Toxic positivity minimizes the full range of human emotions and, while well intended, generally doesn't feel good to the person receiving it.
Toxic positivity is the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. It doesn't feel good to be on the receiving end of it, and it generally isn't helpful.
Pain and suffering are uncomfortable not only to experience but also to talk about. However, it is important for your mental and physical health to express and talk about those experiences. Often times, people just want to help and will say things like "it could be worse" or "look on the bright side".
Positivity becomes toxic when someone is forced to be or seem to be positive in situations that it would be unnatural for them to be positive in, or when a problem exists that needs to be acknowledged before it can be dealt with. For instance, the diagnosis of disease or in preparation for scans and lab work.
“Someone who is experiencing overwhelming feelings of sadness can’t flip a switch or jolly their own way out of it. Toxic positivity refuses to acknowledge their challenges. If we ask others to be inauthentic, that doesn’t build resiliency and relationships.”
Toxic positivity results in:
In other words, it's an attempt to silence your pain and your authentic lived experience. Though these comments are generally well-meaning, and your friend or family member is trying to be helpful, not hurtful, it puts you in the difficult position of feeling silenced.
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. It is not helpful or productive. Shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, harmful behavior than the solution or the cure.
Shame can make us pretend everything is great all the time, instead of being brave and honest.
Toxic positivity can cause us to suppress our emotions, which in turn can:
Studies have shown that people experience less of the physiological signs of stress in the body when they are allowed to outwardly express their emotions through words, facial expressions, and tears .
Isolation is detrimental to health and wellbeing. It increases the risk of:
Do you think you are experiencing toxic positivity? Are you unsure? Here are some cues that might help.
Are you trying to offer support and help to someone who is struggling? Remind yourself that you don't need to make them feel better all the time, maybe you can help by just listening and validating their emotions. Here are a few common sayings that contribute to toxic positivity: