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Let’s talk toxic positivity

Toxic positivity is centred around the belief that even if you are going through a difficult time, you should remain positive and upbeat.

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It is often when people tell you to only approach any situation with positivity. Where it is all about the thoughts we think and there are tremendous benefits to being optimistic and thinking positively it is equally beneficial to not push away those hard emotions because we want to keep up appearances and wear a brave mask or façade. 

We know for our mental health to improve it starts with our own internal dialogue and in the first instance it is to continue to believe that if you are feeling low that things will pass but it is also to recognise that we may not always be in a positive mood and that is okay. It is to recognise that you do not need to hide the difficult emotions but sit with them, recognise they exist and are a key message telling you to feel them and deal with them. We all face painful situations differently and we need to reserve judgement of ourselves for feeling upset and not feeling positive 100% of the time.  

It is important to recognise if you are being Toxic positive within yourself. For example, when you do not get the promotion or if someone has been bullying you in class and you tell yourself to not feel upset or sensitive and instead take the higher road. It is vital to allow your emotions of anger, disappointment or sadness. Toxic positivity takes being positive to an extreme, it dismisses these emotions and often makes a person feel guilty for feeling anything but positive. Toxic positivity is an extreme form where it denies or discourages any negative emotions to be felt.  

Examples of Toxic Positivity  

We are all guilty of some form of toxic positivity.  

Ever heard yourself say to someone that has lost their job: 

“It all happens for a reason!” it is well intentioned, and we often may feel we don’t know what else to say.  

Other examples are “look on the bright side” or “be positive” 

All ways that people feel they are comforting and sympathetic, but they may be harmful as they may be dismissive of what someone’s pain really is.  

It is important to us and others that there is no shame, guilt or unacceptance if we are feeling down. It is uncomfortable but this is where it is an opportunity for growth and to allow us to process emotions rather than avoid the uncomfortable.  

So how can you identify toxic positivity in yourself or others: 

  • Brushing off problems rather than facing them 

  • Feeling guilty about being sad, angry, or disappointed 

  • Hiding your true feelings behind feel-good quotes that seem more socially acceptable 

  • Hiding or disguising how you really feel 

  • Minimizing other people's feelings because they make you uncomfortable 

  • Shaming other people when they don't have a positive attitude 

  • Trying to be stoic or "get over" painful emotions 

How to Avoid Toxic Positivity 

To develop healthier and supportive ways to help others or yourself if you recognise toxic positivity some ideas are: 

  • If you feel negative emotions, recognise them and do not attempt to supress them. They can cause a lot of anxiety and stress, but they are key signs for you that you need to process them.  

  • Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself. It is normal to feel worried in a difficult situation so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Take those baby steps to improve your situation.  

  •  Emotions are complex so it is that you may feel hopeful and sad. Do not judge yourself if there are mixed feelings 

  • Listening is key and showing support be that in giving or receiving. 

  • Being mindful that it is a two-way process, and it is okay to state how you are feeling in a respectful manner. 

  •  Check in with yourself, constantly ask yourself how you are feeling and recognise the patterns 

  • Social media can a great source of inspiration but also be the cause of you feeling the need to suppress your feelings so note how you feel and take that time out from social media.    

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