“You can do it” — maybe you’ve heard this overrated phrase a million times already. And perhaps you let out a little sigh whenever you see this kind of can-do attitude on display, which, to you, might be a sign of toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity is often used in response to crisis or trauma, in an attempt to downplay or ignore the seriousness of a situation. It can be used as a form of gaslighting, to make someone feel like their negative emotions are invalid.
It can also be used to dismiss legitimate concerns, or make people feel like they should just “suck it up” and deal with their problems on their own.
If you’re wondering whether your can-do attitude might actually be toxic positivity in disguise, read on for some signs to look out for.
Toxic Positivity vs. Genuine Optimism
While both toxic positivity and genuine optimism share a similar outlook of looking at the bright side of things, their approaches are fundamentally different.
Genuine optimism acknowledges that life can be tough and there will be challenges along the way, but still chooses to have a positive attitude towards them.
People who are genuinely optimistic understand that negative emotions are a natural part of life and don’t try to push them away or deny their existence.
On the other hand, toxic positivity, or toxic optimism, ignores or invalidates negative experience, making it seem like they should not exist at all.
It’s the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” mentality taken to an extreme. It creates pressure to always be positive and happy, even in situations where it may not be appropriate.
Those who practice toxic positivity may be dismissive of others’ feelings, and may even feel uncomfortable when someone expresses emotions that are not considered “positive.”
A good example to demonstrate the difference between toxic positivity and genuine optimism would be during a difficult time, like losing a job.
A genuinely optimistic person may acknowledge the negative emotions that come with the loss of a job, like disappointment, fear, and frustration.
But still, they will choose to focus on the potential opportunities and growth that can come from this experience — the silver lining, so to speak — such as finding a new job that aligns better with their goals and values.
Meanwhile, someone who practices toxic positivity may brush off these negative feelings and tell you to just “stay positive, something better will come along” without acknowledging the pain and stress of losing a job.
Toxic Positivity vs. Positive Thinking
Another aspect of positivity we’d love to mention here in this blog post is the difference between toxic positivity and positive thinking.
Positive thinking involves actively seeking out solutions to problems, and striving for personal growth and self-improvement.
It’s not about ignoring negative emotions or pretending like they don’t exist; rather, it’s about being aware of them and choosing a more productive mindset.
However, toxic positivity can be harmful when it is used to suppress negative emotions and avoid addressing real issues.
It can create a false sense of optimism that does not address the underlying problems, leading to even more frustration and disappointment.
For example, imagine you’re lost in a new city and can’t find your way back to your hotel. You don’t know the language, and you’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
A genuinely positive mindset would be to acknowledge your emotions, but also actively seek out a solution, such as asking for directions or using a map.
Toxic positivity, on the other hand, could look like telling yourself to just “think happy thoughts” or “everything will work out eventually,” without taking any practical steps to address the situation.
In many ways, positive thinking and genuine positivity are about being realistic and proactive, while toxic positivity is often rooted in avoidance and denial.
Nevertheless, what differentiate genuine positivity from positive thinking is that genuine positivity also acknowledges and validates negative or unwanted emotions as a natural part of the human experience, while positive thinking focuses more on actively seeking solutions and bettering oneself.
Healthy Positivity vs. Toxic Positivity
Another concept that we would love to mention here is healthy positivity. As you can probably guess, healthy positivity is all about finding balance and practicing genuine optimism and positive thinking in moderation.
Healthy positivity means acknowledging and accepting negative emotions and situations, but choosing to focus on the positive aspects of life.
It’s not about ignoring or denying hardships, but rather finding a way to navigate through them with a positive mindset.
An example of toxic positivity vs. healthy one would be after a break-up. It’s natural to feel hurt, disappointed and sad after ending a relationship.
Toxic positivity may try to sweep these emotions under the rug and tell you to “just move on” or “there are plenty of fish in the sea.”
Healthy positivity, on the other hand, allows you to grieve and process your emotions while also reminding you that this experience can lead to personal growth and new opportunities for love in the future.
So why is healthy positivity important? Well, for starters, it can improve your overall well-being. Studies have shown that optimistic people tend to have better mental health, lower stress levels, and even better physical health.
But it’s not just about the individual benefits. Healthy positivity can also have a positive impact on those around you. People are naturally drawn to positivity, and your optimistic outlook can be infectious.
Moreover, practicing healthy positivity can help build resilience. Life is full of ups and downs, but with a positive mindset, you can bounce back from challenges and setbacks more easily.
Signs of Toxic Positivity in Disguise
Although having a positive attitude is generally seen as a good thing, it can become toxic when it is used to suppress genuine emotions and avoid facing difficult situations.
So, if you’re wondering whether your can-do attitude might be veering towards toxic positivity in disguise, here are some signs to look out for:
You’re Constantly Putting on a Happy Face
If you’re putting on a brave, happy face all the time, it might be because you’re afraid to show your true emotions.
You might feel like you need to be strong for everyone else, or like you can’t afford to show weakness. This can lead to bottling up your feelings, which can eventually lead to burnout.
Putting on a brave face can also be a form of self-deception. You might be telling yourself that everything is fine when in reality, it’s not.
This can-do attitude can prevent you from seeking out the help or support you need to deal with your problems.
You Dismiss Your Own Emotions
If you’re constantly telling yourself to “just suck it up” or “get over it,” it might be because you’re invalidating your own emotions.
You might think that your real feelings are undeserving of attention, or that they’re not important enough to warrant any action.This can lead to emotional suppression, which can have a number of negative consequences.
