Photo Credit: @all_who_wander
We have all been here before; you are having a rough day or moving through something difficult. You seek out comfort from a loved one or a trusted person and are told something along the lines of "just don't think about it," or "it could always be worse." How did that feel for you hearing those words? Did it make you feel better? Did it do anything at all? You likely felt invalidated afterwards. When those words were told to us by our loved ones and friends, it very likely had good intent. In fact, we may have even found ourselves saying such words ourselves. And while such phrases may have good intent, they can actually create more harm than good. This is where toxic positivity comes into play.
Toxic positivity is a mindset that demands for happiness no matter what. It involves ignoring negative emotions and responding to them with false reassurances rather than validation or empathy. It is ok to be positive but when it is insincere, forced, or invalidates our emotions, this is where positivity can actually become toxic. It isn't possible or healthy to stay positive all the time. We should not have to pretend that things are ok when they aren't. With toxic positivity, uncomfortable or difficult emotions are viewed as inherently bad.
We have all been guilty of perpetuating toxic positivity, given how our society can be particularly shaming towards uncomfortable emotions. When our loved ones open up to us about their struggles, it is important that we are listening with empathy and care. Here are a few examples of toxic positivity statements that can be reframed with validation and empathy:
It's ok to not be ok sometimes. With the challenges that we are presented with sometimes in life, no one should be expected to have a positive outlook 24/7. If you are experiencing difficult emotions, it's important to give attention to whatever feelings are rising, sit with them, listen to what they may be trying to tell you, and allow them to pass on their own. That's the funny thing about our emotions...they are only temporary.