Toxic Positivity: When Looking on the Bright Side turns Dark

January 19, 2023

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Toxic positivity can shut down negative feelings, make grief seem less important, and make people feel like they have to act happy even when they are having a hard time.

Some people may do it to themselves. For example, someone might always try to look happy by making everything look good. But it can also come from the outside, like when people tell someone grieving to get over it or find something good in their loss.

How to avoid toxic positivity?

If you notice that you have toxically positive traits, there are things you can do to change them into healthier, more helpful ones. Here are some ideas:

1. Be honest with your feelings

Allow yourself to experience and express negative emotions, and don’t be afraid to share them. Being honest about how you feel also helps you avoid feeling like you must fit in with society and always be happy. It means that all emotions, even the bad ones, can be accepted and that it’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions.

2. Listen to others

When someone is expressing negative emotions, listen to them without judgment and validate their feelings.Listening to others can help people see things from different points of view and learn more about the world. It helps people learn about and understand more about other people and cultures, which can make them more open-minded and culturally sensitive.

3. Avoid using cliches

Instead of saying “just be happy” or “look on the bright side,” try to offer empathy and support. Also, avoiding clichés can help people be more specific in their communication and get their point across more clearly. Some people think that clichés are boring or overused, making it hard for others to understand what a person really means. 

4. Practice self-compassion

Be kind and understanding towards yourself when you’re going through a difficult time. Self-compassion can help someone avoid toxic positivity by teaching them to be kind and understanding to themselves when they are struggling instead of forcing themselves always to think positively or hide their negative feelings.

Read more about: 6 Ways You Can Become Your Own Bestfriend (Self-Compassion)

5. Don’t compare yourself to others

Everyone has their journey and way of coping with emotions. When we compare ourselves to others, we may feel like we’re not good enough or that we don’t measure up, which can make us feel bad. Focusing on our journey can make us more accepting of our flaws and failures and more motivated to improve.

6. Seek out balanced perspectives

Surround yourself with people with balanced views of emotions and life. By looking for different points of view, we can get a complete picture of a situation or issue. This can help us make better decisions and understand our feelings and experiences more accurately.

7. Don’t avoid problems or issues

Acknowledge and address problems and issues healthily instead of pretending everything is always okay. When we avoid problems or issues, we don’t deal with what’s making us feel bad in the first place. This can cause these feelings to be pushed down and come back later in a stronger form. When we deal with problems and issues head-on, we can process and work through our feelings, which can help us learn and grow.

8. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions

Embrace the full range of emotions, it is natural to feel sad, angry, or frustrated at times. When we ignore or try to get rid of negative emotions, we can lose touch with our feelings and find it hard to figure out why we feel the way we do. By letting ourselves feel bad emotions, we can learn more about our thoughts and feelings and take steps to fix what’s making us feel bad in the first place.

9. Be mindful of your words

When we use toxic positivity, we might say things that make our own or other people’s feelings, and experiences seem less important or real. By paying attention to what we say, we can choose more helpful words, validating and empowering. Instead of saying things like “just think positive” or “don’t worry, be happy,” which can make someone feel like their feelings don’t matter, you could say things like “I understand how you feel” or “It’s okay to feel this way.”

Read more about: 8 ways to Exercise Mindfulness When Venting to a friend

How to create a balanced happy life?

1. Acknowledge your emotions: 

It’s normal to have a range of emotions, and it’s important to acknowledge and accept them all rather than trying to suppress or ignore negative emotions. Recognizing and accepting your feelings can help people develop emotional intelligence and be more aware of their needs and feelings. It also allows people to develop emotional resilience, which is the ability to overcome hard times.

2. Practice self-care: 

This can include exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and finding ways to relax and de-stress. When people take care of themselves, they can deal with stress, bad feelings, and hard situations in a healthier way. Taking care of yourself can boost your mood, lower your stress and anxiety, and make it easier to deal with hard feelings.

Read more about: 6 Self-Care tips for Your Mental Health and Well-Being

3. Communicate openly and honestly: 

Share your feelings and thoughts with others, and be open to hearing theirs. When people talk to each other openly and honestly, they are more likely to feel heard and understood. This can help prevent the bad effects of toxic positivity, such as invalidation, stigmatization, and emotional manipulation. Open and honest communication can help people better understand and accept themselves, leading to self-compassion and self-acceptance.

4. Establish healthy boundaries: 

Learn to say “no” to things that don’t serve you, and don’t be afraid to distance yourself from toxic people or situations. People can take better care of themselves and put their needs and well-being first when they set healthy boundaries. By setting limits on what is and isn’t okay, people can better protect their emotional and physical health, which can help improve their overall quality of life.

Read more about: 5 Reasons to Start Saying No & Stop Feeling Guilty

5. Practice gratitude: 

Make a conscious effort to focus on what you are thankful for. People are more likely to notice and enjoy the good things in their lives when they practice gratitude. Practicing gratitude can make connections and relationships stronger and more meaningful because it makes people more empathetic, understanding, and appreciative of others.

6. Find healthy cope strategies: 

Doing things that help you calm down, like yoga, meditation, or mindfulness. Finding healthy ways to deal with stress can lead to a happy life without toxic positivity because it helps people manage stress.

Read more about: Effective Stress Coping Strategies to Manage Emotions

7. Surround yourself with supportive people: 

Spend time with people who lift you and make you feel good about yourself. Having positive and helpful people around you can help you make deeper connections and have more meaningful relationships. These people can give people a sense of responsibility and help them set healthy boundaries and get away from people or situations that are bad for them.

8. Make time for things you enjoy: 

Find hobbies and activities that bring you joy and make time for them regularly. Taking time to do what you enjoy can help you feel better and boost your self-confidence. People can feel more in charge of their lives and happier with what they have if they do things that make them happy and bring them joy.

9. Learn to let go:

Practice forgiveness and let go of things you cannot change. Letting go can also mean accepting the things you can’t change and focusing on what you can. It means letting go of trying to be perfect, having high expectations, and being hard on yourself and others. In this way, it can help to lessen stress, anxiety, and other bad feelings.

Read more about: The Power of Letting Go of Control: The Wu-Wei Principle

10. Be realistic: 

Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and others, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself to always be happy. Being realistic can also mean knowing what you can and can’t do, setting goals you can reach, and not comparing yourself to others. It means to be kind and caring to oneself and other people.

What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is when people have too many positive attitudes and don’t do anything with them. It’s the idea that people should only pay attention to their good emotions and ignore their bad ones.

This can make people with bad emotions seem less important and make them feel bad about themselves. This can be bad because it stops people from dealing with and healthily processing their feelings.

When someone is upset or going through a hard time, saying things like “just be happy,” “don’t worry, be happy,” or “look on the bright side” can be examples of toxic positivity. Some other examples are:

  • Telling someone they “shouldn’t” feel a certain way is a way to dismiss or invalidate their feelings. When someone feels bad, saying things like “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “it’s not that bad” can make them feel like their feelings don’t matter or aren’t being understood.
  • When someone is having a hard time with an emotion or situation, telling them to “snap out of it” or “just get over it” is not helpful. Forcing someone to stop being sad can signal that only happy feelings are okay and that showing sadness is not okay. This can make people feel ashamed or guilty about having bad feelings, which can stop them from dealing with and healthily processing their feelings. It can also cause people to hold back their feelings, which can be bad in the long run.
  • Trying to make someone feel better by giving them motivational quotes or platitudes instead of listening to them or validating their feelings. Emotional manipulation is when you try to make someone feel better without considering their needs, feelings, or situation. It can change the balance of power and make it hard for people to trust each other and get close.
  • Putting on a happy face even when things aren’t going well and hiding your problems with a smile. Putting on a happy face can make people think they should feel and act in ways that aren’t true, and it can put pressure on the person to hide or ignore their negative feelings. It is used to avoid or hide negative emotions, which sets up unrealistic expectations and makes it hard for people to deal with their feelings.
  • Trying to avoid dealing with problems or issues by being positive. People can grow apart when they try to avoid problems. It’s important to recognize problems and deal with them healthily instead of acting like everything is always fine. It’s also important to get help when you need it.
  • Expecting people to be happy and positive all the time.

It’s important to remember that having different feelings is normal and healthy and that it’s okay not always to be happy. A big part of mental and emotional health is recognizing and dealing with negative feelings.

Toxic positivity vs. optimism.

Even though they may seem the same, toxic positivity and optimism are different.

Optimism is a positive view of life-based on hope and the belief that things will work out well. Being optimistic about the world can be a healthy way to look at it and can help people deal with hard things.

On the other hand, toxic positivity is when people have too many positive attitudes and don’t use them well. It is the idea that you should only pay attention to your good emotions and ignore your bad ones. This can make people who feel bad emotions seem less important and feel bad about themselves. It can be bad because it makes it hard for people to deal with and healthily process their feelings.

A positive outlook on things is healthy because it gives people hope and the belief that things will improve. It also lets you accept how things are and look for ways to make them better.

On the other hand, toxic positivity can be harmful because it can make people feel like their bad feelings aren’t real, set unrealistic expectations for how people should feel and act, and stop people from talking about their bad feelings and healthily dealing with them.

In short, optimism is a way of looking at life that is hopeful and helps people find ways to make things better. Toxic positivity puts too much of emphasis on being positive, which is not healthy. It can be harmful because it invalidates and ignores negative feelings, makes people have unrealistic expectations, and keeps them from dealing with their problems healthily.

How can toxic positivity be dangerous?

When only exposed to good things, they might not learn how to deal with bad things. 

This can make it hard for them to deal with stress and problems in life. 

It can also keep someone from dealing with problems that need to be solved and cause them to repress their feelings, which can be harmful and show up in different ways.

Toxic positivity can be harmful because it can make people feel like their bad feelings aren’t real, set unrealistic expectations for how people should feel and act, and stop people from addressing and dealing with them healthily.

In conclusion

Toxic positivity is often not obvious, and most of us have thought this way at some point.

Forcing someone only to show positive emotions can make it hard for them to talk and feel bad about themselves because they have negative thoughts.

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