Toxic Positivity – The dark side of being always optimistic
Well, if you’re surprised with the word, ‘Toxic Positivity’ then let me assure you that you’re not alone. I have always been loud and clear about having a positive mindset. In fact, most of my poems and quotes depict the brighter side of life. However, there’s also this thing called too much positivity aka ‘Toxic Positivity’.
No, I am not another Negative Nancy and I still support and value having a positive mindset. But we have enforced so much of positivity in our lives that instead of benefiting us, it’s forcing us to follow the trends. Many of us are in our life’s journey seeking truth and happiness but let’s be real.
Life isn’t always sunny, rainbows, or full of unicorns. This whole concept of ‘positive vibes only’ is forcing us to see everything but positive in life.
We may be a glass half full kind of person but being realistic does no harm. Our society has become super obsessed with preaching optimism that it has now become toxic for us. No, it’s not always awesome and life isn’t always full of shine. Let’s accept this!!
In this piece, I’m going to take you on the ride where we shall meet the darker side of being too positive and why you don’t need it.
What does ‘Toxic Positivity’ mean?
According to psychologists, toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
In simple words, toxic positivity is the acceptance of only the positive side of life. Everything negative is bad and if you’re someone who experiences negative emotion, then my dear you totally have some kind of problem.
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame. – Mark Manson
We as humans deal with multiple emotions and it’s normal to feel sad, depressed though we don’t wish to. Life comes in all colors, negativity is its integral part as much as positive living is. Tough we stress enough on thinking positively, we cannot shut our eyes towards negative experiences.
Being optimistic and realistic is altogether different. There indeed is no harm in being positive or preaching optimism but denying other emotions and slamming ‘being positive’ always can have negative consequences.
When Positive becomes ‘toxic’?
Every time when we forget that we are humans and our feelings are valid though negative, we are encouraging positive toxicity. People with toxic positive will always make you feel low for being negative or experiencing difficult life situations.
Looking for the brighter side is undoubtedly okay but forgetting that the sky also embraces dark as much as it does the light is where the problem lies. By throwing a sugary way of living life and feeling all-time positive somewhere suppresses human emotions.
We are snatching their right of being authentic and feeling their emotions. These suppressed, hidden emotions erupt as a catastrophe which eventually is impossible to curb.
Signs of toxic positivity
1. Not being your authentic self
When you’re being exposed to excessive optimism, you try to convince yourself that everything is good and glowy. Sometimes, you even fail to honor your emotions and be an authentic self.
2. Ashamed for feeling negative
Duh! Everyone around me is giving so high, how can I feel low and depressed?! This is what toxic positivity makes you feel like. You somehow suppress your negative emotion and carry a sweet, smiley face all around.
3. Not recognizing other’s feelings
When you’re in your own bubble of excessive positivity, you fail at feeling people’s emotions. Sometimes, people suffering from mental illness don’t need your ‘Everything is going to be okay’ advice. What they’re truly seeking is a patient heart and an ear to vent to.
4. Suppressing your own emotions
Feeling your emotions is kind of shameful for you because they’re negative, the harsh truth of your life or something that contradicts with the shiny positive thing. You keep on telling yourself, ‘This is it’ and let go of your feelings. These unrecognized feelings make you unaware of who you actually are.
5. Fail to validate other’s emotions
When someone around you is suffering from some negative life experience, the toxic positivity in you will refrain from validating their emotions. You will constantly be pushing your perspective hard enough to listen to their actual problem.
What excessive optimism or toxic positivity looks like
1. All is well
Now, this may sound really positive but let’s get real. In this time of suffering, you cannot just slam everything with ‘All is well’ kind of attitude. This is you running away from your actual life scenario and masking it with fake positivity.
2. Positive vibes only
I don’t understand why this phrase is super hyped. Life isn’t only about having positive vibes, there are bad vibes too and it’s okay. We are humans and we are allowed to feel all kinds of emotions. Without the darker side, the light can never be appreciated.
3. Everything is going to be alright
And what if it doesn’t? Am I a failure or should I consider myself not enough for not getting it all right? Having a ray of hope that things will get better is different than already believing things are better though they aren’t.
You cannot hide your face like an Ostrich under the desert sand and pretend that there’s no cyclone!! ( Well, toxic positivity does teach us the same)
“What you resist persists. Negative emotions in the body, unacknowledged and unresolved, builds up pressure over time that obstructs normal cell functioning. This can lead to all types of health issues.” – Kei Lam
The ways toxic positivity affects our health
Excessive optimism creates a negative impact on our health. Instead of proudly showing and feeling our emotions, we become pro at hiding them. Here’s how toxic positivity is affecting our mental health:
1. It leads you to suppress your emotions
When you every time fill these thoughts of ‘Everything is alright’ inside your head, you fail to recognize your own emotions. Life comes with all ups and downs, the true way of living your life is to embrace all of its sides.
However, toxic positivity will make you believe that your negative emotions are invalid and you should always remain positive no matter what. This leads to neglecting your emotions as well as suppressing them.
2. Toxic positivity births shame
When you force yourself to have positive outlook during pain, you somehow hide your true emotions during the struggle. You feel ashamed of feeling negative emotions or have bad thoughts.
