When we’re angry, sad, frustrated, or stressed, sometimes our first instinct can be to attempt to put a smile on our face and push through it. But, while faking a smile may place a temporary band-aid on a stressful situation, it won’t help you heal from it in the long term. This is part of a phenomenon called toxic positivity.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is when any basic human emotion besides happiness is minimized to promote an “overgeneralized extreme” version of positivity - letting you avoid thinking about the feelings that are harder to deal with.
People who use toxic positivity in their lives don’t necessarily mean to be negative. The old saying “fake it till you make it” gets thrown around a lot in these situations, along with other phrases like “look on the bright side.”
Why is it bad?
Having toxic positivity present in your life is harmful in more ways than you may think. In its most basic form, toxic positivity forces you not to feel the emotions you need. Not only does it minimize a person’s feelings, but it also removes the opportunity for people to provide genuine support for one another. If you feel like your struggles are being diminished, demeaned, or reduced, the last thing you’re going to want to do is to open up to a person again. This, in turn, can destroy the potential to develop long-lasting, healing relationships.
Toxic positivity can also lead people to become isolated, especially if they feel like they are not deserving of support or help. This could also lead to shame, isolation, a lack of communication, low-self esteem, and other mental health problems.
What can you do about it?
Eliminating toxic positivity from your life starts with tackling it in your mind. Incorporating realistic self-talk is one of the most important things you can do to break out of this mindset. Instead of forcing yourself to think positively, acknowledge that the situation you are experiencing is upsetting you. Doing this reinforces that your feelings are valid rather than diminishing them.
Next, think about how you behave toward others. Are you guilty of using toxic positivity to try and make the people around you feel better? If you are, think about how you feel when you’re angry, and someone tells you to “calm down” or to “just think positively,” It makes you even more frustrated, right? When you do this to other people, they more than likely will feel the same way. Putting yourself in their shoes is a great way to see how your toxic positivity impacts others.
As you can see, toxic positivity can take a significant toll on your mental health. Seeking mental health treatment is always a good idea if you feel struggling. Kentucky Services has an entire staff of trained mental health professionals that can help you improve your mindset through counseling, therapy, and other services.