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Is There Such A Thing As Toxic Positivity?

Yesterday I wrote a piece about social media and the potential for creating feelings of doom or triggering anger and how to navigate those feelings if you experience them. It got me thinking about the power of emotions in either direction, positive or negative. While avoiding dwelling on the negative, some people worry about being too optimistic. Do you actually think there is such a thing as being too positive? I say yes, and no. Here’s what I mean…

Positivity has long been touted as a critical ingredient for a happy life. From motivational speakers to Instagram influencers, messages of “think positive” and “look on the bright side” are pervasive in our culture. While it’s certainly true that a positive outlook can be beneficial, there is a growing recognition of the dark side of positivity, known as toxic positivity.

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is the idea that we should always put a positive spin on everything and avoid negative emotions at all costs. This mindset can be harmful when used to suppress or invalidate feelings perceived as “negative,” such as anger, sadness, or grief. Toxic positivity is often unintentional but can have serious consequences, including anxiety, stress, and a sense of alienation.

Pros of Positivity

Positivity can be a powerful tool for creating a sense of well-being and promoting resilience. Studies have found that people who maintain an optimistic outlook are more likely to recover from illnesses, experience less stress, and have greater life satisfaction. Positivity can also help build stronger relationships and foster a greater sense of community.

Cons of Toxic Positivity

While positivity can be a force for good, being naively optimistic or in denial of the realities of a situation can do more harm than good. When people feel pressure to maintain a positive outlook, they may suppress or ignore their genuine emotions, leading to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and burnout. Toxic positivity can also create a sense of isolation, as people struggling with difficult emotions may feel like they don’t have a safe space to share their experiences.

Finding a Balance

The key to avoiding toxic positivity is to find a balance between positivity and authenticity. Instead of trying to put a positive spin on everything, it’s essential to acknowledge and validate difficult emotions. This doesn’t mean dwelling on negative thoughts or wallowing in self-pity but recognizing that it’s normal and healthy to experience a range of emotions. Practicing self-compassion and kindness during difficult times can help us maintain a balanced perspective.

In Conclusion

Positivity is a powerful force for creating happiness and resilience, but it’s essential to be aware of the dangers of toxic positivity. By balancing positivity and authenticity, we can cultivate a more compassionate and supportive community where everyone feels seen and heard. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Here are some points that can help you recognize if your emotions are out of balance:

  • You always have to be positive, even when things are tough.

  • Ignoring or suppressing negative emotions, such as sadness, anger, or frustration.

  • Feeling guilty or ashamed for experiencing negative emotions.

  • Comparing your feelings to others and feeling like you’re not handling things as well as you “should.”

  • Feeling like you have to put on a happy face for others, even when you’re struggling inside.

  • Struggling to connect with others because you’re afraid of being judged or misunderstood.

  • Feeling like your emotions are overwhelming and hard to control.

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, or stomach problems may be related to unprocessed emotions.

If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, taking a step back and evaluating your emotions is essential. Remember, it’s okay not to be okay, and there is no shame in seeking help or support when you need it.

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