Toxic Positivity vs True Positivity

Where is the line between a positive attitude and dodging real life with a toxic positive mindset? One will set you in motion for abundance, the other will block all you are meant to have.

What does being positive mean

How have we turned what was intended to be a powerful option for maintaining a healthy attitude into a toxic pattern that actually limits our abundance and creates challenges in the moment and long term? Positivity is the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude; a good, affirmative, or constructive quality or attribute. Being positive and having an optimistic attitude means you have faith that on the other side of the challenge, the obstacle or the hardship you’ll be okay, it will all be okay. It’s the confidence that whatever feels hard or intimidating or even impossible is temporary and will dissipate in it’s level of difficulty.

It’s the knowing that further down the road this thing, big or small, could potentially be an opportunity to grow or reflect back and you’ll be able to create meaning from the situation. When we can look at challenges and find the opportunities to expand from them, it gives us the shortcut to growth and progress. Being optimistic can shorten the time we experience pain or depressive seasons and anxiety. Being committed to developing a strong positive attitude doesn’t negate “negative emotions” it by way of natural consequences, shortens the process of being in them often times but only by removing the urgency to get to the positive spin on what’s happened.

What is toxic positivity

Toxic positivity is the denial of the truth. It’s skipping over the human-ness of a situation. Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. It's a "good vibes only" approach to life. Denying the truth of the now in an effort to skip to the future of opportunities and lessons and resilience, it can be a form of gas-lighting.

It sounds like “You shouldn’t focus on the negative. Look for the silver lining”. And when you are on the receiving end of these suggestions, you feel judged, weak and develop the belief you should be better or be more. Another layer of guilt piles on because there are people who have it worse than you. And this doesn’t allow for self compassion and effective processing of your difficult situation. When you offer these suggestions to your kids, your friends, your siblings or your partner - you are telling them - your hard emotions are not welcome here. Shame develops about having anything other than a good mood. They bury their feelings instead of process through them and this compounds over years into depression, anxiety and overall poor mental health.

Toxic positivity is a BIG deal

Getting out from under it can feel really challenging.  It requires a skill set of understanding the full range of human emotions, processing your own hardships and challenges for the difficulty they really were and embracing that expressing frustration, sadness or anger doesn’t make you a bad person or a negative person - it makes you fully human, and frankly more interesting and relatable.

Many of us learned to avoid unfavorable feelings of sadness, anger or disappointment. We learned to keep the peace in relationships and perform in an epic long happiness show. We don’t want to be seen as low-vibe or perceived as a complainer. We don’t want our kids to be complainers or ungrateful. But we have a responsibility to refuse toxic positivity in our lives. We have to stop denying one another the benefits of being fully expressed in their human experience. We have to let go of the huge pendulum swing from negativity to toxic positivity and cultivate an environment where both truth of lived experiences and optimism can exist. 


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