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How to Stop Being Toxic: 19 Steps to Not Be Bitter Or Blame Others

Realizing that you’re the toxic one can be a shock. Once you admit it, learn how to stop being toxic, take accountability, and move into a healthier life.

how to stop being toxic

Toxic behavior is never fun to be around. When you’re toxic, you often drive people away, and if you don’t, you’re likely manipulating them to stick around. Neither of those equates to solid and healthy relationships of any type. It might be time to learn how to stop being toxic.

If you want to start leading a life that revolves around authenticity and genuine friendships and relationships, you need to cut out the toxic behavior and start taking accountability for your past and your actions. 

[Read: Wondering, am I toxic? How to tell if you’re really the toxic one]

What does it mean to be toxic?

Being toxic is like being poisonous to those around you. You drain their emotional energy. You take something positive and make it negative, and you start fights and create drama. 

Being toxic can be different for everyone. You can display some traits of being toxic, like making every conversation about you or judging people. You may also manipulate and lie and use people.

Toxic people can go from high school bullies to adults with control issues. It can even result in abuse, obsession, and more dangerous habits. 

Our guess is, if you’re reading this, you know deep down you are portraying these behaviors and want to change. Being toxic has long and lasting effects on your relationships. It can even end relationships to the point of no return. If you truly want to make a change and stop being toxic, you can.

[Read: Why do people hate me? 15 truthful reasons why so many people dislike you]

All of this toxicity isn’t directly your fault. Most toxic people have a traumatic history or issues that have manifested into toxicity. Unfortunately, these things are often difficult to handle and even admit. So, working through them takes time.

Why does someone become toxic?

People can be toxic in lots of ways and for a lot of reasons. But, if you want to know how to stop being toxic, you should remember that this behavior isn’t just formed out of nowhere, and most people aren’t born with it. It is something that is learned from others or developed over time as a defense mechanism. 

Most toxic behavior is actually unconscious. You aren’t intentionally trying to hurt those around you or be manipulative. The reason this behavior has likely gone on for so long is that you’ve been ignorant to it. This isn’t an excuse for the behavior but an actual reason for why it happens. 

Think of toxic behavior as an addiction. You are addicted to the feelings you get when you do this behavior. You don’t realize you’re dependent on it, but once you do, stopping is the best treatment. 

[Read: How to stop being selfish: 20 ways to stop hurting and using others]

How do you start becoming toxic to others?

Becoming toxic comes from a lack of self-awareness. Some people can see this behavior in themselves when it first starts, and others don’t.

Instead of looking within yourself to deal with pent-up issues, you reach out by being needy, craving attention, or manipulating.

Toxicity can stem from things like jealousy and bitterness, fear of losing their power or stance, and most commonly, fear of rejection. So, when you see something that triggers these emotions, whether it be a friend getting a promotion or someone not liking you, you act out through toxic behavior. 

But again, like addiction, being toxic is a disease. But like addiction, you still need to own up for decisions you made and things you did that hurt people around you if you want to learn to stop being toxic to yourself and others. You need to take accountability for your actions to move forward and become a bigger person. [Read: Am I a bad friend? The bad friendship skills that push people away]

How to stop being toxic

Being toxic is not something you were trying to do. Remember that you are not a bad person because you’ve been toxic. You may have done some bad things, but the fact that you want redemption and to be better says a lot. 

Once you become aware of the fact that you were toxic, you wanted to remedy the situation.

That is already a good sign, but from here, it does get harder. You really need to work on yourself and admit some things about yourself you may not want to. But, it is worth it. When you want to learn how to stop being toxic, you need to go through the bad stuff to get to the good sometimes.

1. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

No, you don’t have to keep smiling and never have negative thoughts. We all have bad days, and that’s normal. But, in happy or neutral circumstances, when your mind immediately goes somewhere negative, replace that thought. 

If a friend announces their engagement, don’t think about how you’re not engaged or that she’s rubbing it in your face, be happy for her, and look forward to enjoying the wedding. 

If someone is venting to you, don’t roll your eyes and think about how you’ve been through worse. Think about how your friend’s feelings are just as valid as yours, and you can listen to them as they did for you. [Read: How to master positive self-talk and banish negativity]

2. Be actively grateful

Something toxic people grab hold of is that their life isn’t good enough. You probably focus on anything negative in your life instead of the positive.

Take a few minutes every day to be actively grateful for things in your life. This could be anything from your health to your pet, partner, or the roof over your head. 

If you want to know how to stop being toxic, know that acknowledging the good things in your life lets you focus on them so you can reestablish a base in reality. [Read: How to be grateful – How to appreciate and express it the right way]

3. Do things for yourself

Take time for yourself. Don’t do things for how others will see you or how it might seem. Do things you truly enjoy. This will remind you that you can be fulfilled by things you enjoy.

Take an art class. Go for a run. Do things you really enjoy regardless of what others think. Enjoying time by yourself and for yourself makes you happier overall, which helps reduce toxic behavior.

4. Build your humility

Something you probably have difficulty with if you’re toxic is laughing at yourself. You easily get embarrassed and feel ashamed of mistakes or anything you’ve done wrong. 

Learn how to laugh at yourself. Take time to realize no one is perfect, and you don’t need to be. Not being able to laugh at yourself makes you seem like you think you’re better than the people around you. It makes you less relatable. [Read: These 20 traits reveal the signs of emotional maturity in a person]

5. Avoid gossip

Falling into the trap of gossip can bring you right back into toxic behavior. It can be addicting. If you want to learn how to stop being toxic, remove yourself from those situations where you feel weak, like you may fall back into old habits. 

Once you feel strong enough to disengage from those toxic conversations, you can even say, “Can we change the subject? I don’t feel comfortable talking about someone when they’re not here.”

That shows not only true strength and change but also the desire to help those around you lessen their toxic habits too.

6. Do things for others

Do things solely for others. Don’t think about what you’ll get out of it. Be kind to a stranger. Reach out to a friend just to chat and see how they’re doing. 

Being kind just to be kind bounces back to you. Knowing you made someone’s day or put a smile on their face increases your own good feelings and makes you a more positive person in return. [Read: 20 grateful ways to pay it forward and start your own chain of goodwill]

7. Accept your faults

This is a huge issue when you’re a toxic person. Deep down that toxicity could be due to low self-esteem, but you’ve buried that so deep down you cannot accept your own imperfections.

Take time to acknowledge you’re not perfect, and that is okay. You’ve already got this far in this feature. You’ve accepted your toxic behavior and are learning how to fix that, so you’re already on your way.

8. Acknowledge your mistakes or bad choices

When you’ve done something wrong, whether with bad intent or not, don’t just gloss over it or act like it didn’t happen. Take time to really think about why you made that choice. What led you to that? [Read: Are you manipulating those around you?]

9. Apologize and change

Being able to apologize is like admitting defeat to someone toxic. Admitting you did something wrong and taking responsibility feels like you failed.

In reality, it means you’re growing. Being able to own up to something and take accountability, and actually put in the effort to do better shows that you are trying to be better and are strong.

10. Remove toxic people from your life or talk to them

Sometimes, your toxic behavior can stem from those around you with similar behavior. You may have someone in your life who brings it out in you.

Toxic people feed off each other. And sometimes, being around someone toxic can actually push you into that behavior. 

If you think that is the case, take some space from this person and see if you feel more positive. If so, try to talk to them. They may get defensive. In that case, back off and let them get there in time.

Keep your distance from them for now. Being around someone that brings out your worst qualities won’t help you stop being toxic. [Read: 20 signs of a toxic friend to instantly recognize the rotten ones]

11. Release your need for control

Part of toxic behavior is manipulation and a need for control. You probably need control over others and yourself. But life isn’t always controllable.

You can’t control everything, and craving that control will only drive you crazy. Having things go out of control will feel very uncomfortable, and you’ll lash out.

Instead, remember that life is messy. If you want to know how to stop being toxic, release the pressure of things that are out of your control. Your stress level will come down, and you will be able to enjoy your life a lot more.

12. Build your self-esteem

Toxic behavior often stems from low confidence levels. You have a fear of being rejected, so you aren’t yourself, or you reject others to get ahead of it.

You may also be needy and crave attention as a way to assure yourself that you’re good enough. Outside affirmations are only temporary. Only believing in yourself and owning your self-worth will keep you satisfied. [Read: How to build self-esteem and love life with these simple life changes]

13. Stop comparing yourself

Stop comparing yourself to others online and in life. Being toxic can come from jealousy. You may be thinking, I hate this person because they have what I want. Your life is about you, not them. 

Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean there is less success for you. Focus on you and your motives and actions and less on others.

14. Don’t make excuses

One part of toxic behavior is blaming others for your failures or mistakes. You say, if this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have messed up. Learn how to stop being toxic by learning how to take ownership. Even if something did lead to you making a mistake, that isn’t important. 

The fact is you made a mistake! Own up to it and move forward. What comes after a problem and how you react and move forward is more important than the excuse about why it happened.

People will respect you a lot more if you can admit your mistakes and learn from them. [Read: 12 ways you’re sabotaging your own happiness and ruining your life]

15. Listen and don’t interrupt

A lot of toxic people have narcissistic tendencies. You likely interrupt people’s stories to interject with something about yourself. When talking to others, if your thoughts drift to yourself, you are not being a good friend or listener. 

When someone is telling you something, listen. Don’t interrupt unless for clarity. Really hear what they are saying and pay attention. This is a practice of patience and reducing your selfishness. 

16. Put the effort into relationships

A lot of toxic people test their friends. They claim that if someone cares about their friendship, they will reach out or do this or that. Don’t test your friends.

Friendships and relationships are two-way streets, and everyone has other commitments. You need to reach out to your friends too. Don’t just take and take until they have nothing left to give. It is exhausting and is how you lose friends. [Read: 15 signs of a taker in a friendship – Are you a taker or a giver?]

17. Try to see the best in people

Expecting the worse makes you prematurely defensive. Thinking everyone’s intentions are bad so you have to beat them at your own game will only drive them away.

If you want to stop being toxic, try to believe in people. Have a positive outlook so you can create real bonds and connections with people. 

18. Think about what you being less toxic will do for others

Don’t just do all of this to make others like you. Don’t just do this for affirmations from others, and so others believe you’re good.

Do it so your friends know you care, so you can connect with people and form true relationships. Do it so you can be a better person who people trust and want to celebrate their joys with and lean on in bad times. 

Realize what you making these changes will really do for your life and theirs. [Read: What makes a good friend? Your guide to honing your friendship skills]

19. See a therapist

Toxic behavior isn’t just sprung on you out of the blue. It is likely stemming from something lurking in your mind that you are in denial about. It can be anxiety, depression, or traumatic memories or experiences.

Seeing a professional can really help you work through those struggles, so you can break down what built up that toxicity.

[Read: How to deal with guilt and baggage that is weighing you down]

Learning how to stop being toxic isn’t easy, especially on someone who has fallen into a pattern of toxic behavior, but you can do it with time, practice, and self-discovery.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...