Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Always Looking on the Bright Side
A useful and crucial element of mental health and well-being is positivity. A positive outlook can aid in stress management, resilience building, and the pursuit of happiness and purpose in life. But, positivity can turn toxic and dangerous if overused. The notion that one should always have a cheerful outlook and avoid or repress negative feelings is toxic positivity. Although it may appear to be beneficial, it could actually be detrimental. We will talk about toxic optimism, why it is bad, and how to develop a more wholesome approach to positivity.
What Is Toxic Positivity?
The theory of toxic positivity holds that no matter how difficult a circumstance may be, positivity is always the best course of action. It is the idea that we should always “look on the bright side,” “stay positive,” and “be happy.” Toxic positivity downplays or ignores unpleasant emotions and experiences.
Toxic positivity can take many forms. It can be the well-meaning friend who tells you to “think positive” when you are going through a tough time. For example, when your colleague says to “cheer up” when you are feeling down. It can even be the self-help guru that informs you that you can “manifest” your dreams if you think enough.
Why Is Toxic Positivity A Problem?
While positivity can be beneficial, toxic positivity can be harmful. Here are some reasons why:
- It dismisses and invalidates negative emotions. When we are going through a difficult time, it is natural to feel a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and anxiety. These emotions are important and valid. They need acknowledgment and attention. Toxic positivity dismisses these emotions, telling us we should not feel them and should “be happy.” Hearing this can make us feel like our feelings are not valid or that we are not allowed to be aware of them. Thoughts of shame and guilt may become evident after such an experience.
- It promotes a culture of suppression. When told to be positive, we may feel like we are not allowed to express negative emotions. This might lead to a culture of suppression, where we hide our true feelings and put on a happy face. Exhaustion can lead to feelings of burnout and emotional fatigue.
- It can make us feel like failures. When told to “stay positive,” we may feel like we are failing if we are not always happy. Feelings of shame and self-doubt, which can be a catalyst for our mental health, may begin to grow.
- It ignores the reality of difficult situations. When we are going through a difficult time, it is crucial to acknowledge the actuality of the circumstances and take steps to address them. Acting as if everything is fine while ignoring the truth could be harmful and prevent us from taking the required steps to remedy the problem.
How To Cultivate A Healthier Approach To Positivity
So, how can we cultivate a healthier approach to positivity? Here are some tips:
- Acknowledge and confirm negative emotions. During difficult times, it is vital to acknowledge and confirm your feelings. It is okay to feel sad, angry, or anxious. These emotions are important, valid and should be acknowledged and addressed.
- Practice self-compassion. When you are going through a difficult time, it is valuable to practice self-compassion. You can do this by treating yourself with affection, discernment, and recognizing your resilience.
- Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is being present and engaged in the current moment. It can help us cultivate a more balanced and realistic perspective on our emotions and experiences. Because mindfulness allows us to view our thoughts and feelings, it helps us better understand and manage them.
- Connect with others. It is crucial to connect and seek support when going through hard times. By speaking with a friend, a loved one, or a mental health professional, we can process our emotions and develop good coping mechanisms.
- Embrace the power of positive thinking, but not at the expense of reality. Never use this to deny unpleasant feelings or experiences, despite the fact that it can be a helpful technique for success and mental health. Instead, balance positive thinking with a realistic and grounded perspective on the situation.
- Challenge toxic positivity in yourself and others. If you notice yourself or others engaging in toxic positivity, challenge it. Encourage others to develop a realistic, well-balanced perspective while acknowledging opposing viewpoints.
- Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the practice of being thankful for the positive things in our lives, even when things are difficult. It can help us cultivate a more positive outlook and promote mental well-being. It is important to remember that gratitude should not be utilized to ignore or dismiss negative emotions and experiences.
The Role That Social Media Plays In Spreading Toxic Positivity
You probably have a noticeable number of followers or friends on social media who regularly share inspiring posts. They are the ones who often share inspirational pictures and quotes on social media along with supportive hashtags. Being overwhelmed with positive photos could make you feel guilty and ashamed for simply having negative thoughts, and hashtags might encourage an increase of pointless content in your news feeds. You might experience guilt and shame over your negative thoughts as a result of these factors.
So, what factors contribute to this?
- Post manipulation. One factor has been the constant need to manipulate the events of our lives on social media in order to make them seem as appealing and remarkable as possible.
- Seeking validation. Another component in this situation has been the requirement that our social media content go viral in order for it to be considered successful. The overabundance of inspirational quotes, pictures, and updates on social platforms is the cause.
- Need for involvement. The third element in this case is the obligation to publicly display engagement online. In addition to “liking” a post, you feel the need to show support by leaving a comment. When doing this, you will contemplate on how to make your words sound as encouraging as possible.
Someone may find a piece of content to be valuable because they relate to it or because they agree with it. This does not imply that they have found the comfort they were seeking. While encouragement is essential, it is neither sustainable or long-lasting to always have a positive outlook. If you want to safeguard your mental health and well-being, you must have a healthy and realistic approach to positive thinking. Toxic enthusiasm is the belief that one should be optimistic while dismissing adverse feelings and events. By acknowledging negative emotions, we can develop a more balanced and healthier outlook on optimism.
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