Imagine having one of the worst days of your life, where nothing seems to go right. You go to vent to one of your friends and all they can say is “it’s okay, things will get better” or “cheer up, everything will work out” or anything along those lines, believe it or not, it’s kind of toxic… and here’s why.
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter what negative things are occurring in your life, you should always have a positive mindset. You might be thinking, well, what’s wrong with that? Telling someone to stay positive or to not think about the issue at hand, only allows that person to suppress those feelings and not live authentically. A study conducted by doctors D M Wegner, D J Schneider, SR Carter 3rd, T L White, concluded when being asked to not think about something, it actually makes you more likely to think about it.
Is it a form of gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that makes someone question their thoughts, actions, and even perception. Toxic positivity can fall into this realm and here’s why:
It operates on the idea that you have to have a positive mindset, similar to that of toxic positivity, but ultimately it can make the person feel responsible for that situation and invalidate their feelings. I know if I’m feeling disappointed, upset, or anxious, or whatever the reason might be, I would want someone to truly listen to how I’m feeling and validate those feelings. I wouldn’t want someone to tell me everything is going to be okay when at that moment, it isn’t. All it would do is make me feel bad for expressing sad emotions and make me feel as though I couldn’t be confined to that person.
Although these kinds of statements can be subtle here are some ways to notice it in yourself and others:
- Feeling guilty for your emotions
- Shaming someone for not having a positive outlook on something
- Suppressing your emotions
- Brushing off the issue
What can toxic positivity look like?
“Don’t think about it, stay positive!”
“Everything will work out in the end.”
“If I can do it, so can you!”
“You’ll get over it, don’t worry”
And believe it or not “Everything happens for a reason.”
Instead of using these kinds of statements, try stating advice that gives validation rather than false hope. This could look like this:
“Is there anything I can do?
“Everyone’s journey isn’t the same as yours, and that’s okay,”
“I’m here for you.”
“It may feel like everything is going wrong, but let’s try to think of things that could go right.”
“It’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
We’ve all been there.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve fallen victim to saying these phrases. I’m infamous for stating that everything happens for a reason and I still stand by that. But in the sense that it allows me to make sense of all the things happening in my life. I’ve learned to accept the good, the bad, and everything in between. The next time someone reaches out regarding a situation or wanting to simply vent, take a moment to think about how this person is feeling. You could even go as far as trying to put yourself in their shoes.