What Is Toxic Positivity And How To Avoid It

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Having a positive outlook in life is important, but sometimes excessive positive thinking can turn into toxic positivity. 

Some say toxic positivity is not real, but it’s definitely a thing and can have a toll on your mental health and even push you into depression if you don’t realize it’s happening to you.

Let’s find out what toxic positivity is, how you can avoid falling into this dangerous trap of ignoring your emotions, and which role healthy optimism plays in all of this.

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What Is Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity is the behavior of acting and remaining positive no matter how bad the situation is.

By being excessively positive, you suppress and ignore your or someone else’s negative feelings and emotions. 

This behavior makes it impossible to work through painful emotions and to personally grow.

Dismissing negative thoughts has a big impact on the relationship to yourself as well as others. 

People will soon stop asking you for support when they have a problem or need someone to talk to.

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Is Toxic Positivity A Mental Illness

Toxic positivity isn’t a mental illness, but rather a behavioral and social phenomenon. 

However, this behavioral issue can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems as it invalidates genuine feelings and prevents you from processing your emotions in a healthy way.

What Causes Toxic Positivity

Why do we do this to ourselves and others? Why is it so bad to show your true feelings and be vulnerable? 

Toxic positivity happens because of social pressure pushing us to appear happy and successful at all times. 

Social media is a big problem when it comes to showing negative feelings. As soon as we go online, we see people sharing their success stories and living their best lives. 

Hardly ever do we come across someone talking about their struggles and sharing negative emotions. 

Being surrounded by positive attitudes all the time raises your anxiety levels and makes you think that something is wrong with you. 

Why am I not as successful as every other person you wonder. 

What you don’t realize is that these people only share the good, not the bad, and what they show are only little snippets of the big picture.

Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real in a World Obsessed with Being Happy – a powerful guide to owning our emotions

Consequences of Toxic Positivity

Excessive positivity can be toxic and you should be well aware of the consequences: 

  • Increased stress, anxiety, and depression 
  • Difficult relationships with loved ones, work colleagues, and other people
  • Prevention of self-awareness, personal growth, and authentic connection

Just because you feel difficult emotions doesn’t mean you aren’t a person with a positive attitude. 

We all have our ups and downs and you are allowed to feel what you feel. 

Never suppress your emotional thoughts and feelings. How are you meant to grow if you don’t learn from difficult situations and overcome challenges? 

Toxic Positivity vs. Optimism 

You should rather learn the way of turning toxic positivity into healthy optimism. 

Meaning it’s ok to feel negative emotions from time to time. Life isn’t always roses and butterflies nor is it all doom and gloom.

We are complex human beings with our own set of struggles.

The Key Facts of Healthy Optimism

  • Acknowledging the reality of setbacks and challenges
  • Believing in the ability to overcome difficulties
  • Fostering genuine connections and empathy
  • Having a positive outlook on life
  • Being resilient
  • Having a proactive approach to problem-solving

Know that life goes on and if one door closes, another one opens for you.

How To Avoid Toxic Positivity

You can either give or receive toxic positivity so be mindful when you interact with others. 

Here’s how to avoid this toxic behavior: 

  • Accept all feelings, both positive and negative
  • Practice active listening and empathy
  • Don’t rush to solutions or silver linings
  • Create a safe space for honest expression and vulnerability in relationships
  • Acknowledge both challenges and opportunities in life
  • Don’t oversimplify the complexity of mental health struggles
  • Don’t think less of anyone who is seeing a therapist
  • See a licensed psychologist yourself or do online therapy if you struggle to cope with your emotions

Toxic Positivity: Keeping It Real in a World Obsessed with Being Happy – a powerful guide to owning our emotions

Toxic Positivity Examples

You’re probably wondering, what is toxic positivity in real-life examples. 

What do people actually say and how do they act? 

Imagine you have a problem or difficult situation and you need a friend to talk to. 

Instead of listening to you and feeling with you, they shut you down straight away with a positive phrase. 

Some of these toxic positivity quotes sound like this: 

  • “Just be happy”
  • “Everything happens for a reason”
  • “Look on the bright side”
  • “Don’t worry, be happy”
  • “Good vibes only”
  • “Happiness is a choice”
  • “Smile, it could be worse”

How frustrating is this behavior?! Doesn’t feel like a genuine friendship, does it?

Toxic Positivity In Relationships

A relationship should be a safe space where you can talk to your partner about your thoughts, worries, and struggles. 

If toxic positivity is practiced within a relationship, it will be really hard for you to connect with your partner and feel like you can trust them. 

Examples of toxic behavior in relationships:

  • Dismissing negative emotions
  • Minimizing problems
  • Forcing optimism
  • Ignoring needs
  • Invalidating experiences
  • Avoiding serious conversations
  • Imposing positivity
  • Refusing to acknowledge pain
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Deflecting responsibility 

These examples prevent authentic communication and genuine support.

If you experience any of the above in your relationship, you might need to step away from it for your own good.

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What Is Toxic Positivity In The Workplace

Toxic positivity can also happen in the workplace where you can feel that your concerns and emotions are invalidated. 

Examples of toxic behavior in the workplace:

  • Ignoring stress and burnout
  • Forcing cheerfulness
  • Dismissing complaints
  • Avoiding difficult conversations
  • Pressure to be positive
  • Lack of empathy
  • Overemphasis on positivity
  • Deflecting criticism
  • Ignoring mental health

How To Deal With A Toxic Positivity Person

Now you know all about this toxic behavior, it can still be hard for you to deal with a person who treats you like that. 

My advice – stand your ground and try the following strategies: 

  • Acknowledge and own your feelings
  • Communicate openly and be honest
  • Set boundaries and limit interactions with this person
  • Talk to a different friend
  • Seek medical advice
  • Educate the person about toxic positivity
  • Practice self-care and self-compassion 
  • Change the subject when communicating with them
  • Don’t think the worst of this person (maybe they just want to help and don’t realize that they’re being toxic)

About the author

Saskia is a mom, blogger, and freelance writer. She loves sharing tips on how to live a more positive and simple life through self-care, personal growth, and journaling.

Find out more about her here or connect with her on Instagram to get more inspiration.

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