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Published on May 2, 2019

Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

Although it seems like an unsolvable mystery, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Yes, there is an underlying pattern to always getting into toxic relationships, but in order to break this pattern, you must take a look at the bigger picture…

For example, you may end up getting into toxic relationships if you rush into the relationship and commit too soon before knowing the other person well enough, ignore the red flags, or are part of the vicious cycle.

But once again, you must take a look at the bigger picture. These simple points won’t help you understand the depth of the issue.

In this article, we will take a look at the underneath reasons, as well as the solution to this frustrating and persistent problem.

Case in point, there are two main reasons why we repeatedly end up in toxic relationships:

  1. A wrong concept of what a relationship must be
  2. Our own unresolved emotional conflict.

Both problems arise from that deep-seated, cultural aversion to deal with emotions… because we don’t know how to do it. But more on that later.

Let’s first take a look at why having a wrong concept of what relationships should be can send you to the wrong person’s arms.

A Wrong Concept of a Relationship

Think about it for a moment, how is it that toxic relationships evolve? From beginning to end.

My model goes as follows and you can see this patter in all toxic relationships:

First comes infatuation. We often base relationships on physicality. And once physical, sexual attraction is covered we have sufficient elements to start a romantic interaction.

With little knowledge of how the other person behaves in a serious relationship, we delve into the next phase of toxic relationships: The honeymoon phase.

Now, I am not saying that attraction and the honeymoon phase are in themselves toxic. No, they can be perfectly sane, but you will see how this gives room for the future toxicity to slip by unnoticed…

Phase two is the honeymoon phase, and here the usual is to overlook the toxicity. To hide traits of personality that we know may be a problem for the other…

But it’s all right! We’re “falling in love”, right? It is ok to hide undesirable aspects of ourselves. This is how love works.

Wrong!

Our whole social conditioning is wrong here, because, in stark contrast to what you may be thinking, love is rational. Of course, it is mainly emotional, but if we forget about the rational part, everything is lost.

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We allow toxic behaviors. We ignore the red flags… and all in the name of love.

But that’s part of the next phase. The honeymoon phase of idealization and omission is unsustainable. And so, the toxicity will start spilling over. That’s when the next phase begins…

The masks-off phase.

This is when, after feeling a certain security in the relationship, we allow the toxicity to show.

There is enough trust, we are more invested in the relationship and we no longer bother in hiding or concealing the toxicity.

As an example, this often happens after marriage to couples who don’t have enough experience with the other person in terms of coexistence.

But it can happen earlier and without necessarily being married. The important thing to remember is that it is a phase where the toxic partner starts pushing boundaries.

And lastly decay and separation.

You already know what that is: conflict, deterioration and eventual separation.

But what does this have to do with constantly getting into toxic relationships?

The fact that this whole model is wrong and you cannot rely on it.

This model is socially ‘normal’ and we think things must be this way. But you must reject it and instead, use a model that allows for honesty and transparency.

Instead of rushing into commitment after every light turns green (physical attraction, then honeymoon phase, then increased commitment), you must take your time to get to know the other person — to really know them deeply and honestly.

Step 1: Take your time to know the other person and never rush

Never follow the same “requirements” for a relationship.

If a successful honeymoon phase is enough for most, demand more of yourself and the relationship. Don’t deepen the commitment unless you know the honeymoon phase is over and still, the love is there.

Step 2: Never ignore the red flags

Or, to put it in better terms, to remember that love is rational.

If you ever find yourself justifying an unacceptable behavior, a harmful reaction, a damaging attitude… you are in front of a red flag. Don’t lie to yourself.

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If your relationship stays rational, if it stands the test of what a non-toxic relationship is… that’s good.

And you will realize you don’t need to rush. You can extend the period of knowing the other person for as long as you want, until you are convinced it is something you want.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid feelings. Not at all, feel as much as you want, enjoy love to its fullest… but don’t call it love when it is hurting you.

That is not love. That’s just lying to yourself and fostering a toxic relationship.

Remember that it’s never late to end a relationship that is not good for you.

If you failed to see the red flags, if you rushed through the process and are now involved in a toxic relationship, take the step and end it.

Yes, there are cases when the relationship can be repaired, but honestly that is very rare.

