Have I been toxic?

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    I recently moved out to a brand new city, where I didn’t know anyone, for my first job. I got very lonely, and after a couple of months I decided I didn’t want to remain friendless any longer. So I started going out, and met someone who in the end invited me to join his group of friends.

    Everyone in this group was older than me, and I didn’t feel we had much in common. Also, I had only accepted because I was desperate to join a group, any kind of group, so that I wouldn’t be friendless anymore. Looking back, this naturally led to the clash which happened a few months later: I took them for granted and didn’t really care about them as potential true friends.

    Anytime I did anything with this group, I couldn’t say I enjoyed myself; I mostly participated politely but was always relieved, or glad, when I left. I mostly felt bored, I like I wasted my time hanging around with them. I got along with quite well with some people in the group, but most of the time I felt out of place.

    Maybe in order to make myself feel more at ease, I reverted to acting brashly, like I possibly did in middle school or in high school in order to “impress” people. That is, I spoke without thinking, teasing them, thinking it was harmless fun. Except someone from this group did not think it was teasing at all, and took it all very personally, and very badly. It kept on going like that for a few weeks, and after all this build-up, it hit me back in the face later.

    We went out on a weekend trip and I kept on making more abrasive jokes, and at some point the friend who took my teasing seriously snapped at me. He had felt offended by the things I said without thinking, such as I didn’t particularly like his taste music. I realized I must have been condescending the whole time, except he has confidence issues. I never knew that, but that’s my fault; he was the person I appreciated the least in this group (he has a tendency to monopolize conversations, to monologue, and rarely accepts another opinion when he debates. I always thought he did this to show off his knowledge, but he actually did that to compensate the fact that he wasn’t at ease with the other conversations we could have). After he snapped, I barely mixed with the group for the rest of the weekend, because I was terribly ashamed and simply wanted to disappear. After that outing, they excluded me for the following month.

    I didn’t question it at the time, because I thought I had only clashed with one person in the group and I had apologized at the time, but I didn’t know they organized things without me. Later, they openly told me that I had been awful & they all chose to isolate themselves from me, but were ready to welcome me back since I had apologized.

    They were probably right to tell me right in the face that they had chosen to exclude me. But it differs a lot from the way I usually do things when I clash with someone, which is apologize and try to make up gradually, and never being upfront about it. Anyway, after this I sent a long message to the guy I had offended, presenting longer apologises than I had the chance to before. He replied telling me exactly how and why he had been offended, pointing out the different times I had hurt him. I replied again, apologizing for not having known how much he suffered, but also took the chance to come clean about one time I was deliberately aggressive to him (he had made fun of a medical issue I struggle with, and this made me angry, so I replied harshly. The fact that I didn’t like him didn’t help). I told him he had hurt me in this moment also. I told him I could not hang out with this group again. He replied and told me to get over the angst I could feel and rejoin the group anyway. But I think nothing good could come out of this forced reunion, now that I know the truth about myself — being mean and abrasive –, and the thruth about the group — who unanimously decided to exclude me.

    At the time, I felt both extremely depressed, but angry at this person still. Being the offended party, he accepted my apologies, but I feel more as an obligation. I’ve confessed very personal things to him, trying to shed light on the reasons behind my behaviour, but he didn’t really seem to listen or try to understand how I felt. He simply told me to get over it.  This could have been an opportunity to try being real friends, but don’t think it’ll be possible since deep down he seems to remains resentful about how I acted. Usually, fights are supposed to make you closer to someone if you work it out, but here it seems I was only expected to apologize and not dig any further into our relationship.

    This is very confusing, because I know I’ve been the one to act awful. So I shouldn’t be complaining about the way my apologies were recieved! Do I have such a high opinion of myself that I cannot fully accept I’ve been awful? Does that make me a condescending person still?

    So I’ve done a lot of thinking and decided to face all the wrongs I did. I realize now I have been insenstive — I didn’t care about this group; deep down, I didn’t consider them my friends, but still hung out with them. In way, that’s manipulating people for my own ends: not being lonely anymore. I have hurt people and left them feeling worse about themselves whenever I saw them. I simply feigned interest in their conversations, but simply out of politeness. I’ve been fake.

    These are all signs of toxic behaviour.

