Toxic positivity: Are you really a positive person?

Have you ever come across phrases such as “You should smile more!”, “Don’t be so negative!” or “It could be worse” whenever you are feeling down? Or perhaps, you are the one saying it to others? When positivity is used to conceal or mute troubling emotions, it will become detrimental to our well-being. We enter a state of ignorance and stifled emotions when we deny the existence of certain feelings.

 

“Don’t be so negative!”

 

The reality is that human beings are meant to experience negative emotions, and that does not reduce our positive traits! Sometimes we go through hurdles in life that leave us with feelings of envy, rage, resentment, greed and sorrow. These are natural emotions that make up the human experience. However, when we deny these feelings with a positive front, we neglect our authenticity.

Forcing an optimistic perspective on pain encourages people to remain silent about their troubles. Most of us do not want to be perceived as a mood killer in a group of seemingly happy people, so when given the option to either be honest about the hardships we are going through or pretend that everything is fine, we often choose the latter.

When we refuse the reality of our pain and choose not to reveal a piece of ourselves to the people around us, we tend to hide behind a positive public persona. We convey a cheerful personality coupled with a big smile and we actively try to seek the good in everything so we do not have to discuss painful events or appear troubled to others. This is known as toxic positivity.

 

“Forcing an optimistic perspective on pain encourages people to remain silent about their troubles.” 

 

Toxic positivity will often lead us to isolate ourselves from our own emotions. As such, we will find difficulty in forming genuine connections with others as we might appear unbothered on the outside, but on the inside, we are longing for an emotional outlet.

Here are 5 ways to avoid toxic positivity

1) Regulate negative emotions:

Control but do not deny your negative emotions. Unhealthy emotions that are left unchecked can result in severe mental and physical issues. Try to understand the whys and hows behind your negative emotions, dig deep, and get to your emotions’ root cause. Doing so could provide you with meaningful insights that could change your life for the better.

However, this can be easier said than done, so do not be afraid to seek help from a loved one or a professional when it comes to keeping your emotions in check. Sometimes, we need a third party to point out our blind spots, provide a fresh perspective to our struggles or simply acknowledge our hardships so we feel less alone.

2) Do not shame yourself:

When you are already experiencing intense emotions, it is not productive to bring shame into the mix. Your worth is not attached to positivity and you are still whole during the darkest of times in your life. Allow yourself to feel what you feel without casting judgement on yourself. The more shame you bring onto yourself, the longer it will take for you to move on from a dark situation. Simply let the feelings be and avoid judging yourself.

If you would show compassion and kindness towards a friend who is going through a tough time, why should you treat yourself any differently? Treat yourself the way you would treat your loved ones during their downfalls.

3) Create a self-care routine:

Creating a step-by-step routine in combating negative emotions is better than completely ignoring those emotions. Self-care is defined as a deliberate action taken to promote one's physical, mental, and emotional health.

Self-care can take many different forms. From reading your favourite novel to playing an instrument, whatever brings you a sense of relief—go for it! This is a great way to remind yourself that even though you cannot control what happens to you, you can still control how you respond to it.

4) Accept help when it is given to you

Perhaps your boss has noticed that you are in a troubling state of mind and has asked if you would like to take the day off, or a friend has offered a pair of listening ears, when you come to a situation where help is extended to you, learn to say yes!

If you have associated the acceptance of help as a sign of weakness, it is time to change your viewpoint on saying yes. We are all relational beings that rely on one another for support. There is no shame in accepting kindness from others.

5) Stop looking up to toxic positivity:

Following “positive” social media pages can be a source of strength at times, but you need to pay close attention to how you feel after viewing and interacting with such material. If such content is causing you to feel shame and guilt about not being positive all the time, perhaps you are consuming content that is rooted in toxic positivity.

Do not reinforce the idea of toxic positivity in your life. Consider limiting the consumption of such content or completely removing it. You might start to feel lighter and more in tune with yourself once you stop putting toxic positivity on a pedestal.

If you are struggling to embrace your negative emotions, keep in mind that you are not alone. Sometimes, it is okay to let off some negative energy, especially in times of uncertainty such as now. Instead of ignoring your emotions, embrace them and think of ways to keep yourself happy. One way is to have a sip of our signature Bohae Bokbunja as you read your favourite book or watch your favourite show. Get yours here.