A sign that says Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

Everything will be fine.

It's not the end of the world.

Look on the bright side.

Have you ever been told, or told yourself, these things while trying to navigate a difficult situation?

This kind of thinking can sometimes become toxic positivity andmost people will give or receive it at some point in their lives.

What Is It? Why Is It Harmful?

Toxic positivity is the mentality that no matter how harmful or threatening a situation may be, we should stay positive throughout.

Now you may be thinking...what's so bad about being positive?

Man saying

While keeping a positive mindset is important to mental wellness, toxic positivity forces an invisible "positive veil" onto real, raw (and unfavorable) emotions. Because of this, fear, sadness, guilt, or many other human emotions are minimized, ignored, and even shamed.

Forms Of Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity can often be subtle, and take various forms.

  • You've lost a job and you're told, "Everyone is going through it right now."

  • You're mourning the loss of a friend and you're told, "Everything happens the way it should."

  • You feel lonely and you tell yourself to "start being more grateful and count your blessings instead."

  • You're depressed but social media is flooded with inspirational quotes about "positive vibes only!" which makes you feel worse for being misaligned .

Man exclaiming

The Signs

It's important to remember that these comments are often unintentionally toxic. Sometimes they're used as an avoidance mechanism to bypass addressing true feelings.

Look out for these signs:

  1. The Undermine

    "It couldn't have been THAT bad..."

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  1. The Shame

    "You have no reason to be this upset."

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  1. The Stoic

    "Crying is for weak people!"

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  1. The Guilt

    "I shouldn't let this affect me so much."

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How To Combat Toxic Positivity

By changing these behaviors in yourself and others, you can be an advocate for combating toxic positivity:

  1. Acknowledge all of your feelings: the good, the bad, the ugly.

  2. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable: be realistic about what you feel instead of worrying about how you think you should feel. Fear, stress, and other emotions are equally normal, valid, and important for growth.

  3. Offer empathy to others: show support, without generalizing their situation. Everyone copes differently.

  4. Be cautious on social media: take note of how you feel after scrolling through uplifting messages. Social media is a highlight reel , which means negative (but real) emotions are often left out of the picture. This could leave you feeling more alone by comparison.

Miley Cyrus shouting

Quiz

Your best friend is going through a breakup. You've been in that position before, so you think you know how she feels. Swap out "happiness is a choice" for a less-toxic comment:

Just stay positive!

It gets better everyday, I promise.

I'm so sorry. I'm here for you.

There are many more fish in the sea.

Take Action

When you're going through a tough time, in the place of toxic positive thoughts, consider these steps:

License:

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This Byte has been authored by

LM

Lexie Morris

Onboarding Specialist