Toxic Positivity: Why You Need To Stop Telling Yourself "It's Going To Be Okay"

Alli Kelly

Toxic positivity has become something of a buzzword since the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With all the tragedy and struggle continuing to erupt around the world, we’re all just trying to cope. Unfortunately, we’re not all equipped with healthy or productive coping methods and tend to do what feels most comfortable or what we think is expected of us — alas, the boom of toxic positivity.

When everything feels like it’s blowing up and sliding down a cliff fast, many of us have the urge to overcompensate and act like everything is fine and everyone should feel fine about our impending doom. But does this really help us in times of struggle? The short answer is no.

So, what is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how terrible a situation is, you should maintain a positive outlook. It’s basically the most popular form of delusion. Don’t get me wrong, positive thinking is powerful. There’s tons of research out there on how positive thinking can bring good into your life (#manifest), but avoiding your problems altogether? Not healthy. 

How does it impact society today? 

You’ve probably seen the effects of toxic positivity in many ways — especially via social media — and not even realized that’s the underlying theme. The “Good Vibes Only” culture is a great example. Without saying it outright, this movement is putting out the message that if you’re not in a good mood and experiencing “positive” emotions you’re not welcome. Another great example is the constant need for body positivity. We love a confident babe, but let’s be honest — some days, we don’t like what we see when we look in the mirror. And that’s okay! Not every day can be sunshine and rainbows. 

Read more: What Is Self-Care, Really? (Spoiler: It's Not a Bubble Bath and Glass of Wine)

How does toxic positivity affect mental health? 

The most negative effect toxic positivity has on mental health is that it’s totally unrealistic. As formerly mentioned, life is not one continuous rainbow. It’s going to rain, snow, and sometimes a tornado will show up. That’s the shared human existence and there’s no avoiding it. 

It can create animosity among friends, colleagues, and family members. Why? Because sometimes when you feel like shit, happy people suck. When you’re down, the answer is not always advice, nor is it blind positivity. What’s healthy is to feel your feelings and give yourself compassion. 

Toxic positivity can also prevent you from growing as an individual. By not allowing yourself to feel “negative” emotions and work through them, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to grow from a challenge and learn from an experience. It can also cause guilt and shame. As if by not believing everything is fine, you’re doing something wrong. That’s simply not true. 

How to recognize and avoid toxic positivity

There are a few signs you can easily spot when trying to recognize toxic positivity in yourself or others:

  1. Ignoring your problems
  2. Hiding unpleasant or painful emotions from others
  3. Dismissing other’s unpleasant feelings, thus minimizing their experience
  4. Feeling guilty for experiencing “negative” emotions
  5. Repeating unrealistic positive affirmations about any and all situations

Read more: Adrenal Fatigue - How to Beat the Burnout and Combat Stress

When it comes to avoiding toxic positivity, here are a few ways to push through it:

  1. Recognize your feelings and work with them. It’s important to identify what you’re experiencing and then utilize healthy coping mechanisms like journaling, crying, and therapy, to deal with these emotions.
  2. Be realistic about your emotions. Experiencing a stressful situation? Then it’s 100% normal to feel stressed. Experiencing a sad situation? No one can blame you for feeling sad! 
  3. Support others as you’d want them to support you. If a friend or family member is discussing a difficult emotion with you, find compassion and support them. People want to be heard and validated for the way they feel — not shamed. Say things like 
    1. I’m sorry you’re going through this.
    2. This is a safe space for you to talk. I’m here to listen. 
    3. I’m here for you. What do you need from me?

Feel your emotions. Give yourself some love. And make sure you encourage others to do the same!

Alli Kelly

"Feminism is for everyone. We all need to take an active part in deconstructing the way the patriarchy has shaped us as women. Get educated, get out there, and make a difference for yourself and your sisters."
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