Toph Beifong is arguably one of the most beloved characters in the Avatar: The Last Airbender universe. She’s confident, headstrong, talented, and usually armed with a sassy quip. However, some of Toph’s best qualities also double as her worst, leading her to make choices that aren’t always the best for herself or the group as a whole.
Her confidence prevents her from acknowledging her weaknesses, her headstrong nature translates to stubbornness, and her sassy quips sometimes land as hurtful barbs. Toph may very well be the greatest Earthbender of her time, but her journey toward being a better friend, daughter, mother, and person was riddled with flaws.
10 She’s Confrontational Without Aim
Toph doesn’t shy away from confrontation, which can be a good trait. Confrontation allows grievances to be aired, open discussions to be had, and healing to occur. However, Toph doesn’t always enter discussions with an open mind or a willingness to compromise.
Toph clashes with Katara for this very reason, resulting in some of the biggest arguments in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Rather than hear Katara out to understand her perspective, Toph becomes defensive, mistaking Katara’s suggestions for critiques. While being fearless in speaking her mind is admirable, Toph doesn’t always handle confrontation with the grace needed to arrive at a resolution.
9 She Ran Away From Difficult Moments
Despite later telling Aang he needed to tackle his bending problems head-on, Toph didn’t always practice what she preached. At first, the pressures of joining the Gaang were too much. Aang was being pursued by real threats and Toph wasn’t used to relying on a team. This led her to run away from Team Avatar, only to be convinced by none other than Uncle Iroh to rejoin.
While Toph is undeniably strong, this strength made her believe she didn’t need others to succeed. Instead of talking this through with Aang, Katara, and Sokka, she fled. She mistook her stubbornness for strength and, ultimately, let that color her understanding of the importance of community and teamwork.
8 Her Independence Isolated Her At First
Because Toph was raised in a restrictive and ableist household, Toph lacked supportive people in her corner. She became resourceful, learning how to fend for herself at a young age. For example, in one of Toph’s most badass scenes in Avatar, she studies earthbending from badgermoles. Yet because Toph was wrongfully seen as weak and feeble throughout her childhood, she felt like she had to prove herself to others, which led her to clash with Aang, Katara, and Sokka at first.
Prior to meeting Toph, the Gaang had learned to rely on each other. When Toph officially joined the group, she wasn’t used to people offering to help her not out of pity but out of friendship. Toph had to let down her guard and accept that her independence wasn’t compromised by joining Team Avatar. Even when she starts a family, she still can’t help but push people away to maintain her independence for fear of being hurt.
7 She Wasn’t A Great Earthbending Teacher To Aang
As a former teacher of Aang’s, Katara learned how best to engage him with the skills of a new element. Toph, however, wasn’t interested in adopting any other teaching style than her own. While Katara suggests using positive reinforcement and encouragement, Toph insists on yelling, taunting, and insulting. Though Aang eventually learns how to earthbend, Toph’s tough training, including putting him in harm’s way and then berating him for failing to succeed, is not the blueprint for great teaching.
6 She’s A Little Harsh
One of Toph’s most distinct qualities is she isn’t shy. In fact, one of Toph’s greatest strengths and weaknesses is she’s blunt, straightforward, and not afraid of speaking her mind. While this is often used for humorous effect throughout the show, Toph’s “jokes” can be kind of harsh.
When she first takes on Azula’s crew, she refers to the fight being “three versus three plus Sokka.” As someone who’s been wrongfully underestimated herself, you would think Toph would be a little more sensitive to seeing others’ differences as their strengths.
5 She Sacrificed Appa To Save Her Friends
One of Toph’s best moments in Avatar was preventing the library from collapsing with Aang, Katara, and Sokka still inside. Her choice to save her friends, however, meant she couldn’t help Appa. It wasn’t necessarily Toph’s fault that Appa was kidnapped, but she was the only person Aang knew to point a finger at since he had left Appa in Toph’s care.
This traumatizing and heartbreaking situation led to Toph ultimately learning how to sand, mud, and metalbend, making her stronger than she was before. While not saving Appa was terrible, she learned from her mistake by becoming a better warrior.
4 She Doesn’t Follow The Rules
Toph isn’t one to abide by the rules. To Toph, the rules are yet another constraint, which is why she tends to flaunt them in favor of succeeding through any means necessary. When the Gaang becomes short on cash, this causes Toph to turn into a scam artist to make money.
When Katara voices her concerns over Toph’s immoral behavior, Toph defends herself by saying she’s just cheating a cheater. While she’s not wrong, this is one of those moments where if Toph wasn’t so obviously on Team Avatar, it wouldn’t be hard to picture her as an ambiguous villain. She’s willing to adjust her morals to get what she needs.
3 She Didn’t Learn From Her Prior Teaching Experience
Eventually, Korra points out that Toph seems to be enjoying having someone around to beat up on, which really sums up Toph as a person, character, and teacher. She never stopped feeling like she had to prove herself as the strongest opponent, even though her entire career — as a pro wrestler, member of Team Avatar, and chief of police — did exactly that.
2 She Wasn’t A Good Mother To Her Daughters
The Legend of Korra series was eye-opening for a number of reasons — the most shocking of which was arguably how Aang and Toph did not prove to be as adept at parenting as they were at bending. Toph did not want to raise her daughters as strictly as her parents raised her, which led her to grant them the type of freedom she was lacking as a child.
While this parenting style was a step in the right direction, Toph was hypercritical of her daughters and their choices. She did not approve of their life paths and this disapproval created a rift. Many years later, Toph eventually apologized to them though it should have happened sooner.
1 Toph Doesn’t Really Develop As A Character
Fans weren’t entirely thrilled with how Toph was portrayed in The Legend of Korra. In her defense, she’s one with the earth in that she doesn’t change. The Toph fans meet in ATLA is pretty similar to the one they’re reacquainted with in LOK.
While Aang, Zuko, and Korra all evolve during their arcs, Toph never really seems to grow from her mistakes. She continues to be stubborn, opinionated, and brutally honest in the worst ways, failing to learn from the consequences of her actions.