Positivity is essential to a healthy mindset, but what happens when positivity turns toxic? We will explore five examples of toxic positivity to help you recognise it and understand why it’s important to avoid it.
Understanding Toxic Positivity
The definition of toxic positivity is simple.
Toxic positivity is the excessive and unhealthy emphasis on positivity while invalidating or denying negative emotions and experiences.
It is the belief that we should always maintain a positive attitude, no matter the situation and that any negative feeling is bad or unacceptable.
Effects of Toxic Positivity
Toxic positivity can negatively affect our mental health, relationships, and social connections. Some potential damages are:
- Not acknowledging negative emotions and experiences can lead to feelings such as shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- Suppressing emotions can cause them to aggravate and intensify over time
- Toxic positivity may disrupt healthy coping mechanisms, such as seeking support from loved ones or engaging in self-care
- It may damage relationships by creating an environment where individuals feel pressured to hide their real emotions and experiences
- It may also contribute to a culture of denial and avoidance rather than confronting and addressing real problems
- Finally, it may lead to long-term consequences like burnout, depression, or anxiety
Toxic positivity examples
To help you recognise toxic positivity, here are five examples in different real-life scenarios.
1. In the Workplace
Toxic positivity culture can manifest in the workplace as an over-emphasis on positivity, often at the expense of not acknowledging and addressing real problems. For example, a boss who consistently tells employees to “just stay positive” even when the company struggles financially may discourage employees from speaking up about problems or expressing legitimate concerns.
2. In Relationships
Toxic positivity can also be present in personal relationships, such as romantic partnerships or friendships. For example, a friend who dismisses your sadness or anger about a difficult situation by telling you to “just think positive” may be inadvertently invalidating your emotions and causing further harm.
3. On Social Media
Social media platforms also breed toxic positivity culture, where users may feel pressure to present a constantly happy, perfect life. This can create unrealistic expectations and cause individuals to feel ashamed or inadequate for experiencing negative emotions.
4. In Self-Help Culture
The self-help industry can sometimes perpetuate toxic positivity by promoting the idea that simply changing your mindset or attitude can solve all problems. Unfortunately, this approach can be harmful, especially to individuals struggling with mental health problems. It may also lead to feelings of failure or guilt if they cannot maintain a positive attitude.
5. In Response to Trauma
When someone experiences a traumatic event, toxic positivity can be particularly damaging. Telling survivors to “look on the bright side” or “focus on the positive” can invalidate their experiences and prevent them from processing their emotions healthily.
Strategies to Overcome Toxic Positivity
To overcome toxic positivity, there are effective strategies that you can adopt for long-term solutions. Here are five such methods:
- Make self-care a habit
Self-care involves being kind and understanding towards yourself, even in difficult times. Treating yourself with self-compassion allows you to validate your emotions and avoid toxic positivity habits.
- Practise mindfulness
Mindfulness helps you stay present in the moment without judgment or distraction. Practising mindfulness can also teach you to observe your thoughts and emotions and not get caught up in them, which can help you avoid toxic positivity habits.
- Embrace vulnerability
Embracing vulnerability means acknowledging and accepting your own emotions and experiences, including negative ones. This helps you avoid suppressing or invalidating your feelings, which are hallmarks of toxic positivity.
- Seek support from others
Seeking support from loved ones will help you process and validate your emotions. It also helps create an environment where you feel safe and comfortable to express your true feelings and experiences.
- Reframe your thinking
Instead of denying or suppressing negative emotions, try reframing your thinking to see them as opportunities for growth and learning. This helps you find meaning in difficult experiences rather than trying to be toxically positive and avoid the experience altogether.
Positivity is important. The hope to wake up the next morning and see dawn is indeed essential. However, you must be mindful not to make positivity toxic. The difference is subtle, and the challenge is to know if you are being positive or toxically positive! Toxic positivity exists everywhere; at your workplace, in your relationships, at the cinema, and the grocers. Identify and stay away from it, for toxic positivity is detrimental to you and those around you.