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Toxic Positivity: Too Much of a Good Thing

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

“Just think happy thoughts!”

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

“Choose different thoughts.”

“It could be worse!”

“Good vibes only!”

You’ve heard them, you’ve seen them on social media, and you may have even said them. I sure have. My well-intentioned comments, I’ve realized, can be very harmful and much of the world around us contributes to what is being labeled “Toxic Positivity”.

So let’s talk about this. Toxic Positivity seems to be a paradox or an oxymoron. One might wonder how positivity can be toxic. I like to think that positivity is a positive, a plus, a way to look at my life differently. So what is wrong with that?

Toxic positivity refers to the state of always having a positive mindset and only positive emotions and thoughts no matter what is going on, particularly when things are difficult. The problem with this is damage can be caused because it discounts and discredits emotions that are not positive. Those of us growing up in families affected by substance and alcohol abuse, even if it’s generations removed, understand this well. Keep your feelings to yourself. Only let others know what is going on that is good. Keep the negative to yourself.

Perpetually having an attitude of “It’s all good.” devalues people’s emotions and sends the message of rejection, which can be dangerous in the growth and healing process.

What to do? How do I handle this?

  • Know when you are cycling around toxic positivity.

  • Stop and name the real emotions you are feeling. Acknowledge the feelings.

  • Find someone who will listen and acknowledge that your feelings are valid.

  • Work with a coach to release the past. This will assist you in moving forward and not staying in a disempowered state.

Positivity isn’t bad.

It is harmful when it is encouraged and when it dismisses other emotions. Thinking positively and encouraging positive vibes has its time and place; however, perhaps we should consider modifying the mantra “good vibes only” to “any vibe accepted” when listening to others and considering our own emotions.

So before uttering another Hakuna Matata, consider the consequences and apply self-compassion.

It can be life-altering.

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