How To Spot Toxic Positivity

and what to do if it's coming from you...

I came across the phrase ‘Toxic Positivity’ not so long ago, I was immediately intrigued. So, as with most things that earn my interest, I decided to take pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard). As I started to research this unfamiliar oxymoron, little did I know I would discover...

I, myself, can be toxically positive.

With a slight uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, I read the classic signs of toxic positivity, the behaviours and seemingly harmless one liners realising many were part of my own mannerisms and vocabulary. How could this be? I thought I was enthusiastic, motivational, inspirational almost? Determined to prove I wasn’t completely a lost cause to the overly optimistic, I decided to uncover the mystery around toxic positivity…

WHat Is toxic Positivity?

Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter what the situation is, you should always maintain a positive mindset. And while there are benefits to applying an optimistic spin on life, trying to constantly keep up the good vibes and dismissing any negativity can leave others feeling invalidated with their emotions and disconnected from you.

Image from @thepsychologygroup

What Are the causes?

In many cases, toxic positivity is completely unintentional, and people don’t know they’re doing it. I can vouch for this. The need to shut down negativity comes from feeling uncomfortable with negative emotions and therefore the person tries to counteract this by being overly positive. However, masking emotions in favour of a PMA 24/7 is a short-term solution only. Sooner or later, you will have to address these emotions and deal with any issues.

What does toxic positivty look/sound like?

People who appear to have it all, who are untouched by problems and rarely open up, could be supressing their own emotions with toxic positivity. Sometimes, they can be completely tone deaf to a situation in order to help lighten the mood, instead of allowing the person the time and space they need to feel. Think “Well, on the bright side…”. They may also struggle to form emotional connections as they likely keep their own emotions to themselves and dismiss those of others.

And as this may seem like a list of red flags, it is worth noting that often toxic positivity is well-intentioned and stems from a lack of emotional awareness rather than nastiness. The sooner they are educated the sooner they can learn and become more conscious.

What do i do?

Awareness and communication are key, whether you’re the culprit or victim. Sit down with a journal or the person and try to clarify your needs. Recognise that all emotions are valid, positive, or negative, and that true happiness does not come from eliminating all negative emotions but rather accepting the rough with the smooth.  Practicing mindfulness can help you become more emotionally aware and reduce the judgement you inflict on yourself and others.

If you happen to be dealing with a toxically positive person, express that while you are grateful for their efforts to cheer you up, you need them to understand your right to feeling certain emotions. If they are unwilling to hear you, it may be worth minimising the time spent around them.  

All things considered, I realise my tendency to be toxically positive does not make me bad person, but kind of emotionally ignorant. Knowing this, I can work on becoming more aware of my own emotions and those of the people around me, apologise for my mistakes, and grow as a person.

Who's with me?

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