3 Toxic Behaviors You’re Probably Guilty of & How to Stop Them in Their Tracks

You know how to deal with a condescending coworker, your manipulative father-in-law and that charming but narcissistic friend. But have you ever considered that you might exhibit your own toxic behaviors? *Gasp* It’s true. We’re all guilty of it. But spotting and stopping these not-so-beneficial actions is easier than you think. Here, Psychotherapist Dr. Daryl Appleton shares three of the most common toxic behaviors and how to nip them in the bud.

Toxic Behavior #1: Being judgmental

What it means & why it's bad:

According to Dr. Appleton, no, you’re not a terrible person for passing judgment. In fact, it actually comes from a place in the brain that’s deeply rooted in survival. We make snap decisions to help assess safety—yup, even if that means a snarky quip about a colleague’s tacky jumpsuit. “This becomes toxic, however, when we don’t take a step back to look at our thoughts and explore our judgments,” says Dr. Appleton.

How to spot it:

Per, Dr. Appleton, here some tell-tale signs you’re being toxically judgmental:

  • You compare yourself to others
  • You overgeneralize situations
  • You make rigid interpretations
  • You make statements to discredit someone or their work
  • You vilify a person or their behaviors without hearing all sides of the story
  • You automatically don’t like someone before getting to know them or hearing their side of the story

How to stop it:

When you notice signs of judgmental toxic behavior, Dr. Appleton says to ask yourself, “Why am I seeing this behavior as ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’?” Your snap judgment might not actually be true, so do some introspective digging. Maybe you can stand by your judgment. But maybe it’s baseless and simply born out of defense. “I tell my clients they need to remind themselves that it is OK for things to not be the way that ‘you would do them’ or be ‘different from the way you see them,’” Dr. Appleton advices.

Toxic Behavior #2: Ignoring Difficult Situations

What it means & why it's bad:

Choosing to ignore or avoid complicated or difficult situations by hoping that they will rectify themselves in time is another example of toxic behavior. Here’s why: “When you evade these difficult situations or conversations, not only are you engaging in passive behavior, but you are also not practicing the necessary skills to communicate your wants and needs,” says Dr. Appleton. The result? You’ll wind up feeling like you can never speak up about how you feel and therefore, just retreat.

How to spot it:

Here are signs you’re running from healthy communication and bottling up feelings that could one day explode:

  • You withdraw from hard situations or conversations without speaking on your opinion
  • You ignore others or change the subject when they talk about difficult topics
  • You respond with toxic positivity (think: “everything happens for a reason,” “this too shall pass”) rather than engaging in an emotional discussion

How to stop it:

First, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This means giving space to a person or a situation that may require you to listen. “Ask clarifying questions like, ‘help me understand what is difficult in this situation?’ or ‘what do you need?’” advises Dr. Appleton. She even suggests grabbing a journal to practice writing down your thoughts and feelings so that you can train your brain to easily identify them. And take baby steps—practice this first on “safe” people, like friends or family, a coach or therapist.

Toxic Behavior #3: Overextending yourself

What it means & why it's bad:

“Putting unnecessary pressure and guilt on yourself to achieve perfect work-life balance can make one feel even more depleted,” says Dr. Appleton, because—shocker—there is absolutely no such thing as a work-life balance. “We will never work 40 hours and then rest 40 hours. It’s impossible. This wild goose chase leaves us feeling less fulfilled and even more burnout,” our expert adds. Chasing the impossible is a fool’s race and will wreak havoc on your mental health.

How to spot it:

C’mon, who hasn’t tried to achieve the perfect work-life balance? You know you’re trying spin too many plates at once when:

  • You feel like nothing is ever accomplished
  • You feel guilty about missing things in either life or work (or both)
  • You go through the motions of self-care, instead of really benefiting from it
  • You push off deadlines or work to do the “fun stuff” and end up in a bigger work-hole
  • You ignore health, relationships and yourself to get work done

How to stop it:

First and foremost, recognize that there is no such thing as balance when it comes to your job and your personal life. Let that idea go. Next, set up boundaries: When you’re home, you’re doing things for you (and your family) and when you’re at work, you’re doing work. It’s when you start mixing the two that things get messy and stressful. This means you can make more deliberate decisions about when it’s important to lean into work, or when it’s important to take time out for your personal life and self-care, “Allow yourself to reconnect to your wants and needs in a way that is judgement-free,” says Dr. Appleton. Because toxic behavior number one on this list (judgment) applies to you, too.

Dara Katz

Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...
read full bio

Why You Should Trust Us

PureWow's editors and writers have spent more than a decade shopping online, digging through sales and putting our home goods, beauty finds, wellness picks and more through the wringer—all to help you determine which are actually worth your hard-earned cash. From our PureWow100 series (where we rank items on a 100-point scale) to our painstakingly curated lists of fashion, beauty, cooking, home and family picks, you can trust that our recommendations have been thoroughly vetted for function, aesthetics and innovation. Whether you're looking for travel-size hair dryers you can take on-the-go or women’s walking shoes that won’t hurt your feet, we’ve got you covered.