Toxic Positivity and the Dangers It Poses

The internet is filled with uplifting quotations and phrases that are designed to promote optimism in a beneficial manner, ranging from “think positive” to “just keep smiling”. These statements may seem reassuring, but they also reflect a feature of society that may be destructive rather than beneficial: toxic positivity.

Toxic optimism is a very flimsy construct. It’s the equivalent of someone telling you that “everything happens for a reason” after a loved one passes away or “everything will work out” after you lose your job or source of income, and when you are on the verge of homelessness.

In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about the differences between authentic and toxic positivity, how to avoid propagating the latter, and what to say to someone who persists on doing so.

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What is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is defined as the overgeneralization of a cheerful, optimistic mood across all circumstances, which is excessive and counterproductive. Toxic positivity leads to the denial, reduction, and invalidation of the genuine human emotional experience.

When optimism is used to cover up or conceal the human experience, it becomes poisonous, just like anything done in excess. We slip into a condition of denial and suppressed emotions when we deny the presence of certain sentiments.

Humans, unfortunately, have flaws. We become envious, irritable, resentful, and greedy. Life may be frustrating at times. We undermine the legitimacy of a true human experience by claiming to be “good vibes all day.”

The phrase “toxic positivity” has gotten a lot of press recently. Following the “positivity trend,” we’re starting to see that, although being happy is a desirable thing, exaggerating the significance of a positive attitude may backfire, paradoxically leading to increased sadness.

Yes, studies demonstrate that individuals who are happy live longer, are healthier, and have more successful lives. In comparison to persons who are merely averagely happy, “extremely happy people” enjoy more of these advantages. Happiness or optimism may, however, become poisonous if pursued in certain ways.

How Does It Affect…


It’s possible that pushing cheerfulness isn’t a reaction to someone else’s suffering, but to our own. It’s natural and acceptable to try and avoid dealing with bad feelings at times.

However, putting a good attitude on oneself when your sentiments are the polar opposite may be detrimental to your mental health. You shouldn’t stop yourself from feeling other emotions.

Basically, if you keep ghosting your own emotions, they will return to haunt you until you deal with them.

Your relationships?

Many of us don’t know how to communicate about sad or unpleasant things, and we may make mistakes in our efforts. While it’s natural to make mistakes from time to time, it’s crucial to pay attention to how you react when someone tries to confide in you.

Returning to the unpleasant diagnostic scenario, maybe your buddy is expressing their fear and uncertainty about the future to you. Because this is difficult to hear, you attempt to comfort them that everything will be OK instead of listening.

When someone is attempting to share something painful with you, shutting them off — whether intentionally or unintentionally — builds a barrier. You can’t connect with someone if you don’t want to sit with them in their loss, anguish, or rage.

It may also misrepresent you to others, making you seem difficult to relate to.

Men have the tendency to conceal their emotions as a result of these gendered disparities in emotion socialization. On the other hand, women may feel compelled to display pleasant sentiments that aren’t always genuine.

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How Do You Combat Toxic Positivity?

Toxic Positivity 2

Acknowledge that pain is part of being human.

Although it isn’t always nice, most of us have felt loss, frustration, sorrow, and danger, in addition to the more undesirable feelings. It’s good to feel a variety of emotions.

It is, in fact, an essential aspect of the human experience. It’s normal to be sad after a loss, and it’s also reasonable to be dissatisfied after weeks or months of being locked up because of the pandemic.

It’s almost hard for us to escape negative feelings as humans. Life is full of ups and downs, roadblocks, and challenges to conquer.

Sadness, fear, and fury are all required emotions for true connection. We simply cannot sympathize with and completely support others if we refuse to be happy.

Uncomfortable emotions assist us in making meaning of life’s occurrences. Emotions assist us in making decisions, help us develop empathy, and are, above all, required for survival. Anger can help us face the unpleasant, while mourning may help us recognize what’s most essential to us.

Even so-called “bad” emotions are crucial to live a happy and healthy life. They promote self-awareness and may even serve as a catalyst for societal change.

Avoid suppressing your emotions.

When you ignore an unpleasant emotion, it does not go away on its own. It might just pile up under the surface, causing tension and your stress levels to rise.

In reality, research suggests that repressing emotions may lead to an increase in anxiety and sadness. It may also cause sleep disturbances and a general deterioration of mental health.

Suppressing unpleasant feelings may seem to be the simplest solution, but it might actually make them endure longer. You may begin to work through and recover from pressures by acknowledging the discomfort and understanding your emotions.

Acknowledge how it applies to major issues.

Nobody is concerned about racism, sexism, homophobia, or other forms of social injustice if everyone is always looking on the bright side.

Anger, anxiety, and discomfort may all fuel the pursuit of social justice. After all, no one would be driven to make beneficial changes in the system if everyone was always satisfied.

We must urge people to overlook the injustices they suffer by encouraging them to smile despite the anguish of prejudice and persecution. We must make room in our culture for wrath, sadness, fear, and suffering in general if we want to see meaningful change.

Know the dangers.

Emotions aren’t just events that occur to us. They’re transmitted from our bodies and minds to provide vital information. It is how we comprehend and assess life’s happenings.

Fear, despair, and rage are not pleasant emotions to have, yet they are necessary for our survival. We miss out on vital knowledge that may assist us navigate life if we constantly look on the bright side.

Yes, optimism may give us hope, but it can also be dangerous.

As an example, let’s say you’re preparing for a huge exam. Being upbeat about the result will undoubtedly help you relax and concentrate on the exam. However, expecting excellent outcomes without studying or comprehending the content is a recipe for disaster.

That isn’t to imply that everyone should spend their lives with a half-empty glass, but avoiding negative feelings at all costs isn’t healthy.

Embrace the fact that change does not happen overnight.

Unlearning toxic positivity is similar to unlearning other negative practices, in the fact that it takes time and does not happen overnight. Even if you’re working on accepting the fact that things may not be perfect, it’s quite natural to make mistakes now and then.

It’s a mental shift that won’t happen quickly, but it’ll be well worth it in the end. Stepping away from toxic optimism and choosing honesty is a bold step towards the gratifying road of whole-hearted existence.

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How Do You Combat Toxic Positivity?

Toxic Positivity 3

Learn to admit your mistakes.

If you discover you rejected a loved one’s bad feelings or shut them off with poisonous optimism when they tried to confide in you, face up to the error and apologize, whether it was in the time or after the fact.

If you recognize that anything you said seemed insensitive or dismissive, try not to be too hard on yourself. Recognize this and ask your loved one how you may react more effectively next time.

Feel your feelings.

This is straightforward, though it’s often harder to accomplish than it seems. We often have excuses for not engaging with our complicated emotions.

It’s either we’re too busy to deal with them, we don’t want to be distressed, or we don’t want to upset others.

Remember, though, your negative feelings won’t go away unless you eventually deal with them. So acknowledge them, try to understand where they might be coming from, and think about what you can do to address them.

It’s important not to prioritize more positive emotions over negative ones. All emotions offer you useful information about how you are doing in the world, and all are equally valid.

Be mindful.

Take a calm minute to observe how you’re feeling and what’s going on in your body and mind to attempt mindfulness. Instead of focusing on a particular idea or experience, pay attention to everything as a whole.

If you observe any negativity, don’t pass judgment on yourself; just acknowledge it and go on. It’s important to be aware of our bad sentiments and appreciate the information they provide without becoming engrossed in them.

Kirkland suggests that learning to be conscious while you’re calm may be beneficial, particularly if you’re new to it. When you’re in a more emotional state, you’ll already have the tools you need to deal with it.

Final Thoughts

Toxic Positivity 4

So it turns out that the fundamental element in toxic positivity isn’t optimism at all. It’s more about how a person’s attitude toward happiness influences how they react to terrible life circumstances.

It is inevitable in life to experience suffering, failure, loss, or disappointment. We all experience depressive, anxious, afraid, or lonely feelings at times. This is a proven truth. What important is how we handle these situations.

If we want to be happy all of the time, we may believe that difficult times are interfering with our objective. However, if we just prioritize positivity, we become less worried with these emotions.

Instead, we see them as a necessary component of a happy existence and a part of the entire journey.

We are more ready to stay with our unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings and recognize that doing so will make us happy in the long term, rather than continually striving to “flip a frown upside down.”

Learning to respond to these feelings rather than reacting to them is a fundamental component of our pleasure.

When we are in pain, our first instinct is to flee and relieve the misery. This might indicate that we use inadequate emotion control tactics like avoiding or suppressing negative emotions.

If we do, we will miss out on the lessons that negative events may teach us.

Being a healthy human being entails being aware of ourselves and how we present ourselves in the world. It’s time to stop being a transmitter of toxic positivity if you identify yourself in that role.

By persisting on this monochrome attitude, you’re harming yourself and the people you care about the most. Instead of all-or-nothing thinking, try for balance and acceptance of both pleasant and terrible feelings.

If toxic positivity is influencing you, we recommend that you build healthy boundaries with anybody who passes judgment on your real experience and speak your truth.

Remember that we only have one opportunity at this wonderful, difficult, flawed life. You should enjoy it fully and you’ll reap the benefits of abundant living.

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