee if it means I'll avoid bumping into Monica from reception, who viciously judges everyone's summer wardrobe. Jason from Finance? You go ahead and take this elevator alone so I can avoid you nervously doing the two step around your words because you're afraid you're going to offend me by default because I'm Black.
Admittedly, the toxic energy is a little easier to deal with now that I have a decade under my professional belt. There's something great that happens in your thirties: you become increasingly comfortable with the knowledge that certain people, places, and things are not for you.
In my commitment to being more self-aware and take accountability, when I find myself repeatedly frustrated with people's behavior, I take a step back to realize how I'm contributing to the problem.
My belief has always been that it can't be everyone collectively who has the problem, so it has to be me. But what I've also come to realize is that there very well may be toxic hubs in your in life, whether it's a workplace, a certain group of friends, or even your favorite hair salon, that bring out the worst in people.
For whatever reason, birds of a depressed or even angry feather, flock together, and all of the sage and rose quartz crystals in the world are sometimes not enough to diffuse the negative energy.
So what can you do if you find yourself in a toxic hub? Some toxic hubs are unavoidable, but here are some tips for being surrounded by an abyss of bad energy without allowing the abyss to stare back into you:
Run Away Fast As You Can
In the words of the incumbent Tyrant of Toxicity himself, Kanye West, if you find yourself in a environment that seems to pulsate on drama, anger, and unhappiness, don't place pressure on yourself to be a martyr or Martin Luther King Jr. trying to be a beacon of light for lost souls. If you're able to, have all the dreams you want from afar. Remember, cycles of toxicity in a certain place have more than likely been around for a long time and are more likely to change you before you change them.