Oh hello, positive person, welcome to this blog! Thank you for being here, thank you for having an optimistic outlook on life and spreading it around you – you are treasured by us and many others!
Since you’re here, let’s take some time for self reflection…
From one positive person to another, have you ever said things like:
- Just stay positive
- Being sad / worried / angry won’t help
- Don’t worry, be happy
- Good vibes only
If you said yes, me too. I personally am guilty of all of these and so much more!
That was until I realised that these sayings are examples of toxic positivity, which can be quite damaging and definitely against what I truly believe in!
What is toxic positivity?
Toxic positivity is the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset. And I get it, it’s difficult not to normalise this type of positivity when our societal norms dictate things like…
- Men don’t cry
- Mental illness is for the weak
- You always have to be and presentable for others
- Showing of emotion is unacceptable / uncomfortable / impolite etc.
Why is toxic positivity unhealthy?
Truth is, we will experience a range of emotions and feelings throughout our lifetime, and a lot of times they are very much appropriate to the situation. It’s OK to be sad, angry, to worry or stress, not feel very positive or motivated – let’s face it, life throws all kinds of the unexpected at us on the regular.
Encouraging someone to be constantly positive may be damaging because:
- It could encourage someone to hide their unpleasant feelings and bottle things up
- It could gaslight someone into thinking they are overreacting or not responding appropriately (if you are unsure what gaslighting is, check out our article here)
- It could take away the safe space to vent or share from someone reaching out to you
- Always being positive is not realistic or possible!
- Finally, it could stigmatise the topic of mental health even further, and our mission is to stop that from happening, am I right?
How to avoid toxic positivity?
Let’s talk about how we can all do our part and make our positivity less toxic… Here are 3 tips that could help make a change.
1. Reframe your mindset about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings (and experience it ALL)
What do you think ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings are? Most likely, you have been taught that feelings like joy, hope, pleasure or gratitude are the positive ones, while anger, sadness, fear or confusion are the ‘negative’ ones.
There is no time like a global pandemic to finally question the belief that some are more ‘okay’ than others. While we all like to surround ourselves with positive vibes, it’s not exactly realistic, nor is expecting ourselves or others to ‘not worry, be happy’ when we do, in fact, worry.
Here are a few things you can remind yourself when experiencing an unpleasant emotion:
- I have a range of emotions and it’s a part of human experience
- There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ feelings, just the ones I have been taught that are more acceptable than others
- Me being able to feel my feelings instead of avoiding them is a strength.
2. Work on your listening skills (and stop trying to ‘fix’)
As positive people, we like to spread joy and positivity! However, when we see a friend in distress, that may make us more likely to try and ‘fix’ their outlook.
Our positivity could actually get in the way of our friend feeling heard and understood and ultimately, that may make us not that great of a listener… Here are some ways to really listen, rather than make them ‘be more positive’ about the situation:
- Remember, even if you think that someone is upset over something that may not seem like a big deal, their feelings are very real – and that is what matters.
- Reflect on what you hear instead of giving advice – e.g. ‘ you are upset because they did not consider you for the job’ will make someone feel more heard than ‘that’s OK, just call them and sort it out, nothing to worry about!’
- If you are unsure, ask what they need from you – e.g. ‘ what do you need from me at this time?’. Perhaps they just want a rant rather than a positive solution.
3. Be mindful of your language (and use it to destigmatise mental health!)
How we talk about what we feel matters! And, how we use the language shapes how we feel about things as a society. Making positivity more inclusive eliminates the chance of it being toxic!
A helpful way to end stigma is to use the word AND instead of BUT…
- You can be a happy-go-lucky person AND feel unsatisfied or hopeless about your current situation
- You can be a strong bloke AND have a good-old cry
- You can have a positive outlook on life AND feel negative about the future sometimes.
And lastly, give yourself some credit, we love your positivity! Through working on our language, mentality and actions, we can fight toxic positivity together! And shatter some stigmas along the way…
For more mental health tips, tricks and education, please visit our articles or follow us on social media!
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