Just recently, my friend was going through a break-up. After dating for a year, one day it was simply done. Although my friend tried her best, she felt lost, depressed, and anxious. A few friends tried their best to make her feel good. They told her that whatever happens, it happens for a reason and that one must stay positive even when the time is tough. They made her count all the things that were going right in her life to instill positivity and gratitude. But, it wasn’t working. My friend knew she was privileged. She had a good family, friends, a great job. However, at that point, she was not okay. And, trying to “stay upbeat” or “positive” wouldn’t have changed that.
Now, we are not saying that there is anything wrong with being optimistic or positive. It is amazing if you could cultivate a nature where positivity comes easily to you. But, insincere or forceful positivity is harmful. And, we have all, at one point or another, been a victim of toxic positivity, and that’s not healthy.
What Is Toxic Positivity?
How many times have you heard someone say, “Keep your chin up,” or “everything will be okay?” Toxic positivity is an assumption that even when things are not going okay, even when you are not okay, you should cultivate a positive mindset or surround yourself with positive vibes. Now, I have been both the culprit and the victim of toxic positivity. I have advised many to “stay positive” and I have been advised by many the same. However, it is okay to go through emotions. You don’t need to keep yourself positive all the time. You must not judge people for having emotions. After all, that’s what makes us human.
Why Is Toxic Positivity Harmful?
Toxic positivity invalidates all the hardships and problems that you are going through in life. It puts you under pressure to keep yourself okay and cover up your real emotions. Now, let’s say you do that, you embrace insincere positivity, how will it help you? Maybe for a while, you can go on like nothing is wrong, but sooner or later it will catch up. Instead, learn to tackle your emotions. If you have been going through bouts of depression then make sure you see a specialist. The point is to face what you are going through and come up with a solution to ensure you remove the problem from the root.
How Can You Deal With Toxic Positivity?
Don’t Avoid Your Emotions
Whether what you are feeling is good or bad, face it head-on. Don’t ignore or avoid your emotions. When you avoid it, the chances are it will get worse. So, try to write it down or talk to someone about what you are going through. And, if it gets too much, you can always consult a therapist.
Maybe you have a friend or a relative who is going through a tough time. Well, next time don’t be someone who promotes toxic positivity. Instead, help them healthily deal with their emotions. If you must, listen to what they are going through. Sometimes, all we need is someone to listen to us. Nothing more.
Be Positive Whenever Possible
Now that all things are said, remember, we are not trying to bring down the importance of being positive. Authentic positivity leads to healthy emotions, so cultivate it. If you are sad for some reason but able to garner hope, that’s the best thing you can do. But, never try to mask your feelings.
What generally happens when we are feeling low is we try to come up with ways to distract ourselves. What does this lead to? Nothing actually! Because for a while, you might feel better, but that doesn’t make the problem go away unless and until you do something about it. So, what you can do during distress is that you can do things that you are familiar with and you know will bring you joy. Also, there is always a solution. So, you will get there. Just take a breather and look for that solution, which you see things with a realistic lens.
Recognize Toxic Positivity
Let’s be honest. It is hard to distinguish between authentic and toxic positivity. However, make an effort to recognize it. The messages that say, “positive vibes only” or “Choose happiness” or “Embrace positivity” are all toxic. Being positive is not the only way of life. You will get there at one point or another. But, until then, it’s okay to go through ups and downs. Have a realistic outlook.
Take Social Media Breaks
Toxic positivity is at its heights, especially on social media. Also, because we want to put our best foot forward, everything on Instagram or Facebook seems hunky-dory. When you go through low phases of life but keep seeing everybody else’s life is so perfect, it can create turmoil within you. So, occasionally, take a social media detox.
So, now that you know what toxic positivity is, don’t be the victim nor the perpetrator. It’s okay to sometimes not be okay. But, never drown in your lows. Instead, find someone who can help you with your inner turmoil. You can always see a therapist when things get too much. Also, positivity isn’t bad, just don’t indulge in the toxic one!