Anti Bullying Week 2018: Recognising and Dealing with Toxic Behaviour at University

As many have regurgitated before now, university is simultaneously the best and perhaps the most challenging part of your life.

It is a period when everyone is struggling to figure themselves out as well as tackling seemingly never-ending workloads, but what many can agree on is that forging meaningful relationships that help us stay afloat makes all this hardship bearable. Friends and loved ones prove vital in offering support for one another, keeping each other grounded when we feel overwhelmed or when we feel like we’re losing our way. I’ve even once heard a friend say that she could come out of Leeds with a third-class degree and she (almost) wouldn’t mind – so long as she gets to cherish her friends and the memories she’s made along the way.

Thus, it is understandably brutal when those whom you’re meant to be able to trust, love, and respect – and who are meant to treat you as such in turn – become the reasons behind your building anxiety, lack of self-esteem, and precarious stress levels. Then, it’s even harder to recognise and come to terms with it, for no matter how much they may rake you over the coals, it’s never easy to risk breaking it off with those whom you have a shared history with. But one thing that can be learnt from university is that no matter how much is demanded of you, it is imperative that your happiness and health comes first. The first step then, to recognising whether someone is being toxic towards you is to ask yourself these questions: Is this person making me happy? Do I enjoy spending time with them? Are they helping me to grow as a person or are they holding me back?

Toxic, Materials, Warning, Poisonous, Dangerous, Waste

Toxicity can come in many different forms, but the most prevalent and debilitating forms of bullying often comes down to methods that are subtler, rather than overt and threatening. Some of the most recognisable ways a loved one is possibly being more toxic towards you than you think are when:

  1. They’re too demanding – they expect you to drop everything and put your life on hold for them without actually offering the same treatment in return. And woe betide you if you so much as have the nerve to refuse and put your own priorities first.
  2. They don’t respect you – they question your every action or decision; they call you out, make snide remarks about you and embarrass you in public, or just generally make fun of what makes you ‘you’.
  3. They act superior to you, whether this be through your interests and hobbies, physical attributes or academic achievements.
  4. They mix up drama for you, making mountains out of molehills when you’re just trying to keep the calm and carry on.
  5. They manipulate you or even isolate you to gratify their own agendas.
  6. They blame you for things that aren’t your fault or are out of your control, instead of taking responsibility for their own actions.

Friendship, Hands, Union, Love, Holding Hands, Loyalty

These are but a few of the ways in which your friends and partners could be bullying you. If they truly had your best interests at heart, then none of the above would even be called into question. However, if some of these suggestions do ring any bells, then it may be time to start putting yourself first no matter how hard it may seem. The first and best step is always communication. Telling your loved one in question how you feel is always difficult, and sometimes it might be necessary to be as brutally honest as possible to get the extent of your feelings across. What happens after that then really is up to them – again, as awful as that sounds! If they were really the people you thought they were, and they felt deserved to be in your life, then they would be willing to take into consideration what you’re saying and make a change. If not, then the honest truth is that you should be well shot of them. Too many of us waste so much of our lives trying to appease those who make us feel like nothing, just to avoid the indescribable anguish of feeling alone. However, the irony of it is, the less you stand for people’s toxicity and put yourself first, the more you’ll find that gradually the people who are meant to be a part of your life will gravitate towards you. The respect and love you want from others will come when you’re able to, slowly but surely, learn to respect and love yourself.

Live your best life everyone!




Tanika Lane