Toxic Positivity: The Toxic Side of Positive Thinking
Toxic Positivity is when we act positive irrespective of what is happening in our lives.
I think it’s always good to look on the bright side of life; we hear things like “don’t worry be happy”, “there’s always a silver lining”, “everything happens for a reason”, which is of course is all true, but toxic positivity kicks in when we think we need to put a positive spin on everything we are feeling for whatever is happening in our lives.
In fact it’s a form of gaslighting, which is about denying your reality in order for us and other’s to feel comfortable. Using denial, minimisation and invalidation to do it.
We Are So Obsessed with Being Positive to the Point Where it’s Literally Hurting Us
We are taught to be positive, but in reality, it is not always the best thing for us.
The idea of being positive has been around for a long time. It has been said that if you are positive, you will be more successful and happier in life. But what does this mean? What does it really mean to be positive? And is positivity really the best thing for us?
I remember as a child my parents listening to Dale Carnegie, a self improvement lecturer. And I in turn listened to Louise Hay in the 80s, she was big on affirmations and being positive.
Don’t get me wrong, I think having a positive mindset is really important, but I think there can be negative aspects to it as well. If you don’t acknowledge and deal with your negative feelings, then positivity is like putting icing on a rotten cake.
Signs of Toxic Positivity
Some examples of toxic positivity include:
- minimising someone’s concerns, saying, “it could be worse”, ie ”think of all the starving children in Africa”
- saying everything happens for a reason after someone experiences something harsh in life
- saying “don’t worry be happy” after someone tells you about something they are suffering with
- telling a parent whose child has died to be grateful that at least they can have children
- telling someone to pivot and focus on the good things in life when they have experienced something tragic
- my all time pet peeve statement, I see red when people say it lol, “it is what it is” -argh!!
Why It’s Important To Consider the Negatives As Well As the Positives
The Negative Aspects of a Positive Attitude
The term “positive attitude” is often associated with a person who has a cheerful and happy demeanor. In some cases, it can be seen as a person who is always looking on the bright side of life. But there are some negative aspects to having a positive attitude.
Some people may have a positive attitude because they want to avoid dealing with negative aspects of life. They may also have a positive attitude because they feel that it is their duty to do so, or because they want to be liked by everyone around them.
In some cases, people with a positive attitude might not be totally honest about their feelings and emotions. A person may be putting on an act in order to please others or keep up appearances for themselves.
It’s Important to Talk about Negative Thoughts and Emotions
Talking about negative thoughts and emotions is important for mental health. Many people who have experienced trauma or depression, for example, find it difficult to talk about their feelings.
It can be difficult to open up but talking about your feelings can help you process your feelings and transform them. It’s important to talk about negative thoughts and emotions because they are a part of life that we must accept, as well as come understand. We don’t want them to fester.
The Pros of Negative Thoughts to Consider
Negative thoughts are often associated with depression, but there are some benefits to them. These pros can be used to help you lead a happier life.
– Negative thoughts can be motivating.
– They can make you more realistic.
– They can help you solve problems.
– They can make you more creative.
There is a tendency that expecting happiness and then not feeling it, can cause you to blame yourself for doing something wrong, or not making the right decision, in order to create happiness, and then that leads to feeling depression. People who expect to feel happy in situations can also see that not feeling happy is a sign of failure in life. They lack acceptance of these emotions and feelings which in turn leads to depression and lower states of wellbeing.
Whereas people who pursue happiness indirectly are more accepting of the lower feelings in life, and do not equate these feelings with not being happy, therefore causing them less stress.
Demanding that a person avoids negative thinking is really just imposing positive thinking on a situation. It is in fact a form of control, and underlying control is always fear.
Practicing false cheerfulness is just pushing away difficult emotions, forcing ourselves to be positive, and can impact our mental health, because it not a natural way of thinking and being.
Our Relationship With Ourselves Is Key
Everything is about relationship, and in essence what we are doing when we are being falsely positive is having a controlling relationship with ourselves where we are rejecting our natural way of being, with all the ebbs and flows of our state, and trying to inflict control on ourselves.
Positivity needs to be rooted in reality for it to be healthy and helpful. Forced positivity is different than having hope and optimism.
Emotions Are Neither Good Nor Bad
In fact emotions are data for us to learn about life. If we are feeling lonely then that means we reach out and connect. If we are feeling angry then it might mean we need to take some kind of action.
Our emotions are not good or bad. Our judgement of them is what causes us to want to deny them. We in effect are denying our genuine human experience when we put on a front.
Humans are not perfect, they are flawed and there is nothing wrong with being flawed. It’s being real. And people actually like being around people who are authentic and real.
Putting a positive spin on things is a façade. And people know when others are putting on a façade, and don’t feel they can trust them.
So in fact it’s having the opposite effect when you put a positive front on.
Do You Feel OK About Being Yourself?