Join us to learn everything about toxic positivity and how to avoid it!

We remember talking with one of our friends who is living in Italy, just several days after the World Health Organization declared the state of a global pandemic.  We were all shocked by the fact we couldn’t leave our homes, see our friends, work, etc. Many of us were terrified of this new illness that was devouring lives. Some also went in another direction and began developing various conspiracy theories, which are still very actual.
a person in prone position-on his surfboard
“Everything will be okay,” our friend said, “There is a reason things are happening, you know! We have been destroying the planet for too long, and this is a warning! But everything is going to be just fine! Maybe we will have to live differently! But this is a good thing!” Such attitude shocked us! But then, as the days passed by, we saw many of our friends posting on social media how they appreciate the lockdown since they finally have time to read, work in the garden, meditate, etc. For a while, we weren’t sure who got something wrong – us, who couldn’t find a single positive thing about the situation we found ourselves in, or them who were glowing in positivity! Not to get me wrong for a second, we always thought that being positive is essential in this world.  But, that shouldn’t mean that we need to deny our emotions.  If you lose your job, for example, it is perfectly logical that you feel angry, disappointed, afraid, etc. Would you tell yourself then, “Oh, it will be okay? Don’t worry, it is a good thing!” Would you want someone telling it to you? Of course not! Nonetheless, some people do these things! Same as our friend from the beginning, no matter what is going on, they stay positive. But the reality is that they just convinced themselves that things will get better if they believe in it! This attitude, however, is called toxic positivity, and it causes more harm than good.  Surely you know at least one person who is like this. Maybe it is your partner, regardless of whether you met on the best dating sites or in real life. Maybe you recognize this type of behavior in your best friend or relative! In any case, it is good to know more about toxic positivity psychology so you can identify the signs and figure out how to avoid them.

What is Toxic Positivity?

You can notice that toxic positivity became a kind of slang word in wellness circles. However, when you look for a toxic positivity definition, it is clear that you find several instead of just one. One of the possible reasons for that is that it is still a new term that emerged because we were obsessed with social media and appearance. So what is toxic positivity? Simply said, it is the act of dismissing or denying another person’s feelings.   To give a clearer picture, we will say that it is when your friend, after hearing about your negative experience, tells you, “Oh c’mon, but it’s not that bad!” or “I know it was hard, but at least you didn’t experience … (something worse).”  A clinical psychologist and mental health speaker, Natalie Cristine Dattilo, says that toxic positivity research shows that it comes from the idea that the best and only way to handle bad experiences or situations is to be positive and avoid dwelling on negativity. Another psychologist, Dr. Alison Calabaugh, says toxic positivity is based on the idea that all negative emotions are bad. Hence, according to people who check everything off the toxic positivity chart – sadness, fear, anxiety, and anger are bad and therefore need to be suppressed.

How to Recognize Toxic Positivity

Hiding True  Feelings

A dominant conviction in society is that you are stronger if you push your feelings under the carpet. It isn’t exactly true, and more importantly, it comes at a price. People who don’t show how they feel often find their comfort in alcohol, drugs, excessive work, unhealthy eating habits, etc.  If you are someone you know exhibits this kind of behavior, you can propose a toxic positivity test.

Dismissing Emotions

As we all know, life is pretty hectic.  We are continually in a rush to finish all of our tasks, and this can often lead us to toxic positivity at work.  But this can negatively affect productivity in the long run. It can also create a toxic positive workplace because you might put your patterns of behavior on your colleagues.

Feeling Guilty over Feelings

Society is teaching us to hide and ignore our emotions. Apart from that, we learn that our anger or sadness often burdens others. Hence we tend to feel guilty and apologize for every little thing. It is essential to know that it is okay not to be okay all the time. More importantly, you must show that you are not okay.
man with puppy in hands

How to Avoid Toxic Positivity

  • Try to deal with your negative emotions, but don’t dismiss them. It means that when you are feeling angry, stressed, sad, anxious, etc., simply accept it. Tell yourself that it is okay to feel that way and that there are reasons why you feel like that. If you push those emotions away, in the long run, they can cause even more stress. Dealing with them, however, is super beneficial.
  • Part of learning how to avoid toxic positivity is to understand that when you are in a stressful situation, the logical response is to feel stressed or anxious! The situation doesn’t go away in an instant, and so the emotions can’t either. Hence you don’t need to expect yourself to feel better about something!  Be gentle with yourself, and take steps to improve the situation.
  • Accept that you are feeling more than one thing. When we have to deal with something challenging, we usually worry about whether we are going to be successful or not. At the same time, we feel hopeful. Keep in mind that our emotions are pretty complex.
  • Listen to others and show support. When people come to you telling you that they are in a bad situation, don’t dismiss them with toxic sentences. Actively listen to them and make sure to provide the most support you can. Also, recognize the difficulty of the situation and acknowledge their feelings are normal.
  • Be aware of your feelings. Okay, sometimes, we all go on positive social media accounts for some inspiration. But it is critical to be attentive to your feelings after seeing this type of content. If you start feeling guilty or ashamed, it can be a sign of toxic positivity. In that case, it is best to limit the time you spend on social media.

Bottom Line

Being optimistic and positive is undeniably beneficial for mental health and general wellbeing. As we know, having a positive mindset helps us deal with stress, etc.  At the same time, though, we need to stay aware that society establishes toxic positivity as a norm pushing us to hide our flaws, struggles, failures, and negative emotions. Doing that, we are failing to address the basic human experiences such as pain, sadness, anger, etc. Keep in mind that healthy positivity needs to be the norm, which means that you need to acknowledge that we equally need both positive and negative emotions to live a healthy, authentic life.  Have you heard about this phenomenon before? Do you know someone with these patterns of behavior?

Aria Green

Mrs. A. Green is a family photographer; she loves personality psychology, to write about relationship psychology and to help the couples with advice on the relationship. She is a wife and a mother of two adorable kids who won't get bored even for a minute. She completed a photography course in college. She is passionate about photography and writing.

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