6 Telltale Signs That Your Relationship With Yourself Teeters Into Toxicity

No one knows you as you do, but this can be a blessing and a curse. We've all come across a toxic relationship with someone else, but sometimes we can be the most toxic to ourselves. After all, being tough on ourselves is a human thing to do. Even the most successful people in the world who appear to "have it all together" still struggle with loving themselves. The way we treat ourselves has a tremendous impact on our lives and our overall well-being. Instead of being our own worst enemies, we can work to become our very best friends.


This starts with the act of self-love, though each person has their own definition. "Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness," explains Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, the CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. So, how can we get to a place of self-love and mend this toxic relationship with ourselves? First, we need to understand the ways we hold ourselves back.

Negative self-talk

Has anyone ever told you that you are your worst critic? You've worked hard to get to where you are, you're amazing at what you do, but you keep telling yourself that you're not good enough. There's a voice inside your head telling you things that you can't help but listen to. This negative self-talk and imposter syndrome are signs that you need to be kinder to yourself.


A harsh inner dialogue often stems from low self-esteem, which an estimated 85% of people have, according to Psychology Today. This can occur when we've internalized negative experiences from our pasts. When important figures in our lives, whether it's parents, caretakers, teachers, friends, or bosses, have belittled or put us down, it can stick with us all our lives and sometimes make us believe awful things about ourselves.

If you heard your best friend berating themselves the way you are doing to yourself, you would most likely comfort them and tell them to be kinder to themselves. So why shouldn't you show yourself the same compassion that you show others around you? Speaking to yourself as you speak to those you love may help you heal your wounds and cultivate a sense of self-love.



You've been meaning to learn that new skill or hobby, but when it comes to actually doing it, you keep putting it off because you're afraid of failing. You spend more time worrying about if something is perfect than you do actually finishing it. You wait until the last minute to start a project and miss the due date because you feel it won't be good enough. These are all examples of self-sabotaging behavior, which is yet another way you are toxic to yourself.


Though the word "sabotage" sounds scary, most of the time we are engaging in it to feel safer. "Self-sabotage isn't sabotage at all," says Shirani Pathak, a licensed psychotherapist based in San Jose, California (via Psych Central). "It's actually a protective mechanism created by your psyche in order to keep you safe from any potential danger or harm." When we're scared of a new challenge, our brains will tell us to retreat and do things that are familiar to us in order to relieve anxiety. We are then tempted to procrastinate, distract ourselves, or not follow through on our commitments. This safety bubble does more harm than good because it does not allow us to grow or be open to new opportunities.


Not allowing yourself to reach your goals can be detrimental to your mental health, leading to feelings of depression, anxiety, and self-doubt. Figuring out why you self-sabotage and unlearning your perfectionism can help you to stay out of your own way.

Being overly critical of your mistakes

When you have a toxic relationship with yourself, even a small mistake like spilling your drink can feel like the end of the world. Making mistakes is an inevitable part of life, and we should embrace mistakes rather than ruminate on them. It's tempting to throw in the towel after messing up, especially while doing something difficult, but mistakes are what allow us to grow. Letting yourself fail can often be a positive thing.


No one is perfect, no matter how much they make you believe they are. Failing is often the best way to learn, even if you embarrass yourself in the process. Again, talk to yourself like you would with a loved one. You wouldn't berate someone you love for making a mistake, so why should you berate yourself? Most of the time, we can look back, laugh at our mistakes, and be proud of how much we've learned from them.

Ignoring your own needs

Do you drop everything to help your friends or coworkers but have trouble asking for help with your own problems? Is it difficult for you to say no to people even when you have no time for yourself? This is another sign that you may be lacking the self-love you deserve. You may feel like your needs are not important, so you are constantly there for everyone — except yourself.


Those who put themselves last usually have people-pleasing tendencies, which describe the urge to please others even at your own expense. Medical News Today shares that people-pleasing is often caused by low-self esteem, anxiety, fear of conflict, trauma, or a person's cultural background. For example, if you have been bullied in the past, this fear of rejection may cause you to do whatever people ask in order for them to like you. You may have trouble standing up for yourself because you do not want to create conflict.

Once you recognize the ways you neglect your own needs, you can begin to take care of yourself and talk to others about how you feel. It's never selfish to set the boundaries you need. Remember: "no" is a complete sentence.


Only seeking validation from others

It can be so easy to seek approval from others when we lack confidence in ourselves. While it feels great to receive compliments from people, you should never solely rely on their external praise to fuel you. You may only believe you're great when someone else tells you so, but it's important to truly believe it for yourself.


Too much external validation can make it difficult for you to cope with criticism. If someone shows you disapproval or invalidation, you may have trouble handling it since you rely on other people's opinions to uplift you. But when we maintain a strong sense of self, we can take any negative feedback we receive as constructive rather than destructive.

Write that song because you want to, even if some people don't like it. Post that selfie because you feel beautiful, no matter what comments you receive. You are capable of giving yourself validation and praise. Remember what brings you joy, your values, and what drives you.

Unhealthy coping mechanisms

When we're feeling low, we are often drawn to the quick fixes that appear to make us feel better in the moment but worse in the long run. For many of us, it's tempting to numb our negative emotions or ignore them altogether. We may want to isolate ourselves when we really need support from others. The people around us can also play a huge role in how we cope. Surrounding yourself with toxic people can fuel your toxic relationship with yourself. Your true friends will call you out and tell you when they see you going down a harmful path.


It can be a lot harder to start better habits than to break your old ones, but by taking small steps, you can take better care of yourself. Even starting simple, like having a glass of water when you wake up each morning, can make a huge difference. 

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.