Toxic Positivity: Friend or Foe?
The chase for happiness and positivity has become a norm today. It constantly bombards us with messages that encourage us to "stay positive" and "look on the bright side." While maintaining a positive outlook can be beneficial, there's a hidden danger lurking in the shadows - toxic positivity. This seemingly harmless mindset can have damaging effects on our mental health. In this blog, we'll explore what toxic positivity is, how it affects us, and what we can do to promote a more balanced and healthy approach to regulating our emotions.
Toxic positivity is an extreme and rigid focus on maintaining a positive attitude and suppressing any negative emotions or experiences. It involves rejecting or invalidating feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration, believing that simply being positive will solve all problems. Toxic positivity urges us to put on a mask of happiness even when we're genuinely struggling, and it dismisses the complexity of our emotions.
How does it affect us?
1. Invalidating Emotions
Toxic positivity's relentless emphasis on "just be positive" can be detrimental to our mental health by invalidating our emotions. Rather than acknowledging and accepting our genuine feelings, we are pushed to suppress them. This suppression leads to a buildup of unresolved emotional issues that lurk beneath the surface. Over time, these unaddressed emotions can become overwhelming, making it increasingly challenging to cope with life's ups and downs. Emotions serve as valuable signals about our inner state and can provide insights into our needs and desires. However, toxic positivity robs us of this self-awareness and self-understanding, leaving us disconnected from our true selves.
2. Pressure to be Happy
One of the most damaging aspects of toxic positivity is the pressure it places on individuals to maintain a facade of happiness. We are led to believe that expressing vulnerability, or any other negative emotions is unacceptable or weak. So, we feel compelled to wear a mask of constant joy, even when struggling internally. This pressure to appear happy even when we are not, takes a significant toll on our mental well-being. In reality, this front of happiness is exhausting and unsustainable, leaving us feeling emotionally drained and emotionally disconnected from those around us.
3. Ignoring Real Issues
Toxic positivity encourages us to avoid or dismiss negative emotions, effectively sweeping underlying problems under the rug. Instead of dealing with challenges head-on, toxic positivity urges us to adopt a "just think positive" attitude, which can be counterproductive. Genuine growth and personal development often stem from overcoming obstacles, not ignoring or denying their existence.
4. Hinders Emotional Growth
Emotions, both positive and negative are essential for personal growth and understanding. When we suppress our negative emotions, we miss out on valuable opportunities to learn from them and develop resilience. Toxic positivity pressures us to only acknowledge our positive emotions which hinders our overall emotional growth and can have adverse effects on our mental health. Emotional growth requires acknowledging, processing, and learning from all emotions, not just the ones society deems desirable.
Let’s break free from the shackles of toxic positivity
1. Embrace Authenticity
It's important to admit that experiencing negative emotions is a natural part of being human and it helps connect with your true self. While it is vital to be happy in life, embrace authenticity in your feelings and recognize that it's okay to feel sad, angry, or frustrated.
2. Practice Self-Compassion
Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would offer to a friend. Self-compassion allows you to acknowledge your struggles with self-judgment.
3. Seek Support
Share your feelings with someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, or mental health professional. Talking about your emotions can be incredibly liberating and validating.
4. Focus on Growth
Instead of seeking happiness at all costs, aim for personal advancement. Embrace challenges as opportunities for learning and development instead of thinking of them as obstacles holding you back from growing into a better person.
Toxic positivity may seem harmless on the surface, but it can have a deep impact on our mental health and overall well-being. Embracing our authentic positive and negative emotions and allowing ourselves to experience them without judgment is crucial for our emotional growth. Toxic positivity's impact on mental health is far from positive. It invalidates our emotions, pressures us to maintain false happiness, and hinders our emotional growth. By encouraging a more balanced and compassionate approach to emotions, we can create a healthier and more supportive environment for ourselves and those around us.
It's Okay To Not Be Okay sometimes, and that's a natural part of being human.
Written by: Navya Singh (BA Psychology, SY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)