Toxic Positivity And Why It Is Unrealistic To Be Positive All The Time

Pooja Maheshwary , 12 Oct 2020
Positive Statements By favorita1987 | www.shutterstock.com
Positive Statements By favorita1987 | www.shutterstock.com

Anything in excess can become toxic or harmful. The same applies to positivity as well. There’s nothing wrong with positivity. It can help one stay motivated and hopeful about the future. However, positivity can be dangerous when it’s insincere, forceful and dismisses the authentic human experience.  

Toxic positivity is a phenomenon that’s come to light in recent times. In essence, it means the excessive and ineffective overgeneralisation of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. In simple terms, being unrealistically happy in almost all situations. Again, being positive and optimistic is good. However, when the positivity results in denying the facts and realities of existing circumstances, minimising the lived experience or invalidates the narrative, then it is toxic. We often engage in toxic positivity unintentionally. Even if unintentional, the onus of identifying and rectifying it lies on the individual.

So, we got in touch with Nikita Sulay, Psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower – The Foundation to understand what is toxic positivity, how to recognise it, statements that perpetuate it, statements we can use instead, and more! Scroll down to read all that she had to say!

Signs Of Toxic Positivity

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  • When you start feeling guilty or you hide your true feelings.
  • When someone dismisses an emotion.
  • Minimising other people’s experiences with ‘feel good’ quotes or statements.
  • Invalidating a person’s emotional experience by changing topics or providing opposite perspectives.
  • Making people feel guilty or shaming them for expressing feelings which are not positive.

Why is toxic positivity dangerous?

In life, we go through are all kinds of experiences, emotions and thoughts. When we are told to shun these experiences with statements like, “Don’t think about it, be positive” or “it could be worse”, there are various outcomes to these.

  1. People feel ashamed and guilty about expressing their true feelings. To coerce a positive outlook on suffering means to silence the person about their problems. 
  2. Suppressing emotions often leads to more stress and other physical problems. Studies have shown that when we express a broad range of emotions, we’re able to find words to describe how we feel and are able to regulate stress better.
  3. Denial of facts and realities can lead to a disconnection with oneself and the world.

Toxic Positive Statements 

Stay positive, don’t think so much.

Erase negativity from your life.

Don’t worry. Be happy.

Don’t be so negative.

Positive vibes only.

It could be worse

Failure is not an option.

If I can do it, so can you.

You will get over it.

Accepting And Validating Statements

What are you thinking? I want to listen.

You can experience negative emotions from time to time. Let’s see how we can help you.

I see you are really stressed, is there anything I can do to help?

It’s okay to feel bad sometimes, can we look at it from an alternative perspective?

I am with you in both good and bad times.

I am sorry you are going through this.

Failure is a part of life and growth.

Everyone is different and unique. You’re doing the best you can.

This must be hard. You have faced difficult situations before and I believe in you.

Which statements would you like to add to this list? Please share it with us in the comments below!

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