What is Toxic Positivity?
Updated: Jul 1
What is Toxic Positivity? It’s a belief that people should look on the bright side of things, even if those experiences are difficult or profoundly tragic. It’s an obsession with maintaining a positive mindset.
There are many forms of toxic positivity, you might have even heard them personally. Have you heard of these words?
“Stay positive” or “Think positive.”
“No bad days.”
“Look on the bright side.”
“Everything happens for a reason”
“Everything will work out.”
“Happiness is a choice.”
Although these statements are well-intentioned, it is still important to recognize that these responses can be harmful. Many people see it as a good way of coping with your problems, but it could actually be the opposite. Toxic positivity can deny people the needed and authentic support they need to cope with what they are facing.
Why is it harmful?
Forcing positive attitudes towards pain encourages a person to be silent about their struggles. This can be harmful to people who are going through difficult times because rather than being able to share genuine human emotions and gain unconditional support, people find their feelings dismissed, ignored, or outright invalidated.
Although it is possible to be optimistic in the face of difficult situations, people going through trauma don’t need to be told to stay positive or feel that they are being judged for not maintaining a sunny outlook. We want to normalize human experiences and difficult emotions.
What are the signs?
Learning to recognize the signs can help you identify this type of behavior as toxic positivity can often be subtle. Some signs include:
Hiding your feelings
Feeling guilty for what you truly feel
Minimizing other’s emotions
Giving your own perspective instead of supporting and validating
Brushing things that bother you
Minimizing other people's feelings because they make you uncomfortable
Shaming other people when they don't have a positive attitude
Trying to be stoic or "get over" painful emotions
How to Avoid Toxic Positivity?
If you’ve been affected by toxic positivity – or if you recognize this kind of behavior in yourself – there are things you can do to develop a healthier and more supportive approach.
You should give yourself permission to feel your feelings instead of trying to avoid difficult emotions. These feelings are real, valid, and important. And because you’ve given yourself a chance to acknowledge you’re own feelings, you are taking your first steps towards unlearning toxic positivity.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should act on every emotion that you feel. But it is important to sit with your feelings and give yourself the time and space to process the situation before taking action.
When you’re on the receiving side of a toxic statement, as it can happen sometimes – not intentionally, realize that some people aren’t comfortable with heavy topics. And it is okay to ask them for what you need and let them know that you want them to listen and be there for you no matter what.
What is the difference between positiveness and toxic positivity? Toxic positivity is about glorifying something good, everything is okay, but denying weakness about us as humans is not okay. While healthy positivity is not feeling guilty for the way you’re feeling, but accepting and embracing those emotions – like when you’re sad, stressed, or upset – because it’s a part of who you are.
You just need to embrace it as it’s because of you. Because you’re acknowledging your feelings as yours, not anyone else! Ourselves, our bodies need our attention, we realize that failure is a part of growth and success, so positiveness is accepting it, embracing it, and moving up.