Happy Monday, and Yes this is a very happy Monday! We shall all have an incredibly productive day, followed by a nice, well deserved rest. Just as long as we make sure that we stay healthy, you know by eating the right greens and going for a nice long afternoon jog, then everything else will fall in place. See, we have a choice. Oh? You’re saying things are difficult at the moment? Oh don’t worry! It could be far worse, and you are all such amazing people. Let’s just brush it off, and look on the bright side!
Heard enough? Well I imagine that it is not the first time you have heard/read words similar to these. Maybe you have been told these things by other people, and you feel that it is the right thing to do as they do seem wiser and smarter than you. And apparently happier. However perhaps you even hear these words occurring in your own mind.
But let’s be real… Have any off you actually thrived off having this kind of mindset? Or is it just a load of “toxic” blabber?
Right, so there are a good number of sources I would say on the internet, probably in books, and off other people, which tell us how we need to think in order to simply feel better and basically thrive in life. Such as “Positive vibes only”, “don’t worry, be happy” or “Failure is not an option.” Now what do you think? Sound’s great doesn’t it? But if things were really that simple, everyone could be a lot happier.
Of course this can manifest in relationships between people, because as an example people who let themselves be dominated by toxic positivity are then perceived to be the sort of person whom others feel they cannot express anything but “good vibes” around them. Meaning others are less likely to feel as if they can “be themselves” when they are around them. Subsequently this is going to weaken the relationship, because neither person is being truly open. But what does this look like on a larger scale? Well generally it means people are reluctant to be as open about more negative aspects in their lives, and more negative feelings they may be experiencing. Furthermore this is definitely true on social media, as after spending about a minute on it, it becomes obvious that most people are only really posting about the most positive parts of their lives, and are hiding everything else.
Rather than toxic positivity enabling us to go on and feel better about ourselves, this is unlikely to work as instead it only causes us to sideline our problems. This means that we don’t confront our issues, meaning they are only intensified as time progresses. Therefore, sometimes “looking on the bright side” isn’t only ineffective, but it can be very unhealthy.
What we are missing out on
To start with, toxic positivity is preventing us from really growing as people, because in reality we are not really addressing our problems in order to overcome them. Plus there has also been research to show that accepting negative emotions, rather than avoiding them, is beneficial for psychological health and well-being. This is referred to as “emotional acceptance.”
Am I Taking this a bit too far?
Although I am opposed to toxic positivity, I do strongly believe in the importance of remaining positive, especially while we are in the middle of a pandemic. But there’s an enormous difference between trying to incorporate positive activities and hopefully thoughts into our daily lives, and trying to brush off, ignore or refuse to talk about any kind of negative feeling we may be experiencing.
What to say instead
So I admit that I have engaged in toxic positivity in the past. Not intentionally, but often there is the feeling of the need to provide some optimistic and seemingly helpful advise to someone. However often what is most important is knowing that someone cares. Therefore rather than saying something along the lines of “just don’t worry”, acknowledge that it is ok for them to feel anxious and let them know that you are there for them. Meanwhile, this may be slightly controversial, but I would say that sometimes acknowledging that it is a difficult situation they are going through, can be very important.
Whilst if you feel that toxic positivity is being put up upon you, then don’t be afraid to speak up, because often people genuinely do not realise that what they are trying to say isn’t helpful, so otherwise they would listen.