Fake positivity can make it hard to see situations for what they are. This could potentially endanger you because you are unable to see the negatives and dangers of your environment. Learning to differentiate between toxic and authentic is important to your decision-making, coping skills, and quality of life.
Spero Recovery wants to help you see the difference and embrace being authentic.
What Is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity is the compulsive need to put a positive look on every situation and event, even the most tragic. It happens when you are continuously suppressing negative emotions because of internal or external pressures. Internal pressures can be brought on by your interpretation of how people should present themselves.
External pressures can include others telling you to get over a negative emotion, telling you to move on or let it go, constantly diminishing your negative feelings, or getting upset for you expressing them.
Examples of Toxic Positivity
In order to understand how toxic positivity is damaging, you must understand what it looks like. Examples include the following.
Telling Someone or Yourself That Things Could Be Worse
This dismisses the severity of what you or they are going through. There will always be someone that has been through, seen, or done worse. That does not mean you aren’t allowed to feel sad, mad, angry, or disappointed about what is happening to you, and you shouldn’t make others feel like they aren’t allowed to express those feelings.
Saying Happiness Is a Choice
That isn’t always the case. Your mind is designed to create these negative emotions after a tragedy or traumatic event in your life. These events can also cause mental health conditions which can make it impossible for you to feel positive emotions at that time.
Telling Others That They Can Only Have Positive Attitudes Around You
This makes it uncomfortable for them to be around you or confide in you because they feel you will only want to be around them if they are happy and cheerful.
Offering Someone a Positive Outlook Without Guidance
Offering someone a positive outlook on the future without asking them how they are doing during their present struggle or validating that they are allowed to have negative emotions right now.
Why Is Toxic Positivity Harmful?
Jacquelyn Johnson, PsyD. reviewed an article published in March of 2021 that talks about the negatives of continuous toxic positivity. Some of these potentially harmful side effects include:
Ignores Dangerous Situations
You are less likely to see and accept the dangers or negatives of a situation, which means you are more likely to stay in or return to it. This could be seen with domestic violence victims that only focus on the happy apologizing times rather than the violent and painful times.
Repeatedly being told that it’s time to move on or having a timeframe put on your grief can decrease the validity of your loss and the emotions related to it. An example of this would be if your spouse passes away and people start pressuring you to get rid of their things and start dating again.
Being told you need to be happy and having your negative emotions tossed aside can make it hard for you to open up and want to reach out to others. This can cause you to seclude yourself, so you don’t have to keep up the act of being happy.
Only seeing the positive can make it hard for you to confront the negative aspects of relationships. This can lead to poor communication and unhealthy romantic, familial, and friendly relationships.
Constantly suppressing your negative emotions can make them even stronger the longer you try to ignore them. This can make you feel like you are imperfect because you can’t always be happy.
How to Stop Toxic Positivity
Remember that toxic positivity is a habitual behavior that can be difficult to break. After doing it for so long for either yourself or others, it can be hard to determine whether you are happy or just putting the mask on. It can be even harder to embrace and share when you are experiencing negative emotions.
Some ways to help stop you from imposing this type of positivity on yourself and others include:
This can look like:
- Recognizing and validating negative emotions when you feel them
- Confiding in those you trust about these negative feelings
- Seeking support from friends, family, and mental health professionals, as they can help you see the negative emotions, cope with feeling them, and learn to properly communicate them to others
Imposing on Others
This can look like:
- Allowing others to express and confide their negative emotions to you
- Listening and acknowledging what others are feeling rather than just giving a positive spin to the situation
- Understanding that with strong negative feelings come strong positive ones
Putting on a positive face can feel like a societal expectation, which can make it difficult to keep up. It can become a force of habit to the point that you can no longer tell the difference between the mask of positivity and being authentic. This can impact your ability to view situations and emotions. Toxic positivity can become your normal and be a hard habit to break. It can make you feel like you are unable to express negative emotions, so you decide to hide them. This can greatly impact your mental health, coping abilities, and relationships. If you feel like you are struggling to be authentically positive, please reach out to Spero Recovery at (303) 351-7888.