To be human is to navigate our world throwing challenges, heartache, and oppressive systems at us. The emotions that come with these struggles and pain have an authentic purpose — they can tell us what we need, influence us to connect with others, and allow us to start the process of healing.
taking the time to express ourselves and be vulnerable isn’t always easy
...so when we get a reaction that seems to brush us off, it can feel dismissive. Here are some examples of “positive” yet diminishing comments:
- “it could be worse.”
- “look on the bright side.”
- “everything happens for a reason.”
- “think positive!”
- “worrying won’t fix anything.”
- “don’t be so negative...good vibes only.”
In the attempt to lessen uncomfortable feelings or painful emotions, these “positive” affirmations instead invalidate the legitimate processing of painful events or situations. In other words, that shit is not helpful!
So, what is this beast of positivity called that seems to discredit our emotions behind a mask of “love and light”?
California-based psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva, MD, described this annoying phenomenon to Health magazine as “insincere positivity that leads to harm, needless suffering, or misunderstanding.”
We should all acknowledge when toxic positivity is thrown our way and stand up for ourselves when others are downplaying our reality, circumstance, and experience. We should also learn to recognize and hold ourselves accountable when we practice it ourselves!
how is bringing more positivity into the world “toxic?”
When someone replies to a painful experience or circumstance with dismissive positive bullshit, how does that make the individual, who’s struggles are REAL and emotions VALID, feel?
Chances are, it may cause them to feel like their pain isn’t worth acknowledging. When people downplay the reality of others, it’s problematic for many reasons, including:
- They may not take their emotions and mental health seriously.
- Being vulnerable is healthy and can be very healing — If emotions are dismissed, it may shut down doors to healing conversations.
- It’s a form of gaslighting, meaning it makes one feel one’s emotions are not “real” or valid.
- It’s counterproductive! It does not help ANYTHING.
don’t forget to check your own toxic positivity!
Many of us downplay our own struggles and experiences — we grind and work through the pain. We try to keep a “positive” outlook instead of addressing our state of mind and how we’re truly feeling. It’s KEY for us to check our own internal toxic positivity, so we can address what’s going on, name it, reflect, and work towards healing.
okay, how do I call it out when it’s happening?
We don’t claim to have all the answers, but our therapist taught us the power of “I statements” for a reason...
“I appreciate your positive outlook, however, I feel as though you aren’t acknowledging what I am going through, or how painful this is for me.”
“I don’t expect you to have an answer or advice, but when you counter my struggle with a positive phrase, it makes me feel like you don’t think my pain is worth talking about, or real.”
remember, we’re all learning, and unlearning, no matter our age!
Western culture has shaped many of us to avoid voicing our struggles and experiences — especially women. If you have the capacity, gently educate someone on why their “positive” approach is harmful and counterproductive.
We love this post by @jannatalksfeelings and her recommended ways to share authentic support!
Remember, your struggles and experiences are so worth acknowledging, and your pain is valid. Although it can be challenging to stand up for yourself during vulnerable moments, do yourself the favor and speak out! And remember, be kind to yourself and avoid internal toxic positivity when it arises.
Stay authentic — we love you,