The term ‘Toxic Positivity’ has become a common self-help discussion topic in the past decade. Toxic Positivity is a flexible concept that is not only how we behave but how it personally affects us. Common questions regarding this concept are when does positivity toxic? Have I inflicted toxic positivity on others? How common is toxic positivity? How does it affect our day-to-day lives? At Positive Podcasts, we are here to answer these questions to help people recognize and properly manage toxic positivity.
Defining Toxic Positivity
Before discussing the specifics of toxic positivity, we must make sense of it first.
Toxic Positivity is the excessive overgeneralizations of an optimistic state of mind across all situations, invalidating the authentic human emotional experience (Quintero and Long Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes). It is an act of forcing a constant state of positive emotions and not allowing negativity. This type of action has the power of affecting overall health. Toxic Positivity is an unhealthy band-aid solution to managing negativity. Constantly forcing positive vibes onto yourself or others is just another form of repression.
When is Positivity Toxic?
There are various and common examples of toxic positivity. It can be inflicted towards ourselves as well as others. Even though toxic positivity is common, it does not have to be the status quo. Allowing damaging norms only leads to an flood of damaged individuals.
How Do We Inflict Toxic Positivity on Ourselves?
The most common example of toxic positivity is simply hiding our true emotions. We hide our emotions because of the guilt we have feeling negativity. This is a result of social expectations of what we’re suppose to feel. Life is going to pitch you curve balls, and there’s only so much a positive mask can shield before breaking. Learning how to navigate through uncomfortable emotions is more beneficial than avoiding them. The nagging we continuously avoid will return as a vicious attack.
How Do We Inflict Toxic Positivity on Others?
Despite being inflicted with emotional conditions, we are equally capable of implementing conditions onto others. We do this by forcing our perspectives on people’s feelings. A common invalidating phrase is saying “it’s not that bad” when someone addresses negativity. It’s vital to break this cycle by implementing a more empathetic perspective of what someone is going through. It helps a person navigate their negativity without believing they are a problem that needs to be fixed.
Replacing Common Toxic Positivity Phrases
There are everyday phrases that invalidate less positive emotions. With some practice we can replace these with more empathetic and open phrases.
Personal Experiences with Toxic Positivity
Getting another person’s perspective on life-experiences can be a beneficial reference for dealing with personal experiences. I, Sofia J. Serrato, the author of this article, would like to share my encounters with toxic positivity.
My first conscious exposure to toxic positivity was in my high schools performing arts program. For context, I graduated high school in 2016, so toxic positivity was barely becoming a discussion topic. Our teenage years are a time of difficult developments and drama. There are many ways people cope during this period in their life. Many of my peers forcefully chose to ignore the feelings that came with their difficulties.
Understandably, these peers who expressed excessive positivity didn’t want to dwell in their personal troubles. Consequently they didn’t want to face their personal dilemmas either, and they wanted the same for their classmates. “No Negative Vibes” and “Positive Vibes Only” were two general responses I constantly overheard.
I was the quiet kid who did my work and kept to myself. People either read my body language as hard to read or ridden with negative energy. In my introverted reality, I was saving my fast draining social battery for school productions and just getting through the day. When I’m quiet it usually means I’m content with my surroundings.
Despite explaining myself, it didn’t stop classmates from attempting to shape me into their idea of a positive-exuding human. Forcing me into activities that bring them happiness, but don’t have the same effect on me. Bombarding me with discrediting advice to avoid negative emotions. I became known as someone with “No Positive Vibes” for refusing denial of negative aspects of situations.
Their toxic positivity resulted in me being a skeptic of positive focused lifestyles. Ignorantly, I believed that positive lifestyles meant eradicating all things negative. That anyone who lives in such a lifestyle is delusional. This point of view stayed with me until two years ago when I became exhausted with letting negativities dictate my agency. Through self-reflection, I have adopted manageable positive practices.
Whether it’s towards ourselves or others, strictly setting positivity as the emotional priority is an unattainable goal. Toxic positivity does not allow space for processing emotions. Forcing positive emotions causes loss of valuable progress towards acceptance. Facing negativity is an important milestone in aiding the progress of a self-healing journey.
Quintero, Samara, and Jamie Long. “Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes.” The Psychology Group Fort Lauderdale, 12 Mar. 2021, thepsychologygroup.com/toxic-positivity/.
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