What does It mean if you are seriously considering if you are the toxic one? - Examples

In this post, we will explore how our two fictional characters Cindy, a toxic person, and Jessie, a non-toxic person, navigate the question "Am I the toxic one?" We'll show how the theory from our last post comes to life through the experiences of these two characters. 

Let's start with Cindy. Cindy has heard through the grapevine that some colleagues, let's call them Jeremy and Lydia, have begun describing her as "toxic." Immediately Cindy recognizes that this is an unacceptable situation. She wants to do everything she can to regain control of the narrative that these colleagues are crafting. She believes that the best way to do this is to paint herself as the victim of these coworker's vicious attacks. She accomplishes this by expressing to everyone who will listen that she has been worrying and thinking about whether she might be toxic. Her goal is to portray these coworkers as bullies who have no evidence for their claim that she is the toxic one. 

When Cindy approaches the question "Am I the toxic one?" her main goal is to control how her coworkers see her. She wants to convey to them that she is really seriously worried about whether she really is toxic. She begins by looking for potential pieces of evidence that she is toxic and she crafts easy ways to dismiss them. At no point in Cindy's process is she actually worried that she might be the toxic one. Instead, she focuses her energy on using the question to achieve her goal of controlling the narrative. 

Some of the things Cindy says to her coworkers include: 

  • "You know one time I spoke a bit harshly to Jeremy, but don't we all just act like that when we are having a bad day?"
  • "Once I told Lydia that she had something on her shirt, but I was only trying to help her look her best before the big meeting with the boss."
  • "I really have been thinking hard about the mean things Jeremy and Lydia are saying, and I just don't think there is anything to it! I'm just a regular person, and you don't think I'm toxic, right?" 

Cindy's aim here is to make Jeremy and Lydia look like they are taking very ordinary events and turning them into something outrageously negative. In doing this Cindy accomplishes two things. First, she downplays the bad things she has done to Jeremy and Lydia. Second, she portrays herself as the victim of some office bullying. 

It's important to note, throughout all of Cindy's work with the question "Am I the toxic one" she never seriously entertains the idea that she may be in any way toxic. 

Let's take a look at Jessie's approach to "Am I the toxic one?" 

Jessie begins looking at this question after noticing some patterns in his own behavior. These patterns are making him wonder if perhaps he is contributing to some of the more difficult situations in his life. He has heard of "toxic people" and he begins to consider whether that might accurately describe him. 

Jessie begins to reflect on the way he has handed difficult situations in his life recently. He notices that many of those problems seem to have become more challenging when he reacted to the initial situation by raising his voice. Here Jessie's approach is to authentically reflect on his behavior and look for things that he is doing that either create the initial problem or exacerbate the problem. 

Jessie isn't just satisfied with exploring this question from the limits of his own perspective. So, he decides to discuss some of these issues with people he trusts. Here are some of the things he says in these conversations: 

  • “I’ve been thinking a lot lately and I think I might have a tendency to raise my voice when I get frustrated.”
  • “I don’t know exactly what to make of it, but I have been thinking about whether I might be toxic. Have you ever had that thought?”
  • “I’ve been working on doing some self-improvement stuff. I’m trying to figure out if I do any toxic stuff. I’d appreciate it if you have any thoughts on this. It's hard to figure out from the inside you know?”

Throughout these questions, we see how Jessie is sharing some of his thinking, but he is mostly focused on getting some open-ended feedback from his trusted friends. 

When Jessie approaches the question "Am I the toxic one?" he is trying to come up with a real answer to the question. He is willing to consider that he might be the source of some of his life problems. And Jessie really wants to know the answer to these questions for himself. 

Let's take a look at how Cindy and Jessie compare in their exploration of this question. 

Cindy used the question "Am I the toxic one?" ultimately to control the other people in her life. She never looks inward to discover whether she is at the root of any of these problems. And she manages to use this question in order to portray herself as a victim. 

Jessie is trying to investigate this question fully for himself. He only brings it up with other people to help get some honest feedback about his behaviors. Throughout the whole process, Jessie is willing to consider that he might be the cause of some of these problems. 

So what can we say in the big picture from this example? Well, toxic people often use the question "Am I the toxic one?" as a way to achieve their own goals. Non-toxic people, at least those who are seriously considering this question, are often interested in exploring the nature of their own behavior. 

If you want to think more about these examples, be sure to check out our content this week over on our YouTube, Podcast, and Instagram

In our next post, we will take a look at a few exercises you can do in order to begin developing your own answer to this question!


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