What is toxic positivity? Sometimes in life things don’t go your way. Maybe you are having an off day, or everything seems to be going wrong. Often in these situations we are told to ‘just smile’ or to try and just ‘be happy’. Have you ever been upset, and someone says, ‘don’t cry’, quite clearly trying to comfort you? This is toxic positivity and although friends and family may feel they are helping they may actually be doing more harm than good. These emotions are meant to be felt and sometimes you have to acknowledge them to be able to move on from them.
Most people would never have imagined that there could possibly be a dark side to positivity. However, when someone is going through something sometimes being positive is not what they need. Instead of saying “don’t worry”, “be happy” or “don’t think about it, try “I’m listening”, “describe what you are feeling” or “is there anything I can do?”
Not everything in life is awesome so you shouldn’t have to act as though life is great all the time. Sure, you should definitely look for the good in everyday life and celebrate that, but the down moments should also be acknowledged. Toxic positivity can lead to people viewing their problems as ‘not valid’. Instead, if someone is having a down day let them feel their emotions and make sure they know you are there for them.
Defined by urban dictionary toxic positivity means enforcing the “if you just stay positive, you will overcome any obstacle” mantra to such a degree that natural emotional responses are invalidated and so is the person experiencing those feelings.” This obsession with positivity can even reach lengths where people try to put a positive spin on tragic events.
Next time someone comes to you visibly showing emotion try and alter your response. Let them know everything will be okay but also that they are allowed to feel their emotion and their problems are very much valid. Observe how their reaction changes.