Related posts – How to heal your inner child and re-parent yourself
Author and researcher Brené Brown teaches in several of her books, presentations, and interviews that the energy source of shame is silence, secrecy, and judgment. In other words, where there is hiding, secrets, and denial, shame is usually in the driver’s seat.
3. It prevents you to have a healthy relationship
You always have this positive vibes only kind of aura which can be intimidating for the people around you. As a result, they may not always open up their feeling in front of you or may never have some in-depth conversations. This then results in isolation and loneliness which indeed is a crippling feeling.
4. You lose connection with your own self
When you start suppressing your emotions, you no longer feel authentic. The truth of life is finding who we are, our truest and most authentic form. While this web of toxic positivity will refrain you from being raw and vulnerable which in turn will result in ‘not knowing your own self ‘.
How to overcome ‘Toxic Positivity’ and save yourself from excessive optimism
If you have already recognized that you have already fallen in the trap of a toxic positivity mindset, here’s the good news. You can help yourself and be realistic when you accept these:
1. Accept life as it is
No doubt, being positive during life’s struggle is necessary but also learn that life’s hard at times and things don’t always go as per our wish.
Everyone faces bad days and it’s okay. Life isn’t always sweet and sugary, try to accept all aspects of life and treat them as the experiences that will help you grow into the person you always thought of.
Related post – The best personal growth books I read this year.
These challenges aren’t here to crush you but to make you realize the indomitable strength that runs in your veins.
2. All your emotions are valid
Even if you’re feeling not okay, it’s okay. We are humans and we aren’t only gifted a filter to only feel positive emotions. Everyone has their low days when they feel like everything is going to end but they rise again the next day just as the sun.
Honor your emotions, positive or negative. Suppressing them will result into nothing but a hurricane.
3. Respect and empathize other’s emotions
Refrain from avoiding the deep conversations by telling everything will be okay. Practicing empathy is the most beautiful gift that we humans are blessed with. Empathy means to feel the feelings of others but when you simply slam your toxic positive statements to other’s feelings, you’re actually failing at being empathetic.
Understand their emotions and be compassionate. Giving hope or showing them a ray of silver lining isn’t bad but don’t force them to believe that there’s no dark cloud in their sky.
I really hope that this piece would have spread light on this rare point of toxic positivity. The whole point of practicing toxic positivity is to ignore the elephant in the room, which you can’t.
I would love to know your view on how you practice being realistic and avoid toxic positivity in your life. Do let me know in the comments below.
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KimberlieJuly 27, 2020 at 5:22 pm
Your post on toxic positivity is a powerful resource. Positivity can be great if it is authentic and serving the individual. As you mentioned it becomes toxic if it is forced or holds the person captive. I think of it like the Stepford wives syndrome in that regard.
AliciaJuly 27, 2020 at 8:53 pm
I think there is a big difference between validating yourself no matter what your feeling, vs ignoring it and trying to be ‘happy’ all the time! I also think it’s interesting how depressed so many comedians are! It’s like they are one all day, and don’t make time for real feeling and validations they need!
MichJuly 27, 2020 at 11:22 pm
Wow, this is very insightful. I had no idea that “positive toxicity” was a thing!
JefferyJuly 28, 2020 at 12:22 am
Amazing piece…just amazing, and in my opinion…FACTS!!!! I really hope this helps people and lessen the amount in the world.
SaraJuly 29, 2020 at 6:01 pm
I don’t think it’s healthy to be always positive. I went through a phase of being optimistic all the time. You know, those articles and videos on YouTube that tell you that if you’re always positive, you’ll attract everything you want. The reality is that you suppress your real emotions, which isn’t healthy at all.
ChristinaJuly 29, 2020 at 6:49 pm
Great blog!! Very intriguing .
KarinJuly 29, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Wow! This post is so important. I never thought about it. I feel like we live in a culture that encourages extreme optimism to a fault.
SummerJuly 29, 2020 at 7:50 pm
I really appreciate this post and think that it is especially timely. It’s so important to not only hear and validate other people’s voices and concerns, and those are not always going to be positive, but also our own. Thank you for this!
Sam DeCosmoJuly 29, 2020 at 8:55 pm
It’s so important that we allow ourselves to feel and acknowledge our negative emotions. Loved this quote, “without the darker side, the light can never be appreciated.” Really great reminders, thank you for sharing this!
BrieJuly 29, 2020 at 9:44 pm
To be honest, I was hesitant to read this post when I saw it on Facebook because I didn’t want to read anything “negative.” With that being said, it was the best post I read all day (and I have read at least 15). It is SPOT ON and so true. Sometimes, being so positive can not only have this negative impact on ourselves (always expecting ourselves to be positive and feeling “wrong” for any negative feelings or thoughts), but also makes others feel bad about themselves. When I push my positivity on those who may be heavily struggling, they seem to feel worse about themselves for not being positive like me, instead of taking it as a motivator to become positive. It is OKAY for us to feel any sort of way, but it is also important to understand how to manage those feelings properly 🙂 Love this piece. Thank you
BreanneJuly 29, 2020 at 11:51 pm
Thank you for posting this! Toxic positivity is such an easy trap to fall into. If I fall into the trap it usually ends up crashing down on me pretty quick.
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