Toxic positivity imposes positive thinking as the only solution to problems, demanding that a person avoid negative thinking or expressing negative emotions. While being optimistic in situations is usually a good thing, there is a point where positivity can be something negative. We should always strive to see the best in situations but sometimes that is not possible. In some events, it is okay to be negative and feel emotions such as anger and sadness. It is impossible to feel positive all the time.
Sometimes people do not realize they are using toxic positivity. You may think you are being a really good friend, but you may be doing more harm than good. When a friend is telling you about an event in their life, refrain from using phrases such as “it could be worse,” “look on the bright side,” or “be thankful for what you have.” This could be seen as you trying to avoid a difficult conversation. It also invalidates their emotions. While someone else might have it worse somewhere in the world, it shouldn’t diminish the validity of your friend’s situation.
Another way to avoid toxic positivity is to identify and name your emotions rather than avoid them. When you are in tune with your own emotions, it is a lot easier to relate and listen to other people, and actively help them through difficult situations. If you are unable to identify your own emotions or are uncomfortable with them, you are less likely to be able to help someone else in a time of crisis.
Encourage others to speak about their emotions. Creating a safe environment for others to share how they feel is a great way to avoid toxic positivity. When you do not give someone the opportunity to share negative emotions, many times a relationship will suffer. If you are trying to give positive advice instead of truly listening to their feelings, they will be less likely to open up to you in the future, and also feel like you are dismissing their emotions.
Everyone may have engaged in toxic positivity some time in their lives. To avoid it happening in the future, it is important to identify it when you are using it, and correct yourself when using toxically positive language or behavior.
Written by: Sydney Karlos