It is good to have a sunny outlook on life, but it becomes dangerous when optimism and positivity become toxic. Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how difficult a situation is, you should always see its positives even when it has none. It tells you to only embrace the good and pretend the bad does not exist. It causes you to ignore areas in your life that need to be worked on simply because those areas would require you to confront uncomfortable feelings.
In recent years the world has been saturated with messages that promote toxic positivity. You hear it in songs, see it on billboards, watch it on Tv, and there are thousands of self-help books that encourage optimism to the point that it is unhealthy.
Types of unhealthy positivity
Toxic positivity can take a variety of forms. You may have even perpetuated it on encountered it in your life.
Expecting yourself or other people to stay happy when something tragic happens is a sign of toxic positivity. You sense the pain that comes with tragedy, like grief after losing a close relative or loved one or sadness after missing a huge opportunity that could have changed your life. But you brush it off by telling yourself or others that “everything happens for a reason” or “it is God’s will”, and while that may be true, it is essential to acknowledge that something tragic happened to you and it is okay that you feel sad and angry.
Sometimes you could be expressing your disappointment or sadness to someone, and they tell you someone has it worse. You should be grateful that yours is not so bad, and while they may have good intentions while saying this to you, it invalidates your experience. It only serves to make you feel guilty for being sad simply because “someone else has it worse”.
You need to realize that it is not helpful. Pain and suffering is not a competition. You shouldn’t rejoice that you have it easier than others. Your pain is valid, do not let guilt and the belief that it could have been worse and “at least you’re still alive “ stop you from addressing your feelings of pain and disappointment. Sit with your feelings and heal.
Having “positive vibes only” is a myth. There are days that you would feel low and out of touch. You would have instances where you will be faced with things you don’t want to, and instead of avoiding those things by pretending everything is okay, address them. You will need to grow. Let negative emotions out instead of bottling them up and putting on a happy face finding things to distract you from your problems.
I am not saying you should walk around with a sad life and suck the life out of everybody because you are unhappy. It is not impossible to maintain a healthy dose of optimism while also being sad but accept that every day would not be good, and that’s okay, you will get through it, and you will be alright in the end.
Also, when someone is narrating their hurtful experiences try not to invalidate what they are sharing with you by asking them to find courage or “ be a boss lady” instead of listening and reassuring them that it would get better. It is okay to be upset or sad about their experiences because it is perfectly normal.
It is important to note that I am not saying you should act on every negative emotion you feel by lashing out and making impulsive decisions that could hurt another person. Sit with your feelings and process every emotion you feel before taking action. Find ways to deal with negative emotions that are productive. You could write your feelings down in a journal.
I personally find that very helpful because it helps me find clarity. Talk to a friend. Having someone listen to you vent could help lower the intensity of those negative feelings. It is advisable to talk to a friend who would invalidate your feelings by telling you “it is not that deep” and “your own is even small. You don’t know what happened to me”.
Don’t buy into the feel-good quotes you see on the internet too, it can be a good source of inspiration but don’t let it make you forget that life can be hard sometimes and feeling overwhelmed by it all is nothing to be ashamed of.
You would not be happy all the time, and that is okay.