Is There Such a Thing as Toxic Positivity?

By Rachel Puryear

We have all heard of toxic negativity, and are well aware of its draining and depressing effects. No one in their right mind would deny such a thing. Positivity is a wonderful and inspiring trait, which can foster resilience, generally speaking. We all love being around truly positive people, and usually feel better after spending some time with them.

A pair of rose colored glasses laying on a beach, with the sun low in the sky over the ocean.

However, the term “toxic positivity” has emerged in recent years, to describe certain behavior. Which raises the question, can positivity ever be toxic?

Well, I don’t think an abundance of positivity is toxic – however, there can be toxic behavior masqueraded as “positivity”. Perhaps instead, what is called “toxic positivity” could instead be called “pseudo-positivity”.

Here’s what the term refers to:

  • Pretending you’re ok when you’re not. Saying everything is fine when it’s not, in the name of being too “positive” to acknowledge less than ideal circumstances.
  • Expecting and pushing others to also say they are ok when they are not, or that everything is fine when in fact it is not; because them acknowledging otherwise might force you to confront the fact that actually, everything is not ok with you.
  • Shaming or giving someone a hard time for expressing any thoughts or feelings deemed less than positive.
  • Telling yourself or someone else, in response to feeling bad and down about something, things like “it could be worse”, “it’s not that bad”, “you should feel lucky that…”, “you had it better than me”, “So-and-so has been through worse”, “stop complaining”, “focus on the bright side”, or something else to that effect. Giving “perspective” that someone is not ready for and not asking for, instead of listening and validating their emotional experience.
  • Dismissing your or someone else’s experience with feel-good mantras; shrugging it off with belittling statements like “it is what it is”, or “everything happens for a reason”; telling them not to be upset or complain.

Doing these things means a bit of self-examination and reflection is in order. And believe me, I’ve had to do my own work on this over the years, after being conditioned to do these kinds of things early on in life. I’ve learned this the hard way, and my own personal relationships have improved greatly since becoming more aware of this kind of behavior, and taking steps to try and correct it. Being truly positive is a good thing – but that does not mean denying when things are wrong, or failing to be empathetic to yourself and others with their life experiences. Being real and authentic by being honest about what is going on with you, and expecting and encouraging the same in others, is key to connecting with others.

In a future post, I will cover how to overcome pseudo-positivity, and be better at empathizing with others’ experiences, while honoring your genuine positivity.

Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Much love to all of you. xoxo

3 thoughts on “Is There Such a Thing as Toxic Positivity?

  1. I shudder at “Good vibes only” and “Everything happens for a reason”. It can really alienate people going through tough times. I also like how you pointed out that being positive isn’t a bad thing, it’s moreso the masquerading that is. Great post! πŸ™‚

    Like

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