I love an inspirational positive quote as much as the next person. But I have some concerns about an insistence on 100% positivity all day, every day. Is our positivity becoming toxic?
It seems counterintuitive to suggest we shouldn’t be aiming for 100% positivity – I mean, who would advocate for negativity?
However, there’s this pesky little thing called being realistic that I just can’t shake off.
Life is not 100% positive. Sometimes things happen that even the most dedicated optimist can’t spin into a positive. If we turn every negative situation into a positive, then we are taking part in toxic positivity.
I am one of those people who puts quotes on social media every day. As I grow in my practice, I find myself feeling incredibly saddened by the pressure we feel to stay positive.
Life now is unsettled, with COVID-19, presidential elections, Brexit, its hard to stay positive. Jobs are at risk, we are heading into recession and we are beginning our second lockdown. Being told to ‘feel positive, be positive’ gives truly little to us.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic Positivity is the belief that, “if you just stay positive, you will overcome any obstacle,” to such a degree that you invalidate natural emotional responses and the person having those feelings.
Essentially, engaging in toxic positivity means that you only recognise and/or share positive emotions. You may also ignore and/or hide anything that could be perceived as negative.
For example, when someone discloses a significant event, they are told “well at least it was a good learning opportunity so you can grow”.
A dangerous response.
Sometimes things are just rubbish, and being encouraged or even pressured to rewrite the experience as a positive one can be extremely damaging; it’s invalidating and completely dismisses the pain and other negative emotions that may be present.
Suppressing these entirely natural emotions can create feelings of guilt or shame for feeling anything other than exaggerated joy!
This is just an entirely unattainable goal. No one can be positive all the time – it’s just not possible.
It is essential to express all emotions, actually make that vital
That’s not to suggest that we should accept being in a constant state of negativity or dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions.
What I am saying is it is really important to acknowledge, feel, and express these emotions in order to prevent them from manifesting.
Furthermore, it is so important to allow and facilitate others in this process. If we respond to someone’s “negativity” with toxic positivity, we are essentially telling them that they’re doing something wrong; that they shouldn’t feel that way and that we’re judging them for not “being positive” about the situation. This will only lead them to experience guilt and shame and put pressure on them to hide their real emotions, pesenting only a positive face.
Acknowledging and coping with negative emotions
Coping with negative emotions, thoughts, or experiences is difficult enough as it is, without desperately trying to pretend that you’re “looking on the bright side” 24/7.
Sometimes we just need to acknowledge that something is rubbish, and that we feel rubbish about it. Give the negative emotions their time, air them and give them space. Sit with them, observe them, and let them be. If you feel the negative emotions are becoming too much, talk to someone. Alternatly find a counsellor who can help process these emotions in a safe way. For more info click here
Life doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, but pockets of it probably will be.