In fact, suppression of negative emotions has been linked to poorer physical health, heightened stress levels, depression, and other mental health problems.
Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, involves acknowledging and validating your own emotions, even if they are uncomfortable or unwanted. This allows you to process and cope with them in a healthy way.
You’re Always the “Upbeat” One in Your Group
If you find that you’re always the one trying to lighten the mood or be the voice of positivity in your group, it could be a sign that you’re engaging in toxic positivity.
In some cases, people might see you as the “happy” one — but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have bad days, too.
Being the “upbeat” one all the time can be exhausting, and it’s important to allow yourself to have negative emotions.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone wants or needs to hear your “positive” perspective all the time.
You Ignore Other People’s Struggles
Toxic positivity can lead us to believe that everyone should be happy all the time. As a result, we might dismiss or invalidate other people’s struggles because they don’t align with our idea of positivity.
The most popular example of this is when people say “good vibes only”, “everything happens for a reason”, or “just be grateful” in response to someone sharing their hardships.
While it is not entirely lack of empathy, it’s not any genuine support either. Ignoring or dismissing someone else’s struggles is not only unhealthy for them, but it can also harm your relationships and create a toxic atmosphere around you.
You’ve Never Been Through a Rough Patch
If you’ve never had to deal with any major problems in your life, it might be because you’ve been lucky. But it could also be because you’re good at avoiding or downplaying any challenges you face.
This can lead to a false sense of security, and it can prevent you from developing the skills you need to deal with difficult situations.
It can also make it harder for you to empathize with others who are going through hard times, whether you realize it or not.
You Constantly Put Others’ Needs Ahead of Your Own
While it’s important to be there for others, you also need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself, too.
If you find that you’re constantly putting others’ needs ahead of your own, it could be a sign of toxic positivity. Make sure to schedule in some “me time” every now and then, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
If you never take time for yourself, you might end up feeling resentful or burned out. You might also find it harder to be there for others when they need you.
You Don’t Believe in “Bad” Emotions
If you think that negative emotions are bad, unhealthy, or undeserving of attention, it’s likely that you’re engaging in toxic positivity.
It’s important to remember that all emotions are valid, and that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or scared sometimes. Everyone has their bad day, and that is completely normal.
Trying to deny or suppress your negative emotions will only make them worse in the long run. Instead, allow yourself to feel all of your emotions — good and bad — so that you can deal with them in a healthy way.
You Never Give Yourself a Break
While it’s great to be optimistic, there’s a difference between being optimistic and being unrealistic. If you find that you’re never giving yourself a break, it might be because you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself.
It’s important to remember that you’re human, and that it’s okay to make mistakes or have bad days. Trying to be perfect all the time is not only impossible, but it’s also unhealthy.
Coping with Toxic Positivity
You know what? Even if you do exhibit some of the signs mentioned above, it doesn’t mean that you are a toxic positivity monster.
It’s important to remember that we are all human and we all have flaws. Sometimes, toxic positivity can be a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult emotions or situations.
However, if you feel like your positive attitude is causing more harm than good in your life, here are some tips for coping with toxic positivity:
Recognize and Acknowledge Your Emotions
The first step in dealing with toxic positivity is recognizing that it exists. Take a step back and evaluate your feelings. Are you constantly trying to push away negative emotions or deny their existence?
Once you become aware of this pattern, try to acknowledge your emotions instead of brushing them off.
Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would show to a friend who is going through a tough time.
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sad or angry – it’s natural to experience a range of emotions, and they are all valid.
It can be scary to allow yourself to be vulnerable and open about your struggles, but it’s an important step in overcoming toxic positivity.
When you’re able to acknowledge and talk about your negative emotions, you can begin to process them in a healthy way.
This can also help you connect with others who may be going through similar experiences.
Set Realistic Expectations
Instead of constantly striving for perfection, try to set realistic expectations for yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes and have bad days without feeling guilty.
Remember that it’s okay not to be happy all the time and that you don’t need to always have a positive outlook on every situation.
Sometimes, honest conversations with your well-meaning friends can make all the difference. Openly discussing your true feelings and struggles can help break the cycle of toxic positivity and promote more genuine connections.
Seek Professional Help
If you feel like your toxic positivity is getting in the way of your mental health and well-being, it may be time to seek professional help.
A therapist or counselor can provide you with tools and techniques for managing your emotions in a healthy way.
It’s important to remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking support when you need it – taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health.
So don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. Overall, the key to dealing with toxic positivity is finding a balance between positive and negative emotions.
It’s okay to have bad days and experience painful emotions – that’s just a part of being human. What matters is how we cope with these emotions and allow ourselves to feel them without judgment or suppression.
So let go of the pressure to always be positive and embrace all of your emotions – they are what make you human, after all. What matters is how we choose to deal with those tough times and come out stronger on the other side.
Social media, peer pressure, and societal expectations can all make us feel like we need to be positive all the time. But remember, don’t let toxic positivity prevent you from fully experiencing and processing your emotions.
It’s okay to have bad days and it’s important to give yourself space and compassion during those times. So don’t be afraid to acknowledge and validate your negative emotions, practice self-care and seek help when needed.
Remember, true happiness does not come from denying or suppressing our negative emotions, but rather from learning how to cope with them in a healthy way.
So keep being kind to yourself, and remember to put your own needs first sometimes, because taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others.
Let’s strive for a healthy balance between positivity and realism, and let go of toxic positivity for good. Because after all, life is full of ups and downs, and it’s okay to feel all the emotions that come with it.
Keep learning and growing, and remember to be gentle with yourself on this journey called life. The end is just a new beginning!