Toxic Cynicism

By Chloe Bonini

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The Cycle of Cynicism

Cynical people are those who constantly assume the worst in others and in the world. Cynical people often exhibit condescending attitudes in conversations, and often will tell you you’re wrong, even in situations you are more familiar with than them. Cynicism by one or both parties can ultimately lead to a friendship or relationships demise.

Habitual cynicism in others is a learned behavior. Cynicism becomes a habit because that person feels comfortable and safe with a wall up, constantly ready to assume the worst in every person and every situation. They feel safe being able to put themselves in a position to advocate for their own righteousness while they scrutinize the flaws and shortcomings of everything and everyone around them.

Habits are hard to break. They become habits for a reason. Things like habitual cynicism are behaviors people have to want to unlearn, and bringing up this problem to this person will more likely offend them than cause them to examine their behavior.

A cynic will never be fully willing to assume that someone else is correct to be optimistic or positive. A cynic will constantly tell you your optimism is ignorance, and the world doesn’t work like that. A cynic adopts these attitudes because they also take up this rhetoric with themselves. Every failure should have been predicted. Every success pales next to everything that is wrong. A cynic will avoid paying attention to what can work, what will work, or what does work. Cynicism comes from lack of self belief, and if you let it, a cynical person can wear you down.

Relationships with cynical or pessimistic people are exhausting. Their rhetoric surrounding your achievements will stem from a place of insecurity. They will always have a way of causing you to second guess yourself and your achievements, even without explicitly saying so, because they do the same to themselves. Cynics will convince you that this award you received isn’t a big deal. Success means nothing. You can fail at any second. More will always go wrong than what will go right.

And chances are, if this habitual cynicism is out of control enough, the relationship can turn from toxic to abusive. Whether they are your friend or your significant other, this mindset is contagious.

Cynics will try and squish you into the same sized box they’ve put themselves in, no matter how many times you call attention to the problem.
Approaching the toxic person, ready to explain to them the faults in their behavior, may cause more problems than just leaving them, even if you come from a place of desiring growth for your relationship.

Although they are a generally negative person, getting into a romantic or platonic relationship with a cynic will cause them to cling to you. Cynic’s behavior and philosophies on life stem from insecurity, and so does their tendency to develop dependency upon others, particularly one or two mentally or emotionally steady people. This is why it can be hard to approach them about this problem. They will immediately take offense to your observation of their behavior, and instead of focusing on unlearning these habits and world views, feel like they must bottle up all their emotion and walk on eggshells with you, leading to them suppressing feelings on actual issues within your relationship, for fear that everything they do will be perceived as wrong. This is the thing with cynics; it is so intertwined within their personality, they don’t know how to be positive, only how to bottle in the negativity.

It is never your job to “fix” someone. Especially if you don’t have the time, the tools, or the resources. If you can’t help them, it’s time to relinquish control and leave the toxic situation before you are worn down enough by the cynic into living a shallow and boxed in life. Don’t let anyone cause you to feel like you’re doomed. Nothing is stronger than self belief.

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