Like most people, I naturally assumed I was totally unproblematic and had no toxic traits.

It’s funny how we could point out when someone else is toxic, but have you ever paused to reflect if you were the toxic one? Someone posed this question to me a few years ago and called me dramatic.

That was when it dawned on me — could I be toxic? Do we all have some toxic trait we never even realised we had before?

I reflected on this and asked my close friends if they had noticed anything. I was in for a shock. Here I was thinking I was just living my life, but turns out, some of my “innocent” habits were totally alienating some people around me.

Here, I’ll be laying bare my toxic traits, and the lessons I learnt.

Obsessed With Perfection

everyone is toxic

Call it a Virgo thing, but I am a perfectionist. And inside every perfectionist lies a monster waiting to be unleashed when things don’t meet our standards.

From seemingly small things like making a comment when something seemed a bit off to me, to bigger things like becoming defensive when people used to question me or my work. I used to think it was just because I had high expectations of myself and those around me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that those expectations were… impossible.

I’m turning 29 this year and as dramatic as it sounds, I realised I’ve probably lost more friends than the number of years I’ve been alive. Most of the girls I used to spend my youth with are now just faces I see on Instagram.

What went wrong? I asked myself.

Discovering My Toxic Traits

be mature reminder

For things to be perfect, I had to be a control freak!

As the saying goes, “When you want something done right, do it yourself,” and I took it literally. While I thought that I was simply providing “small pointers”, my friends felt that I was being bossy. When they brought it up, I’d usually just wave it off as being one of my quirks that made me, me.

Don’t even get me started with group projects. When I was in school, anyone who slacked off would face my wrath. To ensure perfection, micromanagement was the name of the game for me. I would constantly check, double-check, triple-check font sizes, spacings and alignment to make sure that everything was up to scratch. Yes, I was that group mate.

Not Realising The Impact Of My Words

I never truly understood the weight of my words on others until my friends laid down the receipts. Sometimes when you’re just cruising through life, you don’t really see the big picture. Especially when it comes to how others perceive you and how you think others perceive you.

Looking back, while I may have had good intentions, my words had bite.

Things that I assumed were harmless comments or tips were things that chipped away at my friends’ confidence. To them, I wasn’t providing helpful advice, I was actively highlighting the ways they weren’t good enough.

Back then, when one of my friends called me out, my go-to response was: “Sorry, but that was never my intention!” Then I realised that that “apology” wasn’t enough. The fact of the matter is that actions and words have consequences, whether you meant it or not.

I needed to take a step back, not just to realise my faults, but also to realise how I was projecting issues I faced internally onto the people around me — the very people I loved. When they said, “Yeah, you’re not super likeable sometimes,” I wasn’t shocked.

Heck, even I wouldn’t like me sometimes!

Forgiving And Learning

only human reminder

My toxic behaviour was apparent to everyone except myself. And I guess that’s one of the defining features of toxic traits — you don’t even realise the effect you have on others until it’s too late.

Many friends came and went, and to those who left, I am sorry.

I am sorry because I wasn’t aware enough, or mature enough, to recognise the things I was doing that made people turn away from me at that time. Sorry, because they had to share a part of my life that I am not proud of.

But am I sorry that I had to go through this and learn the hard way? Absolutely not. Only by reflecting and evaluating my behaviour can I now check in with myself to see if I’m ever overstepping any boundaries.

Of course, there are times when I do lapse into my old bad habits — that’s a fact I won’t deny. But the best thing is, these habits no longer have power over me. Because I can now recognise when I’m slipping into my old ways and consciously make decisions to take a step back and look at the big picture.

My obsession with perfection was something that defined me at one point in my life, but now I can safely say that I’ve moved past that stage. If you’re unsure of the toxic behaviours you may have in your life, I’d say ask the people you trust and love. You’ll never know what you might find, and the answer may change your life.