It is much better to be patient and to get to know the other person fully before taking a step in the wrong direction with them.

In this day and age, we are in desperate need of honesty in all aspects.

That’s what you must ask of the other person… but how can you expect honesty? How will you know if the other person is transparent and honest?

You cannot know it. But the best thing you can do is to first bring that to the relationship.

Be the change you want to see may sound like a cliché, but it woks wonders in relationships.

That’s another thing that is wrong with how we conduct ourselves in relationships. We take honesty for granted. But in reality, people are flexible in this aspect.

Step 3: Remove the ambiguity

We assume the other will be honest and never talk about it. We never make a big deal of it.

And the same goes for love. Maybe honesty is there, but if love is not we can end up with an abusive partner.

The cornerstone of a healthy relationship is made of both love and honesty.

Love may be taken away at moments to condition or manipulate the other.

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And when dishonesty starts appearing, it does so in small ways. That’s part of the masks-off phase.

It starts as little things that can be overlooked. And where do you think this all ends?

Exactly! In tortuous and complicated relationships destined to failure!

What I mean with this is:

Make honesty a big deal. Make love a big deal.

And be the change. Be both loving and honest.

Be explicit about it, talk about how important honesty is for you and how you are going to bring it to the relationship and you expect the same thing from everyone around you.

Most, if not all, toxic behaviors depend on dishonesty, so if you go to the root of toxicity you leave no room for it in the relationship.

And now comes the real challenge: Dealing with our own unresolved emotional conflict.

Our Own Unresolved Emotional Conflict

As difficult as it may seem, you may very well be part of the problem. No, not as in “it’s your fault”, but more as in “be aware of where your actions and decisions lead you”.

I’ll explain:

Although it may seem like our inner conflict can only affect ourselves, it always, always ends up surfacing and affecting part of our external reality.

This subject is too complex to be dealt with here, as it all depends on personal experience.

But we can still talk about the pattern of your behavior that can lead you into toxic relationships.

Nobody likes to talk about this because responsibility is something we avoid, but if you want to have healthy relationships, this is a must.

We are talking about how unresolved emotional conflict will be “translated” into a toxic relationship. And the best way to talk about this is through real-world examples…

Think about this:

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If I had low self-esteem, I could more easily tolerate neglect and toxic behaviors. Because my inner voice would tell me “it’s not that bad” or that “I deserve it”…

But what if I was insecure instead?

Well, that could likely push me into the direction of a manipulator.

Someone who could easily play with my insecurities and just use me, with no love necessary for this happening…

And what if I confused drama with emotion?

Yep. I would end up involved with a person who equally likes drama. And this would not be a victim-abuser case. We would both be more or less responsible for the toxicity.

Like I said, this is more complex because it depends on your individual experience.

Still, this is something you must look into, because your inner conflict can, and most likely will end up reflecting in our relationships.

Either we tolerate toxicity because of our inner conflict, or we ourselves become part of the toxicity.

This is why it is often stated that one cannot love another if one doesn’t love oneself first.

Too few words if you ask me, but it’s true anyways.

If you’d like to learn more about how to love yourself, take a look at this article: Why Is It Okay To Love Yourself First

Summing It Up

If you want to have healthy relationships, you will follow the steps outlined in this article:

Don’t you ever rush. Take as long as you want to know the other person, making sure this goes beyond the honeymoon phase. See who they really are after the “spell” of the honeymoon phase.

Remember love is rational, and never ignore the red flags — Never. Doing so is just lying to yourself. If you see behaviors that should not be there don’t lie to yourself. You will not succeed at changing the other.

Make honesty and love the cornerstone of your relationship. Be outspoken about it. Don’t let ambiguity lead you into a toxic relationship. If any of the two are taken away… have the courage to end it, because it will just get worse.

And also, you will work on yourself.

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

More by this author

George Alonso

Mental Health Expert, creator of the Transcendental Mindfulness Therapy.

Can a Dysfunctional Family Become Functional? Having an Emotional Breakdown? 15 Ways to Re-Center Yourself 9 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Calm Your Mind How to Handle Relationship Fights to Connect Deeper with Your Partner Why You Keep Getting Into Toxic Relationships (And How to Stop)

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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