What Is Toxic Positivity?

Positivity is a desirable attribute that can lead to an overall happier and healthier life. However, there is such a thing as toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is the idea of focusing exclusively on positive emotions and avoiding negative emotions altogether. In other words, toxic positivity is the belief that one should always remain optimistic and enthusiastic about life, regardless of the situation. This can actually cause harm to an individual, rather than help them.

The Dangers of Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity can be dangerous because it can cause masking emotions, which means individuals do not address and resolve their negative emotions. When negative emotions are suppressed or ignored, it can lead to serious problems such as anxiety, depression, and even physical illnesses.

For instance, toxic positivity might cause an individual to ignore their feelings of anxiety in a high-pressure situation. Rather than acknowledging and addressing the anxiety, the individual may try to ignore or minimize it to maintain a positive outlook, consequently leading to a decline in mental health gradually.

Toxic positivity also causes negativity to be shunned, which is also a dangerous behaviour. It restricts the scope for open communication, especially when someone is struggling. Being positive all the time can sometimes cause others to think that their negative emotions are not valid, making them feel isolated and misunderstood.

Signs of Toxic Positivity

There are many signs of toxic positivity, which include:

  • Forcing positivity onto someone who is hurting
  • Minimizing someone’s problems
  • Denying someone’s pain or emotional distress
  • Invalidating someone’s feelings with phrases like “don’t worry, be happy” or “just think positively”
  • Belittling someone’s sorrow or distress

While positive encouragement is generally well-meaning, it is vital to be mindful of the language used, ensuring that it does not downplay or dismiss the other person’s emotions. It’s also essential to learn how to embrace negativity and difficult emotions, both in ourselves and others, and approach it in healthy ways, such as through empathy and validation.

Recognizing and Addressing Toxic Positivity

Recognizing toxic positivity can be challenging, particularly if one exhibits it frequently. A helpful way to identify toxic positivity is to pay attention to one’s language and judgments. Specifically, pay attention to whether one is invalidating someone else’s experiences or feelings.

To address toxic positivity, recognize that it’s okay to feel sad or negative emotions. While it’s important to stay positive, it’s also crucial to validate these negative emotions and not suppress them. Instead, attempt to approach such emotions with empathy and a willingness to address the situation that provoked them.

Conclusion

Positivity indeed plays a significant role in our lives. Still, it’s also important to recognize that some forms of positivity may be toxic, particularly when it comes to ignoring or suppressing negative emotions. Be mindful of your own emotions and language, focusing on approaching negativity in a healthy way. Above all, avoid invalidating other’s feelings or experiences, and strive to offer validation and support to overcome difficult situations.

FAQs

FAQs about “What Is Toxic Positivity”

1. What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity refers to the excessive positivity and relentless optimism that is deemed to be harmful to others. It often suggests that people should ignore negative emotions or situations, which can, in turn, lead to a lack of acknowledgement and invalidation of one’s emotions.

2. How can I recognise toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity can be recognised by statements or actions that dismiss, deny, or invalidate negative emotions or situations. Examples may include phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or “just think positive.” It is important to remember that it is natural to experience negative emotions and that it is okay to acknowledge these feelings.

3. What are the effects of toxic positivity?

The effects of toxic positivity can be harmful to an individual’s mental health as it discourages people from fully processing and addressing their emotions. Moreover, it can lead to the suppression of negative feelings, which can eventually manifest as physical or emotional health issues. It is important to remember that expressing and acknowledging negative emotions is a natural and necessary part of the human experience.


References

1. Cuncic, A. (2021). Toxic positivity: What it is, why it’s harmful, and how to address it. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-toxic-positivity-5093958

2. Seedat, S. (2021). The harm in toxic positivity during difficult times. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-about-trauma/202105/the-harm-in-toxic-positivity-during-difficult-times

3. Veenhoven, R. (2020). Positive Emotions. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1814-1