Is this really a thing? Toxic Positivity tells us that we are not allowed to feel all of our feelings, especially the negative ones. Toxic positivity has gone into overdrive amid COVID-19. We are all feeling the effects. You know the statements, they are all too common in our lives, like:
- You’ll get over it!
- It is what it is…
- There are people dying and you are worried about this?
- Stop being so negative!
- Just breathe…
- Think happy thoughts!
- Just be positive!
- Other people have it worse, than you.
It is like there is a taboo about feeling negative things. That talking and working through these emotions is somehow wrong. These statements are used because we are uncomfortable dealing with these emotions. It can cause serious issues if we don’t deal with the negative feelings we are having. Especially in such difficult times.
The phrase toxic positivity means that you are portraying yourself as being happy no matter what. Sound familiar? The fact that you are ignoring anything which might be viewed as negative. It is not healthy to always see the bright side, and not open up about anything bad.
Right about now you are thinking “but Colleen what about all those positive affirmations you post?” Positive Affirmations are different from “Toxic Positivity”. Positive affirmations are there to help us cope with all of these feelings and to prevent us from getting into a bad place. Using affirmations get us to change our mindset from the dark and negative side. We recognize that negativity and want to work out of it. We have acknowledge the negativity and we want to move past it.
How it feels and sounds?
My mother was a master at this. I did not see it until after she had died that an anchor was released completely from me. George created this safe place for me to work through so many issues. He too has experienced a lot of this and together we work through it. We help each other be better at supporting others – because we have done some serious soul searching. Toxic positivity can show up in many ways, to help you recognize how it shows up in everyday life here are a few ways.
- Brushing off things that are bothering you with a “It is what it is”
- Hiding/Masking your true feelings
- Trying to give someone perspective (e.g., “Other people have it worse”) instead of validating their emotional experience
- Shaming or chastising others for expressing frustration or anything other than positivity
- Feeling guilty for feeling what you feel
- Failure is not an option thinking
- Minimizing other people’s experiences with “it could be worse” statement
- Stuffing or dismissing an emotion(s)
- Being told you are overreacting or it is not a big deal.
Toxic Positivity Can Be Subtle
Being conscious of ourselves and how we show up in the world makes it easier to be a good human. If you recognize yourself in some of the above statements, it’s time to stop. You’re hurting yourself and the people you care about most by insisting on this single-minded mindset. Try and aim for balance and the acceptance of both good and bad emotions rather than all-or-nothing thinking. Use statements like:
- This is hard, you have done hard things before, I believe in you.
- Sometimes giving up is okay. What is it that you really want?
- I hear you, and I accept you as you are. Most importantly, I love you.
- How about I sit with you while you are feeling so sad? Or how about we just go take a walk?
- It is completely normal to have negative feelings in this situation.
- Feel what you need to, tell me more about it.
- Don’t be ashamed of the day you are having. It is okay to not be okay with me.
- It is never fun to feel that way, is there something we can do that would bring you joy?
- Yes, a lot can go wrong, but what can go right?
There is Hope
If you’re being influenced by toxic positivity, learn to set healthy boundaries with those who passes judgment on your authentic experience and speak your truth. It is uncomfortable building those boundaries. It is okay you catch yourself and correct yourself. Doing so you will find greater joy in life. Then you can live an authentic and true life that you are meant to. Reach out to a therapist if you find yourself needing additional support at a time like this. You are not alone, and you will get through this time.