    I’m now questionning my bonds with people: do I even care about being with people if I can’t pay attention to how I make them feel? I just want to know how I can change my outlook to friendships, if there’s a way for me to truly care, so that I don’t hurt anyone again. I’ve been so terrified of hurting people, I always tried to listen, to never judge, and to be polite, so I believed I was a “good person”. This false belief about myself blinded me from seeing how I actually had a negative impact in people’s lives, and I can’t stand it.

    To be honest, I’m too afraid to go back out there and make some new friends. Either I will not be able to be genuinely interested in them, either I will hurt them, or both. I feel more comfortable being alone anyway, always have, but I know everyone will tell me this isn’t a viable option. I’m still seeing some other friends, but now I’m so afraid of making another wrong step, so I don’t dare speak about anything besides small talk.

    I don’t know if I really want to feel better about myself. Having been toxic, I have made amends the best way I could, but I still won’t be able to forgive myself for my attitude. I realize I must have been toxic with other people in my life, and I’ll never get to apologize to them. I don’t even know who I am right now, so convinced I was that I was a “good person”, now I realize I’ve always been the opposite. I don’t know what to think about myself, and how to start to reconstruct a better version of myself, especially since I don’t see myself as deserving a fresh beginning.

    I’m not looking for comfort, for people to tell me I shouldn’t blame myself, because I have every reason to. But the way I feel has been very confusing. I wish it could be all black and white, me being the “black”, and the people I’ve offended the “white”. But I find it difficult to fully accept this newly revealed side of myself. No one wants to discover they’re actually the “bad guy”, right? So how can I accept that so that I can move forward the best way I can?


    Dear Ferilyn,

    often I also thought of myself as toxic. I do not like this stereotyping of people as toxic or “the bad guy” as you described yourself here. This is a very black and white world view, but humans are more complex. We all behave badly or “toxic” from time to time. But that does not mean we are bad or “toxic”.

    What is important here is that you were able to see what was wrong with your behaviour and you even went up to the person and apologized. The important thing now is to learn and grow from this and not make the same mistake again. But it is also inevitable in life, that you will sometimes mess up and make a mistake.

    Don’t be afraid to go out there and make new friends (I should take my own advice as well, haha). You have learnt more about yourself from this experience that you can apply to new relationships. Please have some compassion for yourself.


    Dear Ferilyn:

    This is what you wrote about the man you like the least in the group: “he has a tendency to monopolize conversations, to monologue, and rarely accepts another opinion when he debates… he had made fun of a medical issue I struggle with.. I’ve confessed very personal things to him.. but he didn’t really seem to listen or try to understand how I felt. He simply told me to get over it”-

    -monologuing, not considering others’ opinions- that’s disrespectful to the group. Making fun of your medical issue, not listening to you, telling you to get over it- that’s disrespectful to you.

    No wonder you didn’t enjoy his company, or being part of the group that included this man. I wouldn’t either.

    The best way to have gone about it would have been to no longer be a part of this group early on, but you continued your participation in the group, feeling uneasy about it and expressing your unease and understandable annoyance passive-aggressively, by being brash, teasing, and telling abrasive jokes.

    I suppose the group excluded you from their activities after this man was offended because he is an old timer in the group, maybe the dominant person in the group, and you are a newcomer.

    “I think nothing good could come out of this forced reunion”- I agree. At this point you, in this group, you are established as the bad guy, the offending/ guilty party,  and this man is established as the good guy, the offended/ innocent party. It cannot possibly be healthy for you to be in a group where this is your established status (the bad guy, the offending/ guilty party).

    “I’m not looking for comfort, for people to tell me I shouldn’t blame myself”- what I am suggesting is that you see the bigger picture. If you zoom in just on the part of you being abrasive and passive-aggressive, you are not looking at the bigger picture. Part of the picture is that this man has been disrespectful and passive-aggressive himself, toward you and disrespectful toward you and the rest of the group.

    Key in future social situations is to detect disrespect and passive-aggressive behavior against you, then either withdraw from the situation, or confront the offending party directly, in an assertive, appropriate way. If the offending party correct his/ her behavior, then continue the socializing, if not- withdraw.

    The thing not to do is to continue to socialize with the offending party without a direct, assertive confrontation, and instead- express your understandable anger indirectly, in passive aggressive ways. In summary: I don’t see the problem as being you being a bad person. I see the problem as a matter of you needing to improve your  social skills, particularly detecting disrespect and confronting disrespect and other relationship conflicts directly and assertively.




    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by anita.
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