15 warning signs you’re surrounding yourself with toxic people

Ever heard the expression, you are the company you keep?

It’s a thought that’s been stated over and over again through the centuries, by thinkers like Greek philosopher Epictetus, German writer Goethe, and comedian Dave Chapelle, among others.

It’s true.

Which is bad if you’ve been surrounding yourself with toxic people.

Unfortunately, it’s not always clear if you’re in the best possible company. You may be wondering, am I surrounding myself with toxic people? And if so, why do I surround myself with toxic people?

Well, there are lots of reasons for that. Let’s take a look at some of the signs that you ought to be keeping better company than you are.

1) Relationships come and go

Do you find that your group of friends is constantly changing? Are you part of a family where different family members get cut off occasionally?

One of toxic people’s most noticeable traits is their struggle to maintain long-term relationships.

Here’s why: anyone can fake their personality for a little while. But over time, the inner toxicity reveals itself. Sooner or later, people start to realize that a person is toxic, and they will distance themselves.

That’s why toxic people must constantly make new friendships to replace the ones they lose.

If your social circle features a constantly-changing cast of characters who rarely stay for long, it’s a sign you might want to think a little harder about the company you keep.

2) The people around you need constant attention

We all need some attention sometimes. Whether we need help in a tough time or could just use some company, it’s not too much to expect that the people close to us should offer their support.

But here’s the thing: toxic people take this to a whole other level.

Toxic people need constant attention. And often, they don’t really care whether the attention is positive or negative. Just as long as they are at the center of everyone’s thoughts.

That can quickly make them exhausting to be around. If the people in your life demand more time of you than they are willing to give back, it may be because they are toxic.

3) They are manipulative

This is a classic trait of toxic people. And it’s a behavior you shouldn’t allow anyone close to you to get away with.

Toxic people love to manipulate others.

Sometimes it’s for their own material gain, by tricking people out of money.

Other times, it may be to gather up more of their attention or to control the behaviors of the people around them to make sure that they don’t form close relationships with others that might take time away from the toxic person.

Whatever form manipulation takes, it is absolutely not acceptable.

And whether it’s friends, a romantic partner, or your family that are doing it, attempts to manipulate you and your feelings for their gain are a sure sign of a toxic person who should be cut out of your life.

4) They play the victim

signs youre way too nice for your own good 15 warning signs you're surrounding yourself with toxic people

Toxic people have another strategy to get what they want from the people around them. They often play the victim to make you feel sorry for them.

This is a popular strategy when you confront them about their toxicity. But it’s also something they may do at any time to get people on their side.

Sometimes, toxic people display a behavior known as DARVO. This means they:

  • Deny the behavior
  • Attack the person pointing out their bad behavior
  • Reverse the accusation on the person accusing them
  • Victimize themselves and make you the
  • Offender

Put simply, a toxic person will deflect any criticism of themselves and throw it back at the person criticizing them.

That way, they get to avoid blame and never have to change their behavior.

 5) Their emotions are always changing

We all have different moods. But part of being an emotionally mature adult is learning how to handle them.

Somehow, toxic people never get this memo.

Instead, they give into their emotions at every step, and never do the psychological work it takes to get control of the way they feel.

This makes toxic people highly unpredictable and exhausting to be around. No wonder they keep having to find new friends and relationships to give them the attention they crave.

6) They aren’t happy for your success

We all need someone to cheer for us from time to time. That’s a role our family, our romantic partners, and our friends should fill.

But not if they are toxic.

Toxic people are locked into a constant competition with the rest of the world, including the people closest to them.

That’s why they will never be happy for your success. Instead, anything you achieve reminds them of their own shortcomings.

Often this manifests itself as criticizing or belittling your achievements.

7) They try to one-up you

Another way toxic people constantly compete with others is by engaging in one-upmanship.

Anything you may have done, they have done better. Anything you’ve achieved, they have already achieved even more.

This can also take a negative form when a toxic person compares suffering and hardship with you. Anything you are going through can be minimized when compared to what the toxic person has suffered.

8) They gossip

Toxic people love to talk behind others’ backs. This is one of the ways they manipulate people, by trying to control how different people think and feel about each other.

If you are surrounded by people who love to gossip, it’s a bad sign. After all, if they are so ready to talk about others behind their backs, how do you know they’re not talking about you?

9) They create drama

Toxic people thrive on drama. It gives them another way to stay at the center of attention.

That means they will often create conflict where it doesn’t need to exist. They will pick fights with friends and family members or take strong stances that they know will bring them into conflict with others and refuse to change their minds.

Then, they will act like a victim when the inevitable conflict occurs.

10) They put themselves first

mimi thian lp1AKIUV3yo unsplash 15 warning signs you're surrounding yourself with toxic people

A sure sign of a toxic person is that they always put their needs, wants, and desires ahead of everyone else’s. Including yours.

It doesn’t matter whether they are a friend, a coworker, a family member, or a partner. A toxic person will always prioritize what they want.

It might be something small, like what to eat for dinner.

It might be something huge, like what city to live in.

But whatever it is, the toxic person has to have their way, because they believe their needs are somehow more important than yours.

11) They lie

Part of the manipulation strategy of a toxic person is to lie. Toxic people lie easily and frequently, without any qualms about being untruthful.

Sometimes, when caught in a lie, they will even double down and try to lie their way out of the situation. They may even resort to gaslighting, a technique of psychological manipulation designed to get you to question your reality.

12) They don’t show up for you

I mean this both literally and figuratively.

Toxic people are unreliable. That’s because they don’t think you are as important as they are.

They won’t respect your time. So if you arrange to meet them somewhere, they may show up late, or not at all.

Likewise, they won’t support you in anything you are trying to do. If anything, they will try to drag you down and keep you where you are.

13) They make everything about them

Ever spoken to somebody who makes everything about them?

Every story you tell them reminds them of something that happened to them. Everything you’ve done, they’ve done it too – usually bigger, better, and more impressively.

This is the behavior of a toxic person. But it goes deeper than this, too.

To a toxic person, there’s nothing you can do that isn’t in some way about them. So if you take a new job, move apartments, or change your hair, it somehow relates to them.

That’s because to a truly toxic person, nothing is real outside their own toxic world.

14) They ignore your boundaries

Maintaining firm boundaries is key to any relationship between people. But toxic types completely ignore any boundaries you might set, no matter how reasonable they may be.

A toxic boss will call you outside of work hours, even if you said not to

A toxic partner will pressure you for sex, even when you’re not interested. A toxic family member will come to your house uninvited, even after repeatedly being told to stop.

These are just some examples of toxic behavior around boundaries. No wonder toxic people are such a nightmare to be around.

15) They never admit mistakes

Finally, a toxic person will never admit that they are toxic. In fact, they will never admit to any mistake they might have made.

It’s always somebody else’s fault. Toxic people always have an excuse for anything they do wrong. And this is what prevents them from growing.

You see, real growth requires taking responsibility for your own life and happiness. Toxic people never do this, and that’s why they stay in the toxic life they’ve created for themselves.

But that doesn’t mean you have to.

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

“Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions. Reach out at ryan@ryanfrawley.com”

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.