This is a call to action to get rid of toxic environments! A call to make environments better places for others, safe havens for those in need of escape places. As defined by Merriam Webster, an environment is the aggregate of social and cultural conditions that influence the life of an individual or community. If these conditions play a pivotal role in modifying a person, now, imagine what a toxic environment would do!
A few weeks ago, I posted a personal piece titled, “Although I was not a virgin, the man robbed me of my innocence”. This piece is the basis, or rather the foundation for this write up on toxic environments. If you haven’t read it, please do.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in difficult situations that can push us to make decisions that, if not carefully pondered on, might haunt us for the rest of our lives. The degree to which these kinds of decisions affect us amongst other factors depends on the environment that we find ourselves in. Some find themselves reflecting on their decisions upon realising that the surrounding social and cultural conditions do not condone such. Yet, for some, they get nailed on the cross because of their actions or unfortunate circumstances they encounter/ed. Can one heal in an unfriendly or toxic environment?
Toxic environments are a contribution to suicide rates. As I commit pen to paper gentle reader, some people take their own lives not to escape their problems but rather the environment. A close friend of mine took her life last year due to the toxic environment she was in. She had to pretend that she was ok because no one was ready to listen to her without passing a certain verdict or spreading rumours. Environments can get the best of a person to the extent of living a double life. Masking by pretence is a slow poison, as evidenced by my friend’s tragic demise.
Following the ordeal that I went through as detailed in the previously mentioned article, I spent a considerable amount of time in the psychiatrist ward till I was declared fit to resume work. I am a teacher by profession, so I work in an organisation with more than sixty employees. I never wanted anybody’s sympathy hence my quiet demeanour. This portrait, however, did not last for so long. I realised it was not all about sympathy; the truth is, I was afraid of being judged because of the way some colleagues spoke about their friends, colleagues’ and relatives’ problems. Sharing my problems would open doors to emotional scars and wounds.
My workplace is an environment where gossiping is a common trait. I would like to believe gossiping is not an entirely bad thing, provided that it’s yielding positivity. For instance, if a rumour goes around that Mr. Johns is meticulous and does not joke about his work, I consider that fine to encourage others to emulate him. Gossiping becomes bad when the person being discussed is fragile, and the topic of discussion is sensitive. Sensitive issues that she is trying to escape from. The environment then becomes toxic, and if that is where you spend most of your time, the effects are undesirable.
I recently encountered a similar situation. Remember, in organisations, people are transferred, and new employees come, so they are always told about every individual and mostly only the bad things. I was a victim of the gossip community. They told the most sensitive parts of my life to the newcomers.
When it happened, I asked myself if I would always be reminded of my past every time a new employee comes. The judgement I got from the villagers, and my other colleagues, was that not enough? Each time I got reminded that I tried to commit suicide, I would start thinking of why I wanted to do that, and the pain would always be fresh as if everything has just happened.
Fortunately, I learnt a lot during my counselling sessions. Environments must not consume us. We cannot control people’s perceptions about us, neither can we control what they say. But can we all at least be human, sympathise, and consider the damage that we inflict on others if we contribute to the toxicity of an environment.
How many fragile people are to take their lives until people realize the need to change and make environments friendly for everyone? We as individuals can save lives by being less judgmental, stop making fun of other people’s problems, stop spreading rumours or digging up the past. If you cannot help, then live your life peacefully and let those who can assist do so without you causing any damages.
I plead that we make environments friendly for one another.