Toxic Positivity And How It Can Ruin You

Positivity is the term often discussed in our day-to-day lives, but how often do we discuss ‘Toxic Positivity’? A notion so beautifully wrapped in itself that even talking about it is often avoided.

There’s no denying the power of positivity, which can provide comfort and hope when you need it most. But an extreme “don’t worry, be happy” attitude can dismiss pain, grief, and trauma and even potentially cause damage to ourselves and others. While an optimistic outlook on life is often preferred – following too much of it can have serious consequences.

What Exactly Is Toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is the idea that positive thinking should always be favored over negative emotions. It’s an active attempt to overlook or push aside any less-than-happy thoughts or feelings like anger, sadness or frustration.

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Toxic positivity imposes positive thinking as the only solution to problems, demanding that a person avoid negative thinking or expressing negative emotions.

The research around positive thinking generally focuses on the benefits of having an optimistic outlook when experiencing a problem. Toxic positivity, by contrast, demands positivity from people regardless of the challenges that they face, potentially silencing their emotions and deterring them from seeking social support.

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While toxic positivity can be thought of as an external trigger, it can also be self-inflicted. In general two types of toxic positivity have been reported.

  • Toxic positivity you can experience from someone or give to someone.
  • Toxic positivity you can inflict on yourself.

According to research, more than 75% of people said they sometimes, often, or very often ignore their emotions in favor of being happy.

How Toxic Positivity Can Effect Your Mental Health?

Accepting and acknowledging your emotions might be healthier than trying to get through it all by smiling. Why? Because denying your feelings usually comes at a huge cost.

1. It Creates Unnecessary Suffering 

Toxic Positivity means denial of certain experiences, especially – anger, sadness, jealousy, and grief. While we all want our lives to be butterflies and rainbows – it is just not practical. Pretending that these feelings don’t matter. This attitude may appear to work short-term. But over time, toxic positivity takes its toll on you. No matter how difficult your experience is, if you push it away, you usually just make it harder. Suffering is born from resisting what happens to us.

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2. It Can Undermine Your Relationships 

At first, this may seem counterintuitive. You would think that your friends and co-workers will appreciate a person who’s always smiling. You may be holding yourself back from telling them about your problems. This way, you think you display your ‘best self to them. However, such an approach can easily backfire.

3. It Can Make You Insensitive 

Researches suggest that happiness can have a dark side. It often lets us see the bigger picture rather than the small details. When we’re in a sad or neutral state, we’re more likely to pay attention to small details because we might think something is wrong or not quite right— hence our not-happy state.

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A neutral or sad state lets us pinpoint more precisely what is causing our mood, identify it, and try to get rid of it as soon as possible.

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