I think we can all say this past year has been full of difficulties with this pandemic and abundance of uncertainty. One of the themes I have heard from so many is the amount of loss that has occurred, everyone has had them. Loss of celebrations and funerals, loss of gatherings, loss of jobs and the list really could go on. Sometimes I have heard things like, it could be worse or everything will work out in the end. Being positive can be powerful, there is no doubt at all. I would very much consider myself a very upbeat and positive person. Sometimes being too positive all the time can also have some consequences. This refers to a term, “toxic positivity”.
So what is toxic positivity? It is excessive and generally overgeneralized of optimism and find happiness statements that can sometimes be ineffective. When was it that it was decided that there are good and bad emotions? When toxic positivity occurs, it can leave you feeling like your feelings are wrong, invalid or minimized. If we deny or suppress emotions we really deny a normal and genuine human experience.
So what does toxic positivity look like? It could look like feeling hiding or experiencing guilt/shame for your feelings, dismissing or minimizing feelings, especially with feel good statements. Brushing things off such as stating, “It could be worse” or “it is what it is” instead of validation.
So why is this so bad? If we force a positive outlook it is really silencing struggles, which can be so crippling. Shame can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings and can act as a barrier to being authentic and connected to others. This can lead to feeling more isolated.
Another significant consequence is suppressed emotions. When we deny or hide our feelings, it puts more stress on our body and in our thoughts, causing distress. Excessive stress affects us deeply and can manifest to other issues such as health problems, troubles sleeping, feeling withdrawn or unmotivated, feeling anxious or even depressed.
Humans experience many emotions throughout the day and especially when things are difficult. Not everything will be positive in our everyday experiences. It can be helpful to be aware of toxic positivity in yourself or even in your relationships. It can be helpful to hold space for your feelings and if you have the capacity, for others. Balance can come from accepting the good and even the bad feelings, and embracing it all.