The positivity movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. Positive thinking videos and articles at every turn, all trying to inspire us to be positive. The dark side of this movement is that toxic positivity surfaces when it does not come with a healthy balance.
When people become so focused on being positive they forget about what life really entails: sadness, anger, fear, loneliness… Toxic positivity neglects these emotions because “you’re supposed to be happy.”
In today’s world, it is easy to get caught up in a cycle of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the idea that you should always be happy and positive no matter what your circumstances are. This can lead to having a negative mindset instead of being able to see how good things really are.
You may have heard phrases like “be grateful for everything that you have” or “you just need a positive attitude”. Those phrases sound nice but they aren’t realistic when bad things happen and life isn’t fair.
So, what is toxic positivity?
“Toxic positivity is the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset or — my pet peeve term — ‘positive vibes,’” explains Dr. Jaime Zuckerman, a clinical psychologist in Pennsylvania who specializes in, among other things, anxiety disorders and self-esteem.
Toxic positivity is a phrase that describes when someone tells you they are doing ok but they are not. This may be because they don’t feel like anything can be done to change how they feel.”
“The term ‘toxic’ here refers to an emotional toxin. When we’re happy and content, we have a lot of positive feelings flowing through us. But if we’re going through a tough time, there’s a chance that these emotions will become toxic and start building up inside of us.”
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The toxic positivity that plagues our society today is not productive for the individual or those around them. If you are experiencing toxic positivity in your own life, here are some signs to look out for:
What are the signs of toxic positivity?
- You only participate in activities where everyone’s having fun and no one’s hurting.
- Everyone has to like what you like – if they don’t, there must be something wrong with them
- You’ve stopped doing things because of other people’s opinions
- You cancel plans with friends. Make excuses everytimw about being tired/busy/sick. But in reality, you really just don’t want to do it.
- You’re not taking care of yourself – you don’t eat well, sleep enough, exercise…
- Nothing’s ever your fault because “everything happens for a reason”.
What are other signs of toxic positivity?
First, when someone is focused on being happy all the time or neglect negative emotions- that’s toxic. It can be difficult to discover if you have toxic thoughts because oftentimes it’s subtle. Most times people don’t always know how to identify their own toxic patterns in thinking. Toxic relationships, toxic home lives are often time the root of oxic patterns in thinking.
Second, when your emotions dictate your happiness – that’s toxic. Emotions aren’t constant and you should not expect peaks of positive feelings throughout life. Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies- life can be full of darkness as well.
Why Toxic Positivity Is Bad?
When people neglect their negative emotions like guilt, shame, or empathy they can suffer from toxic positivity. They fail to acknowledge the diversity and range of human emotions For many years psychologists have been pointing out for years now.
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Happiness isn’t always positive thinking video after video where everyone’s smiling and having fun all the time! Our society has grown so accustomed to these videos that we forget that real-life entails: sadness, anger, fear, loneliness.
These feelings matter just as much as the positive ones. No one should be forced into hiding their feelings. In fact, ignoring your emotions can have serious consequences. Toxic positivity has been linked to anxiety and depression in people who are afraid of expressing negative feelings because they fear being judged.
How To Avoid The Darkside Of Positivity?
First off, know that it is okay to feel any emotion you may be feeling- good or bad!
Secondly, negativity doesn’t always have a place but neither does toxic positivity. There should be a balance between both and it should be kept at an equal level for optimal mental health.
Lastly, don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. You are your own person and should do what works best for YOU!
There’s nothing wrong with positivity but it can become toxic when people turn a blind eye to negative emotions. This is the dark side of positivity that no one talks about. It’s also why many psychologists are against what they call “positive thinking only”
Remember that life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, in fact, you will find more darkness than light on some days. It is okay to feel whatever emotion you may be feeling without any judgment from others!
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Lastly, what works for others may not work for YOU. So, don’t get caught up in positive thinking. Don’t lose yourself while trying to keep up with everyone else! Be true to who you are!
Toxic positivity neglects these emotions and instead replaces them with a toxic, all-or-nothing mentality. It is not about saying no to good feelings but having a balance. Learn to embrace the bad as well as the good.
“It’s also important to remember that you’re human.”
“You’ve made mistakes before, and you will make more in the future.”
So allow yourself room to fail and learn from it. Toxic positivity is toxic in that you have removed all negative emotions.