What Is Toxic Positivity?

Many of us prefer to verge on the positive side of things: balancing life with a positive mindset and continually searching for the good where the negative may make us fall down. But when it comes to enveloping ourselves amongst other positive and like-minded people, we need to be aware that there can be a downfall with overbearing positivity.

Toxic positivity is often subtle and something we naturally engage in, especially on social media. How can we recognise this toxicity before it negatively impacts our lives?

What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is represented by the belief that no matter how difficult a situation is, we should strive to continue a positive mindset and throw out good vibes only. It encourages us to discard any difficult, hurtful, or negative emotions in favour of a positive approach to life.

This leads many to hide behind a misleading positivity, which can negatively affect themselves and others. It takes away our need to recognise those emotions we may be uncomfortable with, like sadness, anger, hurt, or anguish. We need these emotions to help us get through and understand certain situations in our lives.

How Can We Recognise It?

It’s not always easy to identify toxic positivity, but some things to look out for include brushing off our negative feelings because they are too difficult to approach; feeling guilty about being disappointed, hurt, or sad; trying to simply get over something when it is emotionally painful; hiding how we really feel; or shaming those who don’t have a positive outlook.

When we are told to look on the bright side or to simply stay positive, these comments encourage us to not focus on our emotions in a given situation. The same goes for when someone says "everything happens for a reason". It is limiting our experience and our emotions for an unnecessary and unhelpful positive outlook.

Why It’s Harmful

When we are going through a difficult period in our lives, we go through an intense range of emotions which guide us through the experience. By limiting ourselves with toxic positivity we are shaming ourselves out of the plethora of intense emotions which may make us uncomfortable.

It can cause guilt when feeling a certain way other than positive. And it stops us from feeling the way we need to feel, avoiding emotional situations and internalising aspects of our lives which ultimately prevents our emotional growth.

Countering Toxic Positivity

Understand that it is okay to feel a rainbow of emotions when we are faced with challenges. Be realistic about how you should feel when a stressful situation occurs and manage your negative emotions by recognising, feeling, and appreciating them. Most importantly, give yourself permission to feel and process your feelings instead of avoiding them.

Geraldine Walsh

Mum of two Geraldine Walsh happily works from home as a freelance writer chatting about parenting, wellness and mental health.

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