Friday, June 23, 2023

Toxic Positivity

Toxic Positivity is a form of invalidation. Instead of facing difficult emotions, toxic positivity rejects or ignores the negative in favor of a cheerful, often falsely positive, fa├žade.

This can come in the form of burying one’s own feelings and avoiding anything negative, or it can come as a response to expressing those negative feelings with another person. 

Having a positive outlook on life is good for your mental well-being. We’re not denying that. However, life is not always positive. We all deal with painful emotions and experiences. Negative feelings are critical to growth. We need to experience a little negativity (or challenges) in order to live a happy life. 

There's nothing wrong with looking on the bright side or trying to remain positive when times get tough, but there comes a point where denying feelings and emotions (or the feelings and emotions of others) becomes toxic. 

Ignoring, invalidating, or otherwise pushing away difficult emotions, such as sadness or fear, and forcing ourselves or others to be positive can be harmful to our mental well-being and our relationships. Practicing false cheerfulness keeps us from addressing our feelings, and the feelings of others, leaving that negativity to fester. 

Toxic positivity can cause serious harm to people who are going through difficult times. Rather than being able to share their troubles and gain much needed support, the invalidation of toxic positivity leaves these people feeling dismissed and ignored. This compounds the problems they are already dealing with. 

It's shaming: Toxic positivity tells people that the emotions they are feeling are unacceptable.

·         It causes guilt. It sends a message that if a person can’t feel positive, even in the face of tragedy, that they are doing something wrong.

·         It avoids empathy. Toxic positivity allows people to sidestep emotional situations that might make them feel uncomfortable. This becomes a societal pattern. When we feel difficult emotions, we then discount, dismiss, and deny them for ourselves and others.

·         It prevents growth. Dismissing and denying negative feelings also prevents us from facing those challenging feelings which, if worked through, could lead to growth and deeper insight.

Common examples: 

·         Feigning Gratitude. Focusing on gratitude as a way to bypass emotions. Gratitude is not a bad thing, but it can be when you're using it to invalidate yourself.

Look on the bright side.

Count your blessings. 

·         Comparing. Just because someone else is seemingly handling a tough time “better” than you, that's no reason to start comparing. Everyone handles things in their own way.

You think you have it rough?

It could be worse.

If I can do it, so can you.

 ·         Dismissing Difficult Emotions. When difficult emotions arise, you completely push them down, insisting you must stay positive. It’s a form of gaslighting.

Everything happens for a reason.

Positive Vibes Only.

Failure is not an option.

Don’t worry, be happy! 

A toxic positive response, rather than an empathetic one, creates a disconnect in a person’s ability to rely on their social support structure. 

THE BOTTOM LINE: People going through trauma don’t need to be told to stay positive, they need empathy. When someone is suffering, they need to know that their emotions are valid, and they can find relief and love in their friends and family. Negative emotions need to be validated, explored, and processed.

Have you experienced positivity? How did you address it? We value your feedback and ideas! Reach out on our Community Facebook Page!


If you believe change is possible, you want to change, and you are willing to do the work, you absolutely CAN get your life back.”

Get your copy of The Soldier's Guide to PTSDThe Soldier's Workbook

or Acknowledge & Heal, A Women's-Focused Guide to PTSD

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