Have you ever heard of toxic positivity? If not, it is the idea of always focusing on the “good vibes only”. You can also think of it as excessive positivity. When done constantly, it becomes the very reason we tend to invalidate our true emotions and experiences without acknowledging and exploring any underlying issues or concerns.
Like that image, toxic positivity is sitting in distress and saying something like “Stay positive” or “Everything will be okay”. We constantly hear about the power of positive thinking. Trust me, I believe our thoughts hold weight and can really be a powerful tool for making meaningful changes in our lives. However, as women, we can often tell ourselves that nothing is wrong, downplay our feelings and experiences, use the infamous Keep Calm and Carry on, or just try to “suck it up”, smile, and “be happy”. Don’t get me wrong, having a positive outlook creates motivation for a healthy mind and body, and is something I encourage with my clients. Nevertheless, when positivity is taken too far, it can actually do more harm than good.
Have you ever heard the saying “Too much of a good thing, isn’t so good?” (or something like that). Well, that’s the case for excessive or toxic positivity – it doesn’t leave any space for feeling your feelings or exploring solutions to the current situation you are facing. We are all strong, overcomers, and resilient beings, and chances are we will “Get Through It”. But sometimes positivity isn’t the answer – so quickly. Before you can practice that “being positive” attitude you do need to take some time to acknowledge how you are truly feeling in the moment, take care of your emotional needs, and ask for support if needed. Ultimately you should not be glossing over what it is you are feeling with a sprinkle of positivity.
“I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.”
— Walt Disney
Ways to avoid imposing toxic positivity on yourself and others
Strategies to help you avoid toxic positivity when speaking to yourself:
- Recognize that your negative emotions are normal and okay
- Identify and label your emotions. Don’t try to avoid them, or deny them
- Have a support system that you can trust and talk openly about all of your emotions
- INSTEAD OF, “Others have it worse” TRY SAYING, “All humans experience some level of pain, it’s normal to not always have a positive reaction”.
Strategies to help you avoid imposing toxic positivity on others:
- Recognize that their negative emotions are normal and okay
- Encourage others to speak openly about their emotions and remind them that negative emotions are part of the human experience
- Avoid having a positive response to everything
- INSTEAD OF, “Always look at the bright side!” TRY SAYING, “Things are really tough right now, I am here for you.”
Just as I try and ‘get real’ with my clients and encourage them to talk about every aspect of their human experience, today I encourage you to accept feeling the way you are and being the way you are – flaws and all. Remember feelings are temporary and they will pass, but let’s not ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.
Try these affirmations the next time you are having a bad day:
It’s never fun to feel like this. It’s okay if I’m having a bad day. I give myself the grace to feel all my feelings.