Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of the "Just Be Positive" Mindset
"Emotional validation is when you take the time to learn, understand, and accept the other person’s emotions and experience." - Janika Veasley
Toxic positivity is a real issue in our society, and it's something that I have personally experienced. It's the belief that you should always maintain a positive attitude no matter what happens in life. It's the idea that if you think positively and focus on the good, everything will work out in your favor.
While positivity can certainly be helpful in many situations, toxic positivity takes things too far. When we constantly tell ourselves to "look on the bright side" or "just be happy," we may be ignoring our true emotions and feelings. And over time, this can have serious consequences for our mental health.
After my divorce, I found myself struggling with feelings of loneliness, sadness, and abandonment. I tried to ignore these feelings and focus on the positive aspects of my life. I told myself I was lucky to have a job, a supportive family, and a roof over my head. But deep down, I knew that I wasn't dealing with my emotions in a healthy way.
Eventually, these repressed emotions started to manifest in other ways. I became irritable and easily agitated. I had trouble sleeping and would wake up feeling exhausted. I started to withdraw from my friends and family, preferring to spend my time alone.
It wasn't until I sought therapy that I realized the danger of toxic positivity. My therapist helped me to see that it was okay to feel sad and lonely after a divorce. In fact, it was a completely normal and healthy response. By acknowledging my emotions and allowing myself to feel them, I was able to start the healing process.
I need to mention Social media, which can be a breeding ground for toxic positivity, where endless feeds of perfectly filtered images and curated posts can give the impression that everyone else is living their best life. This can lead to an unrealistic view of the world and the idea that we should always be happy and positive, no matter what's going on in our lives. People feel the need to present a perfect image of themselves online, only sharing the good stuff and hiding the bad. Unfortunately, this can contribute to mental health issues such as inadequacy and self-doubt.
I personally experienced the negative effects of social media after my divorce. I found myself comparing my broken marriage to my friends' seemingly perfect lives, which only made me feel worse about my situation. It wasn't until I decided to detox from social media that I was able to process my emotions and focus on my own healing and growth. Removing myself from the constant barrage of curated posts and filtered images was crucial in regaining my mental health and well-being.
It's important to remember that what we see on social media is not always a true representation of reality. People are selective in what they share online, often only posting the positive aspects of their lives. Taking a step back and realizing that what we see on social media is only a small part of the picture can help us avoid feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity is the idea that we should always put on a happy face, even in the face of adversity. It's the belief that no matter how bad things get, there's always something to be grateful for, and that we should focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative. On the surface, this might sound like a good thing. After all, who wouldn't want to be happy all the time? But the problem with toxic positivity is that it's not realistic.
Life is messy, and bad things happen to good people. When we're constantly told to "look on the bright side" or "just be grateful for what you have," it can be incredibly invalidating. In fact, toxic positivity can be downright damaging to our mental health. When we're told that we should always be happy and positive, it can create a sense of shame or guilt when we're not. We might feel like we're failing somehow, or that we're not strong enough to handle our emotions.
Why is Toxic Positivity Damaging to Relationships?
Toxic positivity can be especially damaging to our relationships. When we're always expected to be happy and positive, it can be difficult to open up to others about how we're really feeling. We might be afraid that we'll be judged or that our feelings will be dismissed as "negative." This can create a sense of isolation and loneliness, as we feel like we can't share our true selves with others. It can also create a lack of empathy and understanding in our relationships, as we're not encouraged to listen to and validate the feelings of others.
How to Identify Toxic Positivity
Identifying toxic positivity can be tricky, as it's often disguised as well-meaning advice or encouragement.
Here are a few signs that you might be dealing with toxic positivity:
You feel guilty for not being happy or positive all the time
You're told to "just be grateful" when you express negative emotions
You're dismissed or ignored when you try to talk about your struggles
You feel pressure to put on a happy face even when you're not feeling it
You're told that your negative emotions are "bringing others down"
If any of these sound familiar, it's possible that you're dealing with toxic positivity in your life.
How to Self-Realize and Self-Improve Your Emotions
If you're struggling with toxic positivity, it's important to take steps to self-realize and self-improve your emotions. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Recognize that it's okay to not be okay.
One of the most important things you can do is give yourself permission to feel your emotions, even the negative ones. Remember that it's okay to not be okay, and that your emotions are valid and important.
Mindfulness is a great tool for learning to sit with your emotions without judgment. When you're feeling overwhelmed or anxious, try taking a few deep breaths and focusing on the present moment. This can help you feel more grounded and centered, even when things are difficult.
Seek support from others.
Don't be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or a therapist when you're struggling. Having a support system can make all the difference, and it can help you feel more connected to others.
Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion. Instead of beating yourself up for not feeling happy or positive all the time, try to offer yourself the same kindness and understanding that you would offer a good friend. Treat yourself with the same care and compassion that you would offer to others.
Allow yourself to feel your emotions fully.
It's important to give yourself space to feel your emotions fully, without judgment or self-criticism. Whether you're feeling sadness, anger, or frustration, allow yourself to experience those emotions fully. Remember that emotions are like waves – they come and go, and it's okay to ride them out.
Practice gratitude in a healthy way.
Gratitude can be a powerful tool for improving our mental health, but it's important to practice it in a healthy way. Instead of dismissing your negative emotions by trying to focus on the positive, try to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the good things in your life while still acknowledging and accepting the difficult parts.
In conclusion, toxic positivity is a dangerous mindset that can lead to serious mental health issues. It's important to recognize the signs of toxic positivity in ourselves and in others, and to work towards a more balanced and realistic outlook on life. We should also be mindful of social media's impact on our mental health, and take steps to limit our exposure if necessary. We can cultivate a healthier and more fulfilling life by prioritizing our emotional well-being and taking a more compassionate and understanding approach to ourselves and others. We should be validating our emotions instead of being positive all the time.
"It's Time to Ditch Toxic Positivity in Favor of Emotional Validation" by Ariane Resnick, VeryWellMind.com (2022)
"How Toxic Positivity Can Ruin Your Relationships and What To Do About It" by Sophie Lloyd, Newsweek (2022)