Toxic positivity or forced positivity is something you hear and see every day. People are saying that happiness is a choice, to focus on the positive, to think pink, etc. But this simplistic form of positive psychology can do more harm than good as has been proven by numerous studies.
What’s worse, we don’t even need studies, we are aware that people are getting more and more depressed and anxious, so it is time to end this vicious cycle.
Here’s a breakdown of what toxic positivity is and how you can remove it from your life…
How To Remove Toxic Positivity From Your Life
We are capable of so many emotions and we need all of them in order to actually recognize happiness. Part of being happy is having a fulfilled emotional life. Toxic positivity, which is all over your social media, is not just something you hear, but also part of our visual lives. It wants you to erase all the so called bad emotions and pretend that everything is okay. But then what?
Example of Toxic Positivity
If you are still unsure what toxic positivity looks like, here is an example that will answer any question you might have had…
A person suffers from anxiety disorder and panic attacks. A friend says: “Calm down, everything will be alright”. What the anxious person hears is: “Something is wrong. Why would she tell me that everything is alright, that I need to stay calm”. The difference here is that an anxious brain is wired to be on alert and telling them to calm down will do just the opposite.
Anxiety sufferers are over-thinkers, so if you want to help, you can say “I am here for you, I hear you, I see you.” It breaks mental stigma and makes a person feel empowered because they know they aren’t going crazy, and they won’t have a heart attack because there is someone with them who will help.
Toxic Positivity Culture
While there is no actual proof, it seems like the whole culture of toxic positivity became popular in big corporations. Just like ‘’Work hard, play harder” makes no sense because your productivity is limited and at some point you get a feeling your brain is about to shut down. Smiling all the time and saying positive mantras were also thought to be inspiring. There are some rules in a working environment, but forcing people to be happy is not acceptable and it is not productive.
To put it simple: If you can’t cry at work because it makes others feel uncomfortable, then no one should be smiling all the time because it is not natural.
This “disease” continues to live on social media. You see an inspiring photo and some great quote about having a happy life and you may feel guilty or even angry because you are having a bad day and you’re not in a joyful mood. Then your anger and guilt will grow because you felt them in the first place. This will be followed by other negative emotions, which doesn’t make you a negative person. The world is not black and white and we are not made to either feel happy or sad.
Toxic Positivity is Profitable
How many self-help books do you have? How many of them have really helped you? Some are great and you can learn a lot about yourself. But when you see the ones promoting happiness as a choice, avoid them. Same goes for Instagram and Facebook pages. We all want big dreams, but with our feet on the ground. People online and offline are getting paid to write these books/posts and some may not even understand their mistakes, but they don’t need your support.
Moderation is the Answer
What can an average person do? Remember this: Anger may improve your argument, as long as you don’t identify as one emotion. You should not say “I am angry,” because that is not your name, it is just a feeling you created in response to something. Allow yourself to feel anger, fear, envy, as well as happiness, bliss, joy, boredom, but remember that you are more than one emotion and that you can be happy and scared at the same time. It is called living.
Getting Rid Of Toxic Positivity
For some, thinking happy thoughts all the time can work. Most of the time they are living in denial. If you are aware of what happiness is and you allow yourself to feel and express emotions, don’t try to convince people that they have flaws in their thinking.
Simply, do not take it personally. You will hear that you are negative, that you are whiny, but it all ends there. Instead of arguing, you can choose to mediate on it or focus on the now, do a small mindfulness exercise.
Lessons from Toxic Positivity
We can make a conscious decision not to accept this form of positivity, by focusing on what we are grateful for.
The more we learn, the more we understand human behavior. So the next time you see someone’s post or false positive statement, maybe that person needed to hear that. Maybe that is their way of dealing with a negative emotion.
It’s okay not to be okay. It is okay to get sad. Sometimes we can blame it on the weather or hormones, other times it can be something more serious. We should recognize why we feel the way we do, not force ourselves into feeling happiness. We are not actors, we are real people and this is real life. That is an example of positive and rational thinking and that is what should you do every time you want to discover why you feel the way you do.