Most of us would agree that love, compassion, and joy improve our quality of life. A positive mindset is crucial to fostering these values as well as other creative states of being. But positivity has to be understood and used wisely. Otherwise, it can turn into what is called "Toxic Positivity."
Toxic positivity happens when we start to deny and minimize the pain and challenges inherent in being human. It also occurs when we attribute positive traits to events and people who are fundamentally dangerous and a threat to our wellbeing. Or when we blatantly ignore the harmful and destructive behavior of those around us.
We are human. We make mistakes, and we hurt others.
Very few of us have reached a state of spiritual enlightenment that allows us to escape this reality. And that is ok. We are on this planet to learn and to grow.
Some chose to live from a place of constant fear and judgment. There are even those who seem to find pleasure in hurting and suppressing others.
Positivity becomes toxic when we start minimizing or denying the fact that humans and life are flawed.
Hope happens when we fully acknowledge negativity in all its forms and work towards improvement and growth.
Here are some examples of statements that might be made by someone in a state of toxic positivity. Now at first glance, these statements can seem harmless. Some readers might even argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. We will dive into them a little deeper to understand how they can be harmful.
I don't want to discuss or talk about this subject. It upsets me.
First, let's assume the subject needs addressing. Doing so would allow those involved to solve a problem or deal with a conflict within a relationship. The problem is that the person making the statement is uncomfortable with her negative feelings. She chooses to ignore the situation so that she can continue to feel good. She might even say that discussing the issue would upset everyone. She might say something like, "Why ruin a perfectly happy day by discussing this right now?"
You can see how this person is hiding behind toxic positivity not to have to deal with the issue at hand.
If you were the person trying to address the situation, you might even start to feel guilty about bringing it up in the first place. This type of toxic positivity can be very subtle and manipulative. Individuals with passive-aggressive tendencies will often use this strategy to avoid dealing with conflict.
It's true, she treats me with disrespect, but she is a good person deep down.
The person making the statement might have good intentions. She might see herself as behaving from a place of compassion and empathy. The truth is that she is not dealing with the situation. And in not doing so, she is disrespecting herself and the other person. First of all, accepting repeated disrespect from another person diminishes our self-worth and self-esteem. Secondly, not addressing this behavior with the individual is enabling them to continue doing the same thing.
When in this type of situation, it is wise to be very careful about using forgiveness. When not treated with the respect it deserves, forgiveness can be a form of toxic positivity that enables unhealthy behavior.
Things are bad right now, but I know everything will work out.
This statement becomes toxic positivity when we expect things to get better all by themselves. They won't. We have to put in the work to make them better. Yes, the universe supports us. But, it can't do anything without our cooperation.
Thinking this way can set us up for maintaining behavior that is not in our best interest. For example, self-medicating with alcohol until the universe works things out. If things are bad, we have to look at what we are doing that is not working and make necessary changes. Rose-colored glasses are not going to make a difference.
Hey, I know you're feel bad right now, but let's focus on the positive.
If someone is sharing a negative feeling, let them.
We have to encourage one another to "Feel the feels." Being too quick to suggest someone move away from their negative emotions can sabotage their ability to process their experience. It can also shame them for having those feelings in the first place. Of course, we want to support one another in dealing with the situations that cause these emotions. But being too quick to dismiss the feeling to arrive at some perceived solution is not the answer. People can often mistake this type of dismissal or hurry to move away from negative emotions as positive support for the other person. It is, in fact, a form of toxic positivity.
Toxic positivity denies the reality of our shared human experience.
We feel negative emotions, and we experience painful events in our life. We must recognize and respect this truth for ourselves and others.
Healthy positivity gives us the courage to learn and grow from these feelings and experiences without denying their existence.
"Healthy positivity ends where denial begins."
Self-Love Coach, Workshop Facilitator, Speaker
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