Positivity is often at the center of happiness.
In good times and bad times alike, diving deep into prayer, affirmations, optimistic behaviors, and other forms of positive thinking and acting keep us grounded at the moment.
However, there is a time when being a little too positive can get you in trouble.
You know the instances when you’re so optimistic that something will turn itself around that you begin overlooking all the very real, very serious downsides of the situation?
That’s what we call toxic positivity.
It’s the decision to be overly optimistic when a situation actually calls for you to be honest, authentic, and sometimes gracefully accepting of the difficult thoughts, feelings, and situations at hand.
Are you being so positive that it’s toxic? Here’s what it looks like in everyday situations, and how you can avoid projecting it onto yourself and others.
What does toxic positivity look like in life?
Toxic positivity is the idea that no matter how bleak a situation looks, people should bypass the reality of it to maintain an optimistic outlook.
In the process, you end up dismissing negative emotions and putting a positive spin on things to everyone’s detriment.
So now that we have a solid definition, what exactly does this look like in everyday life? Here a few examples that might be familiar to you:
- Telling someone that “everything happens for a reason” when they are experiencing a mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually difficult situation instead of offering genuine moral or practical support.
- Comparing one person’s problems to another person’s problems in an attempt to show them that it could be worse, instead of simply accepting that they’re not doing too good.
- Saying things like “stay positive” or “good vibes only” when faced with a difficult situation that doesn’t have an upside or positive outcome.
- Hiding or masking your true feelings because they’re difficult for you or the people around you to process.
- Calling people “toxic” or “negative” because they express emotions that make you uncomfortable or unhappy.
- Feeling guilty about your own emotions in a situation; Knowing something doesn’t feel right, but forcing it anyway because you’d like to see the good in it.
These are just a few examples of how optimism can quickly turn into something toxic.
Take this opportunity to closely assess yourself and the people around you, and see if this is something either of you participates in.
How do you get over this mindset?
Getting through the toxic positivity requires you to do the one thing you’ve been avoiding in the first place: acknowledging and accepting situations for what it is.
This doesn’t mean you’re accepting defeat, being negative, or playing into the downfall of a situation.
Instead, it means that you’re giving yourself and others the opportunity to deal with what’s going on in a healthy way by pinpointing the reality of the situation, what realistically can and can’t be done about it, and deciding to be optimistic about things that are worth being optimistic about—if any.
- Be real with yourself about how you feel. Acknowledging the hard emotions won’t hurt you, but it will certainly free you.
- Don’t shame or chastise others for not being able to tap into positivity all the time. We are human and our thoughts, and feelings. and experiences change all the time.
- Don’t minimize other people’s experiences because you don’t personally think they are that bad. You don’t actually have the authority to do that.
- Breathe. Most times, it’s more important to be in a state of acceptance and neutrality than it is to be drowning yourself in surface-level positivity.
All in all, ridding yourself of toxic positivity is all about embracing the natural flow of life. Sometimes life is wonderful, and that’s great! And sometimes it’s not, and that’s OK, too.