One of the most commonly accepted principles of life is that we ought to have a positive attitude. Staying positive and looking at the bright side of life makes us feel happier and find more opportunities.
When we’re positive in a healthy way, it also shows in how we interact with others and in turn, can help us win the goodwill of others. We tend to do more and achieve our goals faster when we’re in a positive frame of mind.
However, there is a point at which positivity becomes toxic and that’s what we’ll look at in this post. Let’s learn what toxic positivity is and what it’s markers are. We’ll also consider alternatives that can help us deal with the challenges of life in an empowering and appropriate way.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is insisting that you or someone else maintains a relentlessly positive state of mind no matter what the situation is.
There are many situations in life where forcing yourself to be positive or trying to help others find the silver lining causes more harm than good. For example, the loss of a job, a loved one, losing one’s business and other things.
Saying or being told things like ‘You’ll get over it’ or ‘Think of how much worse someone else is doing’ or even ‘Never give up’ won’t help when we’ve just experienced a major challenge.
Let’s look at how toxic positivity can harm a person and also alternative ways to deal with challenging situations in a healthier way.
Remember that it’s okay to experience different feelings
If you’ve watched the animated movie Inside Out, then you’ll know that emotions like sadness actually play an important role in life. Spoilers ahead! In the movie, the emotion Sadness helps a young girl feel her sorrow at leaving her hometown behind. Allowing herself to feel sad helped the young girl to finally move forward and settle into her new life.
Feeling sadness, grieving, experiencing regret, and other feelings help you process your past experiences and actions. And when you’ve felt your emotions fully, you can learn from them, move past them, and carry on with new experiences.
Our thoughts and feelings ebb and flow on their own. We don’t have to compel ourselves to feel positive things. In fact, trying to feel good when you clearly don’t only make the negative feelings stay longer. Instead, accept that you will feel different emotions at different times, and you’ll find that you come back to a sense of equanimity more easily.
Support other people by validating their feelings
When other people are going through a difficult time, it may seem like getting them to see the positive side of things is helpful. But often, telling someone they can find a better job when they’re feeling bad about one they just lost can feel dismissive.
If you’re not sure what to say when someone is clearly feeling stressed out, then a good idea is to just be present for other people. You can listen to someone who’s having a tough time in silence. Or simply validate their feelings. Once a person has gone through their emotions with support, they’ll be more willing to look at the positive side of things in the future.
Take time to feel better
Another way forced positivity can become toxic is that it creates a sense of urgency and the need to get over your experiences fast.
Trying to overcome a personally challenging situation in a hurry can actually make your challenges last longer.
It’s healthy to take a break or allow time to pass before you try to feel more positive about life again. Sometimes, a burnout or period of stress can be a sign from your subconscious that you need to slow down.
Once you’ve stopped pushing yourself towards meeting your goals for some time, you’ll feel renewed energy and focus and will move even faster than if you hadn’t taken a break.
Many people believe that thinking positively all the time is the best way to live. However, forced positivity can be more harmful than good.
I’ve shared ways that forcing yourself to be positive can be unhealthy. And I’ve offered a few alternate ways to think that are healthy and allow you to grow as well. So, try to be positive in life in a very general way, but you never want to force it at the cost of suppressing your other emotions. Follow the tips here and find a balance between different emotions. You’ll find yourself coming back to a sense of equanimity far more easily.