What is toxic positivity?
“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.
Just like anything done in excess, when positivity is used to cover up or silence the human experience, it becomes toxic. By disallowing the existence of certain feelings, we fall into a state of denial and repressed emotions. The truth is, humans are flawed. We get jealous, angry, resentful, and greedy. Sometimes life can just flat-out suck. By pretending that we are “positive vibes all day,” we deny the validity of a genuine human experience.”
Toxic positivity is when someone is trying to force themselves into a positive mindset so they can feel better. It’s the idea that we should always feel happy.
When someone is trying to use thought work and pretend everything’s fine and “just be happy” when the truth of what they’re feeling and experiencing is not happy.
Why is it toxic?
It’s toxic because when someone is trying to force themselves into positive thinking it ends up creating more negative emotions.
If someone is feeling stressed and they’re desperately trying to escape the feeling of stress, and changing their thoughts isn’t working because they’re not believing positive thoughts, not only do they still feel stress, but now they’re maybe frustrated with themselves that they can’t get out of it.
It creates feeling bad about feeling. Which is laying negativity on top of negativity! We end up judging ourselves. Telling ourselves we should know better, and we should just be more positive. Sometimes it can be really sneaky, the things we’ll say, ” just look on the bright side” “Focus on the positive” ” it’s not that bad” ” I should just be grateful” ” they have it worse than me”
Which, these thoughts are fine, but if the truth is that you’re just not feeling on the bright side, or grateful, or whatever it may be – this way of thinking, or judging yourself for not thinking this way, just digs you deeper into negativity and is not helpful.
This is how we can use thought work, and mindfulness against us.
Who does this?
- People who have a firm understanding of their mind and the role their minds and their perceptions have in their emotional lives
- People who are seen as positive influences and are afraid of what others might think
- People who believe they’re supposed to always be positive and/or happy
What we can do about it?
First is just noticing if you’re resisting what you’re feeling. A great indication someone is creating toxic positivity is it’ll feel forced. If you’re pushing, forcing, or resisting what you’re feeling and, in a hurry, to just feel better and think positive, you are not ready to change your mindset. That is a sign you need to allow yourself to be wherever you’re at and process what you are feeling. Without judgment and without the knee-jerk rush to fix as if something is wrong with you.
Negative feelings cannot harm us. But escaping and resisting them can.
To learn more about emotions and toxic positivity, schedule a session with a mindset coach!