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Conversation Starter: What is Toxic Positivity?

September 22, 2021
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If you haven’t heard the term before, toxic positivity is the idea that no matter how bad a situation is or seems, a person must maintain a happy or positive attitude. While this might just sound like optimism, this encourages people to hide their emotions and fake happiness for other people. 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about trying to maintain a positive outlook, but when you ignore negative feelings, you’re telling yourself that you are wrong for feeling a certain way. 

Any feeling or emotion you have is a valid feeling, and you should give yourself the opportunity to feel the entirety of the emotion. The fastest way to have feelings be processed quickly is by NOT resisting how you are feeling.  

Toxic positivity can come in many forms.   

Here are a few examples of toxic positivity:

  • Telling Someone to “Just keep your head up!” – While this is meant to be encouraging, it can often make people feel worse about themselves. The best thing you can do for someone is LISTEN without distraction.
  • Ignoring Problems – This one is a little trickier to spot, but if you find yourself ignoring a lot of your problems in life, it may be due to internalized toxic positivity. Even if problems are difficult, they won’t go away until they’re dealt with, and ignoring them only makes them linger. 
  • Dismissing Someone Else’s Feelings – If someone comes to you when they are struggling, and you tell them something like: “happiness is a choice!” you are completely dismissing the fact that they are hurting right now. The best approach is to LISTEN without giving advice unless they ask for your advice or opinion.

Have you encountered toxic positivity before? How have you dealt with